Book notes: Let Love Have the Last Word by Common

Let Love Have the Last Word by Common book summary review and key ideas.

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Let Love Have the Last Word by Common


“Common – the Grammy Award, Academy Award, and Golden Globe-winning musician, actor, and activist – follows up his New York Times best-selling memoir One Day It’ll All Make Sense with this inspiring exploration of how love and mindfulness can build communities and allow you to take better control of your life through actions and words. Common’s warm and rousing narration is accompanied by music written and performed exclusively for this audiobook. 

Common believes that the phrase “let love have the last word” is not just a declaration; it is a statement of purpose, a daily promise. Love is the most powerful force on the planet and ultimately, the way you love determines who you are and how you experience life. 

Touching on God, self-love, partners, children, family, and community, Common explores the core tenets of love to help others understand what it means to receive and, most important, to give love. He moves from the personal – writing about his daughter, to whom he wants to be a better father – to the universal, where he observes that our society has become fractured under issues of race and politics. He knows there’s no quick remedy for all of the hurt in the world, but love – for yourself and for others – is where the healing begins. 

Courageous, insightful, brave, and characteristically authentic, Let Love Have the Last Word shares Common’s own unique and personal stories of the people and experiences that have led to a greater understanding of love and all it has to offer. It is a powerful call to action for a new generation of open hearts and minds, one that is sure to resonate for years to come.” -Audible

Opening thoughts:

I think I picked up this book because it was a recommended read in Audible. As usual it had a good average rating and number of reviews. Plus, it’s written by Common, the legendary, Grammy and Academy Award-winning hip-hop artist and actor. I’d love to hear his story and thoughts on love. The synopsis also sounds very interesting.

Key notes:

Part One

Chapter 1

“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place”

Zora Neal Hurston
  • There’s something human in the desire to love and to be loved
  • He says that we know nothing about love, but at the same time we know everything about it based on our own experiences
  • It all starts with love of self
    • God is love. But to serve God and serve other people, families and communities, you have to care for yourself
      • You have to love yourself
  • Acknowledge who you are
    • Then with resolution, pursue your higher self

Chapter 3

“Work is love made visible”

Khalil Gibran
  • His given name is Rasheed, but he gave himself the name Common, or Common Sense, as a persona
    • A separation between Rasheed and the entertainer
    • Although Common is authentically Rashid, Common was born from a love of hip-hop
  • Every morning he wakes up early and meditates, or more like a silent prayer to God because that’s when he feels closest to him
  • Love is a verb not a noun
    • To love someone is to take action, to do something in loves name
    • Love counts most in the present moment 
  • In each of us there is a true, higher version of ourselves
    • He tries to attain this version of himself through prayer and meditation, through spirituality
  • Love is a conscious and compassionate activity toward the betterment and care for yourself and others, even if it’s just one person or a stranger
    • To love God, no matter the name and religion, is to make a wholehearted reach towards the universal
    • To see that in spite of the lonely feelings, each of us can stand on our own two feet supported by a higher, deeper power

Chapter 4

  • He’s grateful for his open relationship with his daughter Omoye 
    • He says when he became a parent, his selfish desires had to make way for his child’s needs
    • They need your love and support to literally survive
    • He also says there’s nothing like being a parent and wanting to touch your child, to confirm their safety
  • Money and status don’t matter if your life is out of balance, if the people in your life have to question whether or not you care about them
  • When you’re attacked, it’s easy to get defensive and hard to speak from a place of love
    • Ego gets in the way of genuine communication and the real opportunity to begin the work required to heal wounds
    • With his conversation with his daughter, his energy was first spent on avoidance, not acknowledgment
      • He knew he needed to see the situation from her side of things
  • He needed to decide whether he wanted to write about love’s presence or its absence
  • Establishing intent is so important in everything, like when starting a new project
    • Love and intent are interlocked 
  • Love means to let love have the last word in any situation, no matter the person
    • There’s no other way to approach it than as an intentional practice
      • It’s okay to not know exactly what to do or how to do it
    • Love is a daily practice of constant adjustment and tweaking with no end goal or stopping point
      • It calls us to choose love today and every day, as if we didn’t choose it the days before.
  • Love is a positive and transformative force, only if we elect to refresh it everyday through our lives
  • Saying “I love you” is a declaration of intent, more than a reflection or reiteration of emotion
    • If you think of love as a verb or action, then saying the phrase is a promise of action, stipulating your commitment to that other person in that moment to act with love in love
  • Love hurts and causes pain in our hearts and emotional bodies, but that’s to be expected
    • Loving other people comes with a price
      • Love never leaves, but people do, and it hurts 
    • Love is a beautiful and wonderful emotion, that can simultaneously gut us from the inside out, so we keep it at arms length, and perhaps engage it with some skepticism and distrust
  • Love can take many shapes, but it can transform depending on context
    • It can become warped if we’re not careful and don’t investigate the love inside ourselves and how it manifests itself through
  • Having an honest and productive dialogue is in itself valuable
    • Most of the time it’s enough to know someone is hurting because of your actions
    • Though we usually hate feeling powerless and want to do something
      • Men usually approach these situations wanting to fix something but that’s not the solution

Chapter 5

“Often times, music and art can express for us what we have not yet learned how to say in our everyday words”

Dr. Angela Davis
  • Though there is nothing inherently wrong with us in the moment, we can always do better, be better, to ourselves and our love ones and to the world
  • The reasons why a relationship ends are independent of your value as a person, which existed long before the relationship began and still exists even if the other person exits
    • Love never leaves us, but people do, and that’s OK
      • Love is inseparable from people. It’s literally a part of human nature
        • To love, be loved, and desire such a thing
  • I freestyle rapping for him is like surrendering himself to the moment in the words that come out of his mouth. He trusts that his heart and creative part of his mind will guide him to the right place. Art has a way of taking us back to where we came from, to our former self. They feel familiar yet strangely distant from us

Part Two

Chapter 6

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out, it’s the pebble in your shoe”

Muhammad Ali
  • Turning to God requires one to turn over one’s doubts to God, to hand them over
    • There’s no need to fear failure when trusting God, when living life in love, with love and living by love

Reader’s note: He keeps mentioning A Love Supreme by John Coltrane so I just listened to it. The album is really good, it’s of the jazz genre. I instantly loved the song from the first few seconds I listened to it. You can just tell there’s so much soul and heart and life and jazz, and it is such a great album. I don’t know why I don’t have more jazz songs because I know I inherently love jazz. I mean…whomever doesn’t like jazz is clearly insane 😉

  • First, acknowledge the doubt, then resolve to overcome it
    • Requiring daily pursuit and ending with a prayer, a thank you to God
  • To speak of love is to speak on a spiritual plane
    • Love is the way, the conduit from the spiritual to the physical. From soul to mind and body
  • Few people appear successful to us more than those who somehow cracked the code and figured out how to live in love
    • It’s about getting out of your own way
  • There should be a space in each relationship for expectation to be voiced, then deliberated
    • It should be discussed openly and in good faith without anyone trying to get one over on the other
    • These conversations are the most difficult, which means they’re the most important because we need to have them
      • They require vulnerability and intimacy
  • Life is a journey we go through to figure things out, to discover and be in moments of peace and happiness
  • It’s as if music is given to you, your job is to be open and ready to produce or translate what is given as it comes

Reader’s note: This sounds exactly like the concept in Big Magic of creativity being a living thing. It passes through you and you can choose to translate and harness, or let pass by.

  • In art, it’s being confident knowing it is a divine expression
    • In either case, you’re removing yourself and allowing it to come through
    • In this way, there is little room for judgement. It is simply allowing things to flow through you
      • There is no time or opportunity to criticize or doubt what comes
    • When creating, be aware of the divine expression so you’ll become familiar and recognize it the next time it comes

Chapter 7

“The purpose in life is not to be happy, it is to be useful. To be honorable. To be compassionate. To have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well”

Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Love dims in the shade of dishonesty, which eclipses what should be everlasting and inexhaustible light
  • Everything in love requires work
  • True love offers the experience of knowing we always belong and won’t be abandoned
    • The reciprocation of giving and receiving love applies to yourself as well as romantic and familial relationships
  • The memories of the good times early in the relationship remind you that love still exists even despite the end of the relationship
    • Love is achieved by firmly deciding to love
  • If you have more to offer people, and you are in a position to offer more, you should do it
    • It shouldn’t be a question, it’s your responsibility to do your best for the world when the world is watching you and looking to you for guidance
  • People are most receptive to hear you when in speaking from the heart, you speak with clear intent, with authenticity, with a sincerity that registers as a sign of someone truly wishing to give of themselves and their experiences to other people through action and words
  • With people who are sick and terminal, all you can do is love in the present with them and love them
  • His father inspired him to give back to the community and keep a worldly perspective
    • He also encouraged him to speak up and ask “where can I contribute something good?
  • When you’re truly socially conscious, the key part is the spirit, the meaning behind the idea or belief
    • Thinking of creative ways to better the world 
  • No matter how much we think we can do better than our parents, we often stumble at the same spots and issues where they did, and it can have a humbling effect on us

Chapter 8

“The art of love is largely the art of persistence”

Albert Ellis
  • Love, for better and for worse, helps shape us into the people we’ve become
    • Love re-wires our brains

Chapter 9

“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved. Loved for ourselves in spite of ourselves”

Victor Hugo

Chapter 11

“An unexamined life is not worth living”

  • He learned he had issues with intimacy avoidance
    • This happens when a parent puts too much load on a child and they become responsible for a lot
    • When adults, these people run from intimacy when they feel like they’re being pulled to much to another person, when they feel like they’re needed too much, because they grew up so independently
  • As an artist, especially one with a weird schedule like his, he needs his feeling of space and independence
    • In relationships, he’s learning how to talk about and communicate things he needs, but doing so with respect and love 
  • The fear of abandonment changes a relationship and doesn’t allow the person to open their heart completely and love freely

Reader’s note: I feel like I can really relate to Common when he’s speaking about this idea of intimacy avoidance in combination with fear of abandonment. He feels like he gets tired of the person and their issues, and feels like it isn’t going to work out. And then he has to go through the pain of hurting someone by pulling away.

I can definitively say that I used to have issues with intimacy avoidance, and probably still do to some degree. In my past relationships, I felt like the more needy and dependent my partner became, the more I wanted to pull away. To this day, it’s still hard for me to be in a relationship with an overly and emotionally-needy person. However, I’ve been actively practicing more patience and empathic listening, which really does help.

  • His therapist said that the qualities he likes in a women are sometimes what are similar to his mother’s qualities
  • Love addiction relates to intimacy avoidance
    • Sometimes it’s more about the chase, the addiction to pursuing someone, and not about true love
  • His therapist asked: has he ever taken 6 months without any type of romance?
    • There are patterns where there can be lack of time with oneself
  • You can’t expect a relationship to fill that space of self love, God’s love, and fulfill you completely in that deeply satisfying way
    • You have to be comfortable with the other person seeing your flaws without running away
  • He’s often inspired by the life of Jesus and how his heart was open to everyone
    • In every person, he saw the capacity for forgiveness because he saw himself in everyone
    • This is because the truth that while everyone is different, we are each one of us the same fundamentally
      • We all dream, suffer, try to make sense of our pain
      • We all make mistakes and are imperfect
  • Being present is the spiritual feeling of being one with everything and everyone around you
    • It’s so fulfilling and life affirming, and empowering
  • One of the greatest gifts you’ve got is presence of mind
    • When it comes to love, there’s nothing more pure and divine you can provide
    • One of the most valuable things you can do for someone else is to be present and to listen, to show up
  • Love is taking the time to understand why a person may have experienced something, knowing you may not see things from that perspective
  • When you love for the right reason, which is not to benefit yourself, you will ultimately benefit from it
    • It makes the reward sweeter when you give without expectation or reciprocation
  • Of course we’re not always going to agree, but love is the thing that considers
    • It listens, spends time, and is patient enough to allow the other person or people to feel that they’ve been heard and acknowledged

Part Four

Chapter 12

“Love is a friendship set to music”

Joseph Campbell

Chapter 13

  • It feels like the slightest change, one different decision, can alter everything
    • You can never really be sure how this one decision can make all the difference for you until much later on in the future when things have already happened
  • He wasn’t sure how he would tell his mom about when he was molested as a child, but he gave it to God and had faith and getting guidance

Chapter 14

“The miracle is a shift in our own thinking. The willingness to keep our own heart open regardless of what’s going on outside us.”

Marianne Williamson
  • Reference: his album/group August Greene and the last track in regards to him being a father
  • His daughter Omoye called him after he heard his album
    • She called to say that she doesn’t want him to think he was a bad dad because he wasn’t
    • She said she’s not supposed to have any other dad besides him. He is “the dad she is supposed to have”

“Great art can only be created out of love”

James Baldwin

Main ideas / Themes:


Common talks a lot about how all love starts with self-love. This is the type of God’s love that every other love stems from. As he says, “You can’t expect a relationship to fill that space of self-love, God’s love, and fulfill you completely in that deep and satisfying way.” Many times, we tend to tie our value as a person to our relationship. Therefore, when we get rejected, it hurts us even more because we feel like the failed relationship is a testament to our low value as a person. Of course, Common says this isn’t true. The more we invest in self-love and being loving, the more we’ll find the fulfillment we’re looking for.

Love is a Verb

I’m a big believer in this concept of love being a verb and not a noun. Yes, we can refer to love as a feeling we have when we care about someone. However, feelings come and go. They aren’t reliable. A more empowering view of love is seeing it as an action, or a “commitment to act in love with love” towards the person, as Common says. He says that love is a “daily practice of constant adjustment with no end goal or stopping point.” Therefore, it’s like perfection. We’ll never get there, but we should always strive for it.

He also mentions that love is a state of mind. “Love means to let let love have the last word in any situation” which is a reference to the book title. Moreover, he emphasizes that “establishing intent is so important in everything.

Love is Presence

Another main idea is that true love is presence of mind. He says “one of the greatest gifts you’ve got is presence of mind. One of the most valuable things you can do for someone else is to be present, to listen, and to show up.”

In context, he talks a lot about how even though he felt like he gave his daughter so much love growing up, she didn’t feel it because he wasn’t as present as she would have wanted. For that, he had to learn how to listen without being reactive or defensive. Then he could listen with pure empathy and realized he wasn’t truly as present as he could have been.

The Pain of Love

The last few concepts deal with the downsides of love. He says that love, for better or worse, helps shape us into the people we’ve become. It rewires our brains.

Sometimes, we develop what’s called intimacy avoidance while growing up. This is also related to the fear of abandonment which prevents us from opening up our hearts and loving completely and freely.

Love comes with a price. Love hurts and causes pain in our hearts and emotional bodies, but that’s to be expected. Love never leaves, but people do, and that hurts. Love is a beautiful and wonderful emotion, that can simultaneously gut us from the inside out, so we keep it at arms length, and perhaps engage it with some skepticism and distrust.

Closing thoughts:

This was such a good book! Honestly, I wasn’t expecting such a thorough discourse on the topic of Love, but Common does a great job. He not only pulls from personal experience, but he also pulls ideas from the Scripture and other places.

Overall, he gives a very enlightened view on love. You can tell he meditates and thinks about the subject a lot. He’s simply a guy who doesn’t claim to have it figured out, but has definitely been on a long-time search for truth.

I appreciate how vulnerable he is in this book. He opens up about his love life, his family life, and his pursuit of love while establishing his career. He also touches upon some vulnerable moments in his past and with his parents.

This is a good book I highly recommend for anyone who is a fan of Common, who loves deep and philosophical discussions, is spiritual and/or a Christian, or anyone who is curious about one man’s ideas about such a large and broad topic. Honestly, I think this book is relevant to such a wide range of people.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

So many good concepts, but if I had to choose one takeaway, it would be:

  • One of the most valuable things you can do for someone else is be present, listen, and show up

Ever since reading this book, I’ve been a lot more cognizant of how I’m spending not only my time, but presence of mind. When I’m with someone, I’m more aware of my thoughts and try to focus in on the person, their needs, thoughts, and point of view. Listening wholeheartedly and syncing my brain/thoughts to theirs is one of the skills I’m actively practicing.

I know this is going to be a life-long skill to develop. But even in the short-term, I find that my interactions are much better than before. It’s becoming easier to understand others and help them feel understood. From there, communication and addressing what’s on their mind is much easier.


Common discusses the concept of Love at length through his own meditations and life experiences.

Similar books:


Rating: 4 out of 5.


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