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Yoko Ono

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about the musician and artist Yoko Ono. For the song by Die Ärzte, see Yoko Ono (song).
Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono Lennon (born February 18, 1933) is a Japanese American musician and artist probably best known as the widow of John Lennon of The Beatles. She currently resides in New York City and has lived most of her adult life in the United States.

In Japanese kanji, her name is written 小野 洋子 (Ono Yōko). The Japanese press and Ono's album covers have spelled her name in katakana (ヨーコ・オノ), a writing system used primarily for foreign words, as she spends most of her time in other countries.

Early life

Born into a privileged background in Saitama, Japan, she was the oldest child of Isoko Yasuda, a member of one of Japan's wealthiest banking families, and Eisuke Ono, who sacrificed a career as a classically trained pianist to work as a banker. She attended the exclusive Gakushuin academy in Tokyo from primary school to the college division. Ono has mentioned in interviews that her parents left the upbringing of her and her younger brother to nannies; her parents were often distant, emotionally and physically.

During World War II, Ono claims her family survived the bombing of Tokyo in an underground shelter. Ono and her siblings fled to the countryside, and were forced to beg for food while pulling their belongings in a wheelbarrow; it was during this period in her life that Ono says she developed her "aggressive" attitude and understanding of "outsider" status when local children taunted the once well-to-do Yoko and her brother, now reduced to poverty. Her father remained in the city and, unbeknownst to them, was incarcerated in a prisoner of war camp in China.

After the war, Ono's family moved to Scarsdale, New York, where she enrolled in Sarah Lawrence College. While her parents approved her choice of college, they were dismayed at her lifestyle, and, according to Ono, chastised her for befriending people they considered to be "beneath" her. In spite of this, Ono loved meeting artists, poets, and people who represented the "bohemian" freedom she longed for herself. Visiting galleries and art "happenings" in the city whetted her desire to publicly display her own artistic endeavors. La Monte Young, her first important contact (and lover) in the New York art world, helped Yoko start her career by using her Lower East Side loft as a concert hall. At one concert Yoko set a painting on fire; fortunately John Cage had advised her to treat the paper with flame retardant.

In 1956, she married composer Toshi Ichiyanagi. They divorced in 1962 after living apart for several years. On November 28 that same year, Ono married American Anthony Cox. Cox was a jazz musician, film producer, and art promoter; according to Albert Goldman, he also flirted with crime[citation needed]. He had heard of Yoko in New York and tracked her down to a mental institution in Japan, where her family had placed her following a suicide attempt.

Their marriage was annulled on March 1, 1963 (Ono having neglected to finalize her divorce from Ichiyanagi first); they re-married on June 6, and finally divorced on February 2, 1969. Their daughter, Kyoko Chan Cox, was born on August 8, 1963. The marriage quickly fell apart (observers describe Tony and Yoko threatening each other with kitchen knives) but the Coxes stayed together for the sake of their joint career. They performed at Tokyo's Sogetsu Hall with Yoko lying atop a piano played by John Cage. Soon the Coxes returned to New York with Kyoko.

In the early years of this marriage, Yoko left most of Kyoko's parenting to Cox, while she pursued her art full-time and Tony managed publicity. Yoko became much more attached to Kyoko after she left Cox for John Lennon. After a bitter legal battle, Ono was awarded permanent custody of Kyoko. However in 1971, Cox, who had become a Christian fundamentalist after his divorce from Ono, abducted Kyoko and vanished. Ono and her daughter were finally reunited in 1998 after Kyoko bore Yoko a granddaughter, Emi, who is one of Ono's chief legal heirs. Kyoko, still a fundamentalist Christian, lives quietly in Colorado and avoids publicity.


Poster for Ono's first major exhibit, This is Not Here, at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York
Poster for Ono's first major exhibit, This is Not Here, at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York

Ono was an early member of Fluxus, a loose association of Dada-inspired avant-garde artists that developed in the early 1960s. Fluxus founder George Maciunas, a friend and love interest of Ono's during the 60's, admired her work and promoted it with enthusiasm. Maciunas, with Young and Cage, was one of the most important influences on Ono's performance art. His humorously subversive philosophy of avant-gardism, spoofing the overserious, commercialized attitude to abstract art typical of 1950s New York, is obvious in Ono's "sales lists" of imaginary or useless objects (tapes of snow falling, machines dispensing clouds, etc.)--as Ono once said, "I think it would be very good for someone's mental health to buy something that didn't exist!" Ono's interactive art objects (like her "Painting to be Stepped On," where the painting is created by footprints on a blank canvas) also owe something to Maciunas' spoofy Fluxus objects or ideas for the same. Some critics[citation needed] have described Ono's art as a synthesis between John Cage's Zen-influenced musical ideas, incorporating silence and natural sounds, and Maciunas' earthier and more macabre wit, which found an echo in Ono's readiness to shock and dramatizations of her mental pain as well as her shared appreciation of gags (she once said, "Every artist is a conceptual artist. I'm a con artist" [citation needed] ). Another influence cited by art critics [citation needed] was Ono's Japanese contemporary Yayoi Kusama. Kusama's events involving nudity may have inspired the famous cover of Ono and John Lennon's Two Virgins record, where both appear naked. Kusama was also an organizer of pacifist events similar to Ono and Lennon's "bed-in" interviews.

Ono was an explorer of conceptual art and performance art. An example of her performance art is "Cut Piece", during which she sat on stage and invited the audience to use scissors to cut off her clothing until she was naked. An example of her conceptual art includes her book of instructions called Grapefruit. This book, first produced in 1964, includes surreal, Zen-like instructions that are to be completed in the mind of the reader, for example: "Hide and Go Seek Piece: Hide until everyone forgets about you. Hide until everyone dies." The book, an example of Heuristic art, was published several times, most widely distributed by Simon and Schuster in 1971, and reprinted by them again in 2000. Many of the scenarios in the book would be enacted as performance pieces throughout Ono's career and have formed the basis for her art exhibitions, including one highly publicized show at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, New York that was nearly closed by a fan riot.

Ono was also an experimental filmmaker. She made sixteen films between 1964 and 1972, and gained particular renown for a 1966 film called simply No. 4, but often referred to as "Bottoms". The film consists of a series of close-ups of human buttocks as the subject walks on a treadmill. The screen is divided into four almost equal sections by the elements of the gluteal cleft and the horizontal gluteal crease. The soundtrack consists of interviews with those who are being filmed as well as those considering joining the project. In 1996, the watch manufacturing company Swatch produced a limited edition watch that commemorates this film. (Ono also acted in an obscure exploitation film of the sixties, Satan's Bed.)

John Lennon once described her as "the world's most famous unknown artist: everybody knows her name, but nobody knows what she does." [1] Her friends and lovers in the New York art world have included Kate Millett, Nam June Paik, Dan Richter, Jonas Mekas, Merce Cunningham, Judith Malina, Erica Abeel, Peggy Guggenheim, Betty Rollin, Shusaku Arakawa, Adrian Morris, Stefan Wolpe, Keith Haring, and Andy Warhol, as well as Maciunas and Young.

In a lecture at Wesleyan University, January 1966, Yoko Ono explained the inspiration behind her conceptual art: "All of my work in fields other than music have an Event bent ... event, to me, is not an assimilation of all the other arts as Happening seems to be, but an extrication from various sensory perceptions. It is not a get togetherness as most happenings are, but a dealing with oneself. Also it has no script as Happenings do, though it has something that starts it moving- the closest word for it may be a wish or hope ... After unblocking one's mind, by dispensing with visual, auditory and kinetic perception, what will come out of us? Would there be anything? I wonder. And my events are mostly spent in wonderment ... The painting method derives as far back as the time of the Second World War, when we had no food to eat, and my brother and I exchanged menus in the air." [citation needed]

Ono has sometimes been maligned and vilified by critics who condemn her art. For example, Brian Sewell, an art critic noted for his artistic conservatism and acerbic reviews of conceptual art, said: "She's shaped nothing, she's contributed nothing, she's simply been a reflection of the times...I think she's an amateur, a very rich woman who was married to someone who did have some talent and was the driving force behind the Beatles. If she had not been the widow of John Lennon, she would be totally forgotten by now...Yoko Ono was simply a hanger-on. Have you seen her sculpture or paintings? They're all awful." [citation needed] In the past few years, Ono's work has received recognition and acclaim. For example, Matthew Teitelbaum, director of the Art Gallery of Ontario, stated that "Yoko Ono is one of the world's most original and inspirational visual artists." [citation needed] Michael Kimmelman, the chief Art critic of the New York Times, wrote: "Yoko Ono's art is a mirror—like her work 'a Box of Smile,' we see ourselves in our reaction to it—a tiny prod toward personal enlightenment, very Zen." [citation needed]

In 2001, YES YOKO ONO, a forty-year retrospective of Ono's work, received the prestigious International Association of Art Critics USA Award for Best Museum Show Originating in New York City. (This award is considered one of the highest accolades in the museum profession.) In 2002 Ono was awarded the Skowhegan Medal for work in assorted media. And in 2005 she received a lifetime achievement award from the Japan Society of New York.

Ono received an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Liverpool University in 2001; in 2002 she was presented with the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts from Bard College. Scott MacDonald, visiting professor of film at Bard, said: "She is to be congratulated for the body of work she has made, and celebrated for what she has come to represent, within media history and throughout the world: courage, resilience, persistence, independence, and, above all, imagination, and a belief that peace and love remain the way toward a brighter, ever-more-diverse human future." [citation needed]

Life with Lennon

John Lennon and Yoko Ono with Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, 22 December 1969 Ottawa, Ontario
John Lennon and Yoko Ono with Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, 22 December 1969 Ottawa, Ontario

Ono first met John Lennon when he visited a preview of an exhibition of Ono's at the Indica Gallery in London on November 9, 1966. Lennon's first intimate encounter with Ono involved her passing him a card that simply read "Breathe". He was taken with the positivity, humor, and interactivity of her work[citation needed], such as a ladder leading up to a black canvas with a spyglass on a chain allowing John to read the word "Yes" written on the canvas along with a real apple displayed with a card reading "APPLE." When John was told the price of the apple was 200 pounds, he thought, "This is a joke, this is pretty funny" (Spitz, page 650). Another display was a white board with nails in it with a sign inviting visitors to hammer a nail into its surface. Since the show was not beginning until the following day, Ono refused to allow Lennon to hammer in a nail. The gallery owner whisked her away saying "don't you know who THAT is? He's a millionaire!" (Ono later claimed not to know who John Lennon or the Beatles were, though some friends remember her being quite interested in the band and wanting to get involved with them.) Upon returning to John she said he could hammer in a nail for five shillings. Lennon replied, "I'll give you an imaginary five shillings if you let me hammer in an imaginary nail" (Spitz, page 632).

They began an affair approximately two years later, eventually resulting in Lennon divorcing his first wife, Cynthia Lennon. Cynthia recalled that Ono pursued Lennon relentlessly from the date of the Indica show, sending him poems and artwork daily, haunting their London mansion, and even threatening suicide if he did not support her work [verification needed]. Lennon was at first ambivalent about Ono, then increasingly fascinated, and finally devoted to her after they recorded Two Virgins together on LSD[citation needed]. They married on March 20, 1969 in Gibraltar. Their son, Sean, was born on Lennon's 35th birthday, on October 9, 1975.

Lennon referred to Ono in many of his songs. While still a Beatle he wrote "The Ballad of John and Yoko," and he alluded to her indirectly in "Julia," a song dedicated to his mother, with the lyrics: "Ocean child calls me, so I sing a song of love" (The kanji 洋子 ("Yoko") mean "ocean child"). Other Lennon songs about Ono are said[citation needed] to include: "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," "Don't Let Me Down," "Happiness is a Warm Gun," "Well Well Well," "Because," "Oh Yoko!," "I'm Losing You," "Bless You," and "Dear Yoko."

Ono and Lennon collaborated on many albums, beginning in 1968 when Lennon was still a Beatle, with Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins, an album of experimental and difficult electronic music. That same year, the couple contributed an experimental piece to The White Album called "Revolution 9". Many of the couple's later albums were released under the name the Plastic Ono Band.

In 1969, the Plastic Ono Band's first album, Live Peace In Toronto, was recorded during the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival Festival. In addition to Lennon and Ono, this first incarnation of the group consisted of guitarist Eric Clapton, bass player Klaus Voorman, and drummer Alan White. The first half of their performance consisted of rock standards, and during the second half, Ono took the microphone and along with the band performed what may be one of the first expressions of the avant garde during a rock concert. The set ended with music that consisted mainly of feedback, while Ono screamed[citation needed] and sang.

Lennon's version
Lennon's version
Ono's version
Ono's version

Ono released her first solo album, Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band in 1970, as a companion piece to Lennon's better-known John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. The two albums have almost identical covers: Ono's featured a photo of her leaning on Lennon, and Lennon's had a photo of him leaning on Ono. Her album included raw and quite harsh vocals that were possibly influenced by Japanese opera. Some songs consisted of wordless vocalizations, in a style that would influence Diamanda Galas, Meredith Monk, and other musical artists who have used screams and vocal noise in lieu of words. Perhaps, the most famous song on Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band is "Why", which features Ono repeating the word "Why" for five minutes. Some punk banks, including Public Image Ltd) [citation needed] consider this album (and other early albums by her) as laying the foundation for punk. The album peaked at #183 on the US charts.

In 1971, Ono released Fly - a double album. On this release Ono explored slightly more conventional punk rock with tracks like "Midsummer New York" and "Mind Train", in addition to a number of Fluxus experiments. She also received minor airplay with the ballad "Mrs. Lennon". Perhaps the most famous track from the album is "Don't Worry, Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking For Her Hand In The Snow)", an ode to Ono's kidnapped daughter. Ono later released two feminist rock albums in 1973, Approximately Infinite Universe and Feeling the Space, which received little attention at the time but are today recognized with much critical respect[citation needed], particularly for tracks such as "Move on Fast," "Yang Yang" and "Death of Samantha."

Ono has been accused by some music historians[citation needed] for breaking up the band, while others[citation needed] argue that the breakup was caused by the fact that the Beatles were moving in different directions musically and personally. John, also, said he had wanted 'out' of the group even before he met Yoko.

In a 2003 interview with Jay Leno, Yoko revealed the disappointment she felt by the breakup and how it impacted a life that she was used to. Beatles historian Bob Spitz concluded that John Lennon wanted to disband the Beatles and saw in Yoko the perfect wedge to drive between himself and the others[citation needed].

After the Beatles disbanded, Lennon and Ono lived together in London and then in New York. They became addicted to heroin in London and were arrested for possession of cannabis resin on October 18, 1968. They would suffer from heroin addiction on and off for many years, and the arrest would be significant to their future together. Their relationship came under great strain as Lennon faced near-certain deportation from the U.S. based on the British drug charges and Ono was separated from her daughter, who would have remained behind if she followed Lennon back to England. Lennon began drinking heavily and Ono buried herself in her work. The marriage had soured by 1973 and the two began living separate lives, Ono pursuing her career in New York and Lennon living in Los Angeles with personal assistant May Pang.

In 1975, the couple reconciled. After the birth of their son Sean, they lived in seclusion until shortly before Lennon's murder in December 1980, which Yoko witnessed at close range.

Musical career

A still from the "Walking on Thin Ice" video.
A still from the "Walking on Thin Ice" video.

Ono has achieved considerable success as a musician. Ono collaborated with experimental luminaries such as John Cage and jazz legend Ornette Coleman. In 1961, years before meeting Lennon, she had her first major public performance in a concert at the 258-seat Carnegie Recital Hall (not the larger "Main Hall"). This concert featured radical experimental music and performances. She had a second engagement at the Carnegie Recital Hall in 1965, in which she debuted her now legendary and influential "Cut Piece."

Ono's music changed after her marriage; while many of her early songs retain the surreal quality of her art and films, her later songs are usually more conventional — for example, the seven pop songs that she contributed to the album, Double Fantasy (which were considered, by some critics, to be better than Lennon's offerings on the album).

In the spring of 1980, Lennon heard Lene Lovich and The B-52's' "Rock Lobster" in a nightclub, and it reminded him of Ono's musical sound. He ran to a public phone, called Yoko and said "They're finally ready for us, love!" [citation needed]Indeed, many musicians, particularly those of the new wave movement, have paid tribute to Ono (both as an artist in her own right, and as a muse and iconic figure). For example, Elvis Costello recorded a version of Ono's song "Walking On Thin Ice", the B-52's covered "Don't Worry, Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking For Her Hand In The Snow)" (shortening the title to "Don't Worry"), and Sonic Youth included a performance of Ono's early conceptual "Voice Piece for Soprano" in their fin de siecle album SYR4: Goodbye 20th Century. One of Barenaked Ladies's best-known songs is "Be My Yoko Ono," and Dar Williams recorded a song called "I Won't Be Your Yoko Ono." The punk rock singer Patti Smith invited Ono to participate in "Meltdown," a two-week music festival that Smith organized in London during June 2005; Ono performed at Queen Elizabeth Hall.

On the night of December 8, 1980, Lennon and Ono were in the studio working on Ono's song "Walking On Thin Ice." When they returned to The Dakota, their home in New York City, Lennon was shot dead by a deranged fan, Mark David Chapman. "Walking on Thin Ice (For John)" was released as a single less than a month later, and became Ono's first chart success, peaking at No. 58 and gaining major underground airplay. In 1981, she released the album Season of Glass with the striking cover photo of Lennon's shattered, bloody spectacles next to a half-filled glass of water, with a window overlooking Central Park in the background. This led some critics to accuse her of being tasteless and exploitative. However, Ono said that she chose such a provocative image because she wanted to remind people that Lennon hadn't just died or committed suicide, but had been murdered. She stated that those who thought the picture of bloody spectacles were offensive because of the blood stains should remember that there was more to John's murder than just a stained pair of glasses, and the picture was only a small part of what she, and other members of John's family, had to face when he died. (This photograph sold at an auction in London in April 2002 for about $13,000.) In the liner notes to Season of Glass, Ono explained that the album is not dedicated to Lennon because "he would have been offended - he was one of us."

Life after Lennon

Some time after her husband's murder, Ono began a relationship with antiques dealer Sam Havadtoy, which lasted until 2001. [1] She had also been linked to art dealer and Greta Garbo confidante Sam Green, who is mentioned in John Lennon's Will. [2] 1982 saw the release of It's Alright (I See Rainbows). The cover featured Ono in her famous wrap-around sunglasses, looking towards the sun, while on the back the ghost of Lennon looks over Ono and Sean. The album scored minor chart success and airplay with the singles "My Man" and "Never Say Goodbye."

In 1984, a tribute album entitled Every Man Has A Woman was released, featuring Ono classics performed by artists such as Elvis Costello, Roberta Flack, Eddie Money, Rosanne Cash and Harry Nilsson. It was one of Lennon's projects that he never got to finish. Later that year, Ono and Lennon's final album Milk And Honey was released in unfinished demo state.

The program from Ono's 1986 "Starpeace" world tour.
The program from Ono's 1986 "Starpeace" world tour.

Ono's final album of the 1980s was Starpeace, a concept album that Ono intended as an antidote to Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" missile defense system. On the cover, a warm, smiling Ono holds the Earth in the palm of her hand. Starpeace became Ono's most successful non-Lennon effort: the single "Hell in Paradise" was a hit, reaching No. 16 on the US dance charts and #26 on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as major airplay on MTV.

In 1986 Ono set out on a goodwill world tour for Starpeace, mostly visiting Eastern European countries that she felt were in need of her message of peace.

Ono went on hiatus until signing with Rykodisc in 1992 to release the comprehensive 6-disc box set Onobox. It included remastered highlights from all of Ono's solo albums, as well as unreleased material from the 1974 "lost weekend" sessions. There was also a one-disc "greatest hits" release of highlights from Onobox, simply titled Walking on Thin Ice. In 1994, Yoko produced her own musical entitled New York Rock, featuring Broadway renditions of her songs.

1995 saw Ono's comeback with the release of Rising, a collaboration with her son Sean Lennon and his band Ima. Rising spawned a world tour that traveled through Europe, Japan and the United States. The following year, she collaborated with various alternative rock musicians for an EP entitled Rising Mixes. Guest remixers of Rising material included Cibo Matto, Ween, Tricky, and Thurston Moore.

In 1997, Rykodisc reissued all her solo albums on CD, from Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band through Starpeace. Ono and her engineer Rob Stevens personally remastered the audio, and various bonus tracks were added including outtakes, demos and live cuts.

The cover of ONO's successful "Walking on Thin Ice" 2003 remix single.
The cover of ONO's successful "Walking on Thin Ice" 2003 remix single.

In 2000, she founded the John Lennon museum in Saitama, her home town. John Lennon museum

2001 saw the release of Ono's feminist concept album Blueprint For A Sunrise. Starting in 2002, some DJs remixed other Ono songs for dance clubs. For the remix project, she dropped her first name and became known as simply "ONO", as a response to the "Oh, no!" jokes that dogged her throughout her career. ONO had great success with new versions of "Walking on Thin Ice", remixed by top DJs and dance artists including Pet Shop Boys, Orange Factory, Peter Rauhofer, and Danny Tenaglia. In April 2003, ONO's Walking On Thin Ice (Remixes) was rated No. 1 on Billboard Magazine's "Dance/Club Play Chart", gaining ONO her first number one hit. On the 12" mix of the original 1981 version of "Walking on Thin Ice", Lennon can be heard remarking "I think we've just got your first No.1, Yoko." She returned to No. 1 on the same charts in November of 2004 with "Everyman...Everywoman...". A reworking of her song "Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him" from Double Fantasy, the track contained new lyrics supportive of gay marriage.

During her career, Ono has collaborated with a diverse group of artists and musicians including John Cage, David Tudor, George Maciunas, Ornette Coleman, Charlotte Moorman, George Brecht, Jackson Mac Low, Jonas Mekas, Yvonne Rainer, La Monte Young, Richard Maxfield, Zbigniew Rybczyński, Yo La Tengo, and Andy Warhol. In 1987 Ono was one of the speakers at Warhol's funeral.

Political activism

Since the 1960s, Ono has been an activist for peace and human rights. After their wedding, Lennon and Ono held a "Bed-In for Peace" in their honeymoon suite at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel in March 1969. The press fought to get in, presuming that the two would be having sex for their cameras, but they instead found a pair of newlyweds wearing pajamas and eager to talk about and promote world peace. Another Bed-In in May 1969 in Montreal, Canada, resulted in the recording of their first single, "Give Peace A Chance," a Top 20 hit for the newly-christened Plastic Ono Band. Other demonstrations with John included Bagism. Introduced in Vienna, Bagism encouraged a disregard for physical appearance in judging others.

In the 1970s, Ono and Lennon became close to many radical leaders, including Jerry Rubin, Michael X, John Sinclair (for whom they organized a benefit after he was imprisoned), Angela Davis, Kate Millett, and David Peel. They appeared on The Mike Douglas Show and took over hosting duties for a week, during which Ono spoke at length about the evils of racism and sexism. They were forced to curtail much of their political activity when the United States government put them under surveillance and Lennon was threatened with deportation on drug charges[citation needed]. Ono remained outspoken in her support of feminism, and openly bitter about the racism she had experienced from rock fans, especially in England. For example, an Esquire article of the period was titled "John Rennon's Excrusive Gloupie" and featured an unflattering David Levine cartoon.

In 2002, Ono inaugurated her own peace award by giving $50,000 (£31,900) prize money to artists living "in regions of conflict." Israeli and Palestinian artists were the first recipients.

In 2003, Ono turned 70, a milestone of sorts. Far from mellowing with age, she raised eyebrows with her re-staging of the "Cut Piece" in protest of terrorism.

In 2004, Ono remade her song "Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him" to support same-sex marriage, releasing remixes that included "Every Man Has a Man Who Loves Him" and "Every Woman Has a Woman Who Loves Her."

Relationship with Paul McCartney and Cynthia Lennon

Ono occasionally argued with Beatle Paul McCartney about issues such as the writing credits for many Beatles songs. While the Beatles were still together, every song written by Lennon or McCartney was credited to Lennon-McCartney regardless of whether the song was a collaboration or a solo project. After Lennon's death, McCartney attempted to change the order to "McCartney-Lennon" for songs, such as "Yesterday," that were solely or predominantly written by him, but Ono would not allow it. She says she felt this broke an agreement that the two had made while Lennon was still alive. However, McCartney has stated that no such agreement ever existed. The two other Beatles agreed that the credits should remain as they always had been and McCartney withdrew his request. However, the dispute reappeared in 2002. On his "Back in the U.S. Live 2002" album, 19 classic Beatle songs are described as "written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon."[3]

In 1995, McCartney and his family collaborated with Ono and Sean Lennon to create the song "Hiroshima Sky is Always Blue," which commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb on the Japanese city. Of Ono, McCartney stated: "I thought she was a cold woman. I think that's wrong ... she's just the opposite ... I think she's just more determined than most people to be herself."

McCartney did not invite Ono to his wife Linda McCartney's memorial service in 1998, even though both Ono and Linda McCartney had attended Sarah Lawrence College.[4]

Accepting an award at the 2005 Q Awards, Ono made a controversial comment that some music critics have interpreted as an insult to Paul McCartney's songwriting[5]. She mentioned that Lennon had once felt insecure about his songwriting, and asked her why other musicians "always cover Paul's songs, and never mine". Ono then responded "You're a good songwriter; it's not June with spoon that you write. You're a good singer, and most musicians are probably a little bit nervous about covering your songs". [6] Heather Mills McCartney, when asked about her husband's thoughts on the subject, said "He doesn't even know yet. Look at how successful Yoko's music is compared to Paul's. Speaks for itself".

Ono later issued a statement claiming she did not mean any offense, as her comment was an attempt to reconcile John, not attack Paul; she went on to insist that she respected McCartney and that it was the press who had taken her comments out of context.[7]

She went on to say: "People need light-hearted topics like me and Paul fighting to escape all the horror of the world, but it's not true anymore...We have clashed many times in the past. But I do respect Paul now for having been John's partner and he respects me for being John's wife."

Her relationship with Cynthia Lennon remains strained. In a recent BBC interview, Cynthia Lennon said Ono's behaviour toward Julian Lennon after the death of John was "Shameful" and remarked of Ono's "Lonely" existence in her "Ivory Tower". This interview can been seen on a link at -

Still provocative

Ono again proved herself to be a provocative and controversial artist with her contribution to the fourth Liverpool Biennial in 2004. With banners, bags, stickers, postcards, flyers, posters and badges, she flooded the city with two images: one of a woman’s naked breast, the other of her vulva. The piece, titled "My Mummy Was Beautiful," was dedicated to Lennon's mother, Julia, who had died when Lennon was a teenager. According to Ono the work was meant to be innocent, not shocking. She was attempting to replicate the experience of a baby looking up at his or her mother’s body: the mother’s pudendum and breasts are a child’s introduction to humanity.

Some in Liverpool, including Lennon's half-sister, Julia Baird, found the citywide installation offensive. Indeed, the BBC program North West Tonight invited viewers to phone in their opinion of the piece, and of the 6,000 viewers who responded 92% wanted the images removed. However, due to response bias, this poll may not have determined the general public's actual opinion. Others appreciated the conceptuality of the work. Chris Brown, of Liverpool's Daily Post, wrote: "Many have loved the work… and Yoko Ono has again managed to get the eyes of the world looking in our direction."

An editorial in The Times of London wrote: "Her unmissable contribution to the fourth Liverpool Biennial dominates the event and seems also to symbolise the new international Liverpool...Ono manages successfully to get right up the noses of the locals, as she always has. Brilliant...As always with Ono's art, a simple act has become a radical one."

Some local councillors welcomed the removal of Ono's image from the deconsecrated Church of St. Luke. "I'm delighted that it has been removed," said Joe Anderson, leader of the Labour Party group. "I find it appalling that the picture was put in a place which offended people. St. Luke's is a war memorial and many people felt it was being desecrated with this picture." (Ono's art was placed there at the invitation of St Luke's Peace Centre in recognition of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's steadfast promotion of peace.) The biennial's chief executive, Lewis Biggs, denied the claim that it was moved due to public pressure: "The banner was taken down to replace the one torn down at the Bluecoat Centre over the weekend. The only banner of the same size was at St. Luke's. If the biennial had the money to replace the one at the church, we would have." He further stated, "There are a great many people who enjoy and support this project."

Paul Domela, deputy chief executive of Liverpool Biennial, said: "We were aware that some would object to it. But, at the same time, we realised that a great many would love it as well...We have got bags, stickers and badges that are so popular we cannot give out enough of them because they are going so quickly." He continued: "In the campaign for the election in the European Union, there was an image of a woman breast feeding. The campaign was aired across Europe, including some very Catholic countries. Over here, the difference was that the nipple was removed. This baby had its mouth open into nothingness. What does that say about the relationship we have in this country to motherhood? To begin to think about that and talk about it is very important."

In response to the controversy Ono stated, "I wasn't trying to insult Liverpool. In fact, when I thought of the idea and I visualized this beautiful mum's breasts and vagina all around the city I thought, 'Ah, it would be so beautiful', and it's like giving them love, because we are all born from our mother's body, and that's the first thing that we were nurtured by—mothers' breasts. Somehow people try to inhibit that memory. Women are put in a position of feeling embarrassed about their bodies. It's so ridiculous, but also astounding—we have to always be apologetic about having created the human race."

Of her artistic inspiration she said, "I'm always inside myself and listening to what's coming into my head. I'm like a conduit of some message coming through me. I'm interested in everything, equally, every day. I'm in love with life, the world, every moment

Yoko Ono performed at the opening ceremony for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turino, Italy, wearing white, like many of the others who performed during the ceremony, to symbolize the snow that makes the Winter Olympics possible. She read a free verse poem from a prepared script calling for peace in the world. The poem was an intro to a performance of the song "Imagine", which was written by John Lennon.


  • Yoko Ono appears as a main character in a novel by Michael Rumaker, The Butterfly. The novel details their brief romance between Ono's first two marriages and describes the loft in New York City where La Monte Young staged concerts. Yoko here is described as being depressed, unstable, and tormented by guilt over her turbulent life, and in fact she was to attempt suicide in Japan shortly after the period described by Rumaker.
  • Yoko Ono was lampooned on TV's Celebrity Deathmatch, South Park, and Married... with Children. She has appeared as herself on the 1990s series Mad About You. Characters based on Ono have appeared on episodes of The Simpsons and The Powerpuff Girls lampooning the Beatles, and in the Monty Python parody The Rutles.
  • An episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was titled "The Yoko Factor" in reference to Ono's supposedly breaking up the Beatles. A woman who comes between a man and his peers, especially in a rock band, is sometimes called "a Yoko."
  • An episode of That '70s Show has an indignant Eric Forman scolding Jackie Burkhart, "Because you're breaking up the band, Yoko!" when he catches her making out with Steven Hyde, both of whom had previously denied being attracted to one another.
  • An episode of Home Movies was titled "Yoko." The episode introduces a new character, Yannie, whose relationship with Brendan causes altercation within the filmmaking group.
  • Jean Yoon wrote a play about Ono, The Yoko Ono Project.
  • The Barenaked Ladies released a song called "Be My Yoko Ono," about wanting the object of the song to be as close as could be, in which they ask the listener not to blame the Beatles' split on Yoko.
  • In the episode of The Simpsons where Homer stars in a barbershop quartet based on the Beatles, Barney as a member of the quartet is seen in a pub with a Japanese lady who resembles Yoko Ono. Barney asks for a beer and the lady asks for a "single plum, floating in perfume, served in a man's hat," which Moe obligingly serves.
  • In an episode of Family Guy, Stewie threatens Brian, saying: "Now, fess up, or I'll do to you what I did to John Lennon." Ostensibly referring to Lennon's death, the scene then switches to a benign sequence showing Stewie introducing Lennon and Ono ("John, have you met Yoko? Yoko, John?").
  • In the comic strip Monty, the character Loco Ohno is modelled after Ono.
  • Yoko once played with Frank Zappa at the Fillmore on June 5, 1971, when John Lennon was invited to play with him.
  • In an episode of the Powerpuff Girls a monkey based on Yoko Ono called Moko Tono is the cause of the breakng up of the band called Beat-All created by evil monkey Mojo JoJo to defeat the Powerpuff Girls.

Discography (with US chart positions)


[*] = with John Lennon

  • Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins [*] (1968)
  • Unfinished Music No.2: Life With The Lions [*] (1969)
  • Wedding Album [*] (1969)
  • Live Peace in Toronto 1969 [*] (1969) #10
  • Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band (1970) #182
  • Fly (1971) #199
  • Some Time in New York City [*] (1972) #48
  • Approximately Infinite Universe (1972) #193
  • Feeling the Space (1973)
  • A Story (1974) (Unreleased until 1997)
  • Double Fantasy [*] (1980) #1
  • Season of Glass (1981) #49
  • It's Alright (I See Rainbows) (1982) #98
  • Every Man Has a Woman (1984) (Tribute album with various artists)
  • Milk and Honey [*] (1984) #11
  • Starpeace (1985)
  • Onobox (1992)
  • Walking on Thin Ice (1992)
  • New York Rock (1994) (original cast recording)
  • Rising (1995)
  • Rising Mixes (1996)
  • Blueprint for a Sunrise (2001)


  • "Open Your Box" (1971)
  • "Mrs. Lennon"/"Midsummer New York" (1971)
  • "Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for a Hand in the Snow)" (1971)
  • "Now or Never"/"Move on Fast" (1972)
  • "Mind Train"/"Listen, the Snow is Falling" (1972)
  • "Death of Samantha"/"Yang Yang" (1973)
  • "Josejoi Banzai" (1973) (Japan-only release)
  • "Woman Power"/"Men, Men, Men" (1973)
  • "Run, Run, Run"/"Men, Men, Men" (1973)
  • "Walking on Thin Ice" (1981) #58
  • "Goodbye Sadness"/"I Don't Know Why" (promo) (1981)
  • "No, No, No" (1981)
  • "My Man" (1982)
  • "Never Say Goodbye" (1983)
  • "Hell in Paradise" (1985) #26, #16 Dance
  • "Cape Clear"/"Walking on Thin Ice (Re-Edit)" (promo) (1985)
  • "I Love All of Me" (1986)
  • "Ask the Dragon" (1995)
  • "New York Woman" (1996)
  • "It's Time For Action" (2001)
  • "Open Your Box" originally released 1971; (remix) (2001)
  • "Kiss Kiss Kiss" (remix) (2002) #20 Dance
  • "Yang Yang" (remix) (2002) #17 Dance
  • "Walking on Thin Ice" (remix) (2003) #1 Dance
  • "Will I"/"Fly" (remix) (2003) #19 Dance
  • "Hell in Paradise" (remix) (2004) #4 Dance
  • "Everyman... Everywoman" (maxi-single promoting gay marriage) (2004) #1 Dance

B-Side appearances on John Lennon singles:

  • "Remember Love" (on "Give Peace a Chance") (1969)
  • "Don't Worry, Kyoko" (on "Cold Turkey") (1969)
  • "Who Has Seen the Wind?" (on "Instant Karma!") (1970)
  • "Why" (on "Mother") (1971)
  • "Open Your Box" (on "Power to the People") (1971)
  • "Listen, the Snow is Falling" on (on "Happy Xmas (War is Over)") (1971)
  • "Kiss Kiss Kiss" (on "(Just Like) Starting Over") (1980)
  • "Beautiful Boy" (on "Woman") (1981)
  • "Yes, I'm Your Angel" (on "Watching the Wheels") (1981)
  • "O'Sanity" (on "Nobody Told Me") (1984)
  • "Sleepless Night" (on "I'm Stepping Out") (1984)
  • "Your Hands (あなたの手)" (on "Borrowed Time") (1984)


  • Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions and Drawings (1970)
  • Summer of 1980 (1983)
  • ただの私 (Tada-no Atashi - Just Me!) (1986)
  • The John Lennon Family Album (1990
  • Instruction Paintings (1995)
  • Grapefruit Juice (1998)
  • YES YOKO ONO (2000)
  • Odyssey of a Cockroach (2005)
  • Imagine Yoko (2005)
  • Memories of John (editor) (2005)


  • Clayson, Alan et al. Woman: The Incredible Life of Yoko Ono
  • Goldman, Albert. The Lives of John Lennon
  • Green, John. Dakota Days
  • Hendricks, Geoffrey. Fluxus Codex
  • Hendricks, Geoffrey. Yoko Ono: Arias and Objects
  • Hopkins, Jerry. Yoko Ono
  • Millett, Kate. Flying
  • Pang, May. Loving John
  • Rumaker, Michael. The Butterfly
  • Seaman, Frederic. The Last Days of John Lennon
  • Sheff, David. John Lennon and Yoko Ono: The Playboy Interviews
  • Weiner, Jon. Come Together
  • Wenner, Jann, ed. The Ballad of John and Yoko
  • Yoon, Jean. The Yoko Ono Project'--!>


  1. ^ "Yoko Ono: Rebirth of a renaissance rebel". Asian heroes section of TIME Magazine's website. From the April 28, 2003 issue of TIME Magazine.
  • Spitz, Bob. The Beatles. Little, Brown, and Company: New York, 2005.
  • "Ono apologises for comment". (Nov. 6, 2005). New Sunday Times, p. 29.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Yoko Ono
  • The US Versus John Lennon Documentary
  • Instant Karma, magazine dedicated to John and Yoko. Since 1981.
  • Yoko Ono fluxus debris! @ art / not art
  • ::: ONOWEB: an international network of info and original projects about Yoko from our contributors
  • AIU: A Yoko Ono Box An extensive unofficial Yoko Ono Site
  • (German) LennOno Online News, an extensive unofficial Lennon/Ono Site
  • ~ ONOVOX: spam-free discussion listserv with commented daily Yoko news.
  • Yoko Ono at the Internet Movie Database
  • "Yoko Ono Makes Old Song Gay Friendly", Associated Press article, July 8, 2004.
  • Yoko Ono's Snow review by Tom Johnson Originally published on February 7, 1977
  • 1995 Interview with Yoko Ono
  • A conversation about the Hare Krsna mantra between Srila Prabhupada and John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and George Harrison, 1969
  • Nippop Profile Yoko Ono
  • Photograph of John Lennon's Bloodied Spectacles
  • The Dakota to The Roxy and Back, interview article from Gay City News Volume 1, Issue 16, 13-19 September, 2002.
  • The Bagism - page named after a happening that John and Yoko performed in 60's. And what's in the bag? "Lenono" discography, literature, fans' art, pictures, chat, quizzes...
  • John Lennon's Will, 12 November, 1979
  • Absolute Elsewhere: The Spirit of John Lennon
  • An Interview with Yoko Ono: Yoko Turns 70



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