“John’s affair wasn’t hurtful to me. I needed a rest. I needed a space.”
“I’m enjoying my freedom now.” “Men’s attitudes are very different. When I met John it seemed old-fashioned. I’m not the kind of person who’d ever pursue a guy because I was pursuing my work.”
“I think I’m very lucky. I’ve got so many things going on all the time.”
Yoko Ono has always been a rebel and fiercely independent, so it seems strange that she became so inextricably linked with Lennon.
She grew up in a conservative aristocratic family in Tokyo. Her mother’s family were founders of a merchant bank and her father, who wanted to be a concert pianist, was forced to give up his musical ambitions to also enter the banking world. He very much wanted his daughter to live out his dream.
She was sent to a school for musically gifted toddlers and learnt to play to concert performance level. She was the first female student to be accepted on the philosophy course at Gakushuin University, in Tokyo.
Her mother told her to never marry and, if she did, to never have children. So as a form of rebellion she married the composer Toshi Ichiyanagi.
When the relationship ended she met the American art promoter Tony Cox. They married in 1962 and had a daughter, Kyoko. John and Yoko may have been bad for each other’s careers, but their meeting four years later caused havoc for the people they were married to.
Cox, then a member of a Christian cult called The Walk, fled with his daughter to Los Angeles in 1971, enrolling her in school under an assumed name. He feared Lennon and Ono would fight him for custody, and win.
Kyoko was seven at the time; Yoko Ono didn’t see her again until she was 31. “It was very hard. I remembered her as a little girl and I kept buying her small beautiful cashmere sweaters. They piled up in my dressing room until someone said to me, ‘Do you realise she’s now 26, she’s probably larger than you, why are you keeping those little things?’
It was terrible. I didn’t know where she was. It was a kidnapping and a very difficult situation. She had so much love for her father who took care of her all that time, and he had said very clearly that if she searched me out she would never see him again.
“She got married and before they were going to have a child the husband said — he’s a very intelligent guy — you have to say hello to your mother before you have the baby because the baby is going to wonder where the grandmother is. So she came.” Now Ono has two grandchildren. Is she close to them? “In a way,” she says.
She looks slightly pained, perhaps because her own upbringing was so lacking in love. “I adored my mother but it wasn’t reciprocated. She was too busy with her own life. She was a painter. She was searching for something. Her style was very precise. Incredible.
She fell in love with my father and it’s the same old story: she resented the children.” Did your mother get on with your husbands? “No. Of course she didn’t like the child kidnapper, although she approved of the first husband.
It reached number one in the UK charts after his murder in 1980. Its lyrics, asking listeners to imagine various scenarios, were inspired by Ono’s poetry collection Grapefruit, which includes a series of similar – if more enigmatic – commands, such as: “Imagine your head filled with pencil leads / Imagine one of them broken.
“She certainly didn’t break the group up, the group was breaking up,” he says.
He goes further and says that without Ono opening up the avant garde for Lennon, songs such as Imagine would never have been written: “I don’t think he would have done that without Yoko, so I don’t think you can blame her for anything.
When Yoko came along, part of her attraction was her avant garde side, her view of things, so she showed him another way to be, which was very attractive to him. So it was time for John to leave, he was definitely going to leave [one way or another].”
He says he was in retrospect happy with the timing of the end of the Beatles; they left “a neat body of work” so the split “wasn’t that bad a thing”.
Yoko Ono (born February 18, 1933) is a Japanese multimedia artist, singer, songwriter, and peace activist who is also known for her work in performance art and filmmaking.
She performs in both English and Japanese. She is noted for being the second wife and widow of singer-songwriter John Lennon of the Beatles.
Yoko Ono grew up in Tokyo. She withdrew from her course after two years and rejoined her family in New York in 1953. She spent some time at Sarah Lawrence College, and then became involved in New York City’s downtown artists scene.
She first met Lennon in 1966 at her own art exhibition in London, and they became a couple in 1968. With their performance Bed – Ins for Peace in Amsterdam and Montreal in 1969, Ono and Lennon famously used their honeymoon at the Hilton Amsterdam as a stage for public protests against the Vietnam War.
She brought feminism to the forefront in her music. Ono achieved commercial and critical acclaim in 1980 with the chart-topping album Double Fantasy, a collaboration with Lennon that was released three weeks before his death.
◉ Healing yourself is connected with healing others.
◉ Being alone is very difficult.
◉ Remember, each one of us has the power to change the world. Just start thinking peace, and the message will spread quicker than you think.
◉ If your life changes, we can change the world, too.