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Yoko Ono is 82 on Feb. 18. John Lennon said once that
Yoko was one the most famous artists in the world, but
few people have actually seen her work. But that has
changed over these past several years and she has
emerged as her own respected artist. Her art had been
shown and received critical acclaim in many major art
exhibits all over the world*. And several musicians from
succeeding generations from The B-52s to The Flaming
Lips to Lady Ga Ga credit her with inspiring them. Many
people may also not know that she has had 12 #1

Billboard Dance Chart hits of her own songs since

She is recognized as one of the founders of concept and
performance art going back to her involvement in the
early New York movement, Fluxus, who were influenced
by recognized pioneers John Cage and Marcel Duchamp.
She published her book, Grapefruit, in 1964 (which
contained a poem Imagine the clouds dripping) that
helped inspire Lennons signature post-Beatles song and
made her own avant-garde films. This was all before she
even met Lennon in 1966. Theres no doubt that she
helped expose him to concept art and how it could be
used to make social statements and reach the public,
such as in their Bed Peace events and the War Is Over (if
you want it) campaign, etc.

But besides seeing her husband, John Lennon, being

murdered right in front of her by a crazed Beatles fan in
1980, she has had to endure years of some fans vilifying

her. There are some that still accuse her of breaking up

the Beatles, now 45 years ago. Even though, Paul
McCartney said in 2012 that he did not blame Ono for the
breakup of the Beatles and credited Ono with inspiring
much of Lennon's post-Beatles work.
When she married Lennon in 69, she was called the
racist name dragon lady and was seen as cold and
manipulative and later for her treatment of Johns son,
Julian, from Johns first wife Cynthia. But Paul
McCartney, with whom she at one time had some
copyright and other differences, has said since then: "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." Julian and Cynthia posed with her at Julians
photo exhibit in New York in 2010. And Sean and Julian
remain close half-brothers. Some may also not know that
Yoko in return thanked Paul for actually helping John get
back together with her (while visiting with Ono in March
1974, McCartney, on leaving, asked "[W]hat will make
you come back to John?" McCartney subsequently passed
her response to Lennon while visiting him in Los Angeles.
"John often said he didn't understand why Paul did this for
us, but he did."
Most of these disparaging myths that have built up
around her have become mainly water-under-the-bridge
for the parties involved. And its the public who
sometimes carry on these misunderstandings. Its like
any family that doesnt always agree on everything, only

its been magnified because theyre immensely famous.

But most Beatles fans, I think, have come to respect Yoko
for carrying on Johns legacy and their commitment to
peace and change.
A far as her music, she has been accused of not having
talent and that her singing is just screaming. But a lot
of people who have said that, again, have probably never
even heard many of her albums. Its really only on her
first album, which was made at the same time as Johns
own first real solo album, Plastic Ono Band, in 1970, right
after they had both gone through primal scream theory
with Arthur Janov. They continued to release solo
albumsfor both of them for the next few years and these
contained very few such songs. In fact, there are some
very well-constructed songs by Yoko on her next album,
Fly in 1971 (Midsummer New York, a rocker, and the
haunting Mrs. Lennon). Yokos next record is a double
album, Approximately Infinite Universe with backing by
the Elephants Memory band. It is my favorite of hers, and
like my favorite Beatles album, The White Album, its full
of great songs by her and in a wide variety of styles. With
songs like Death of Samantha, Looking Out from My
Hotel Window; the rocker, Move On Fast, and the
political plea, Now or Never. For anyone who would
actually listen to the words and performance on this
album, I believe, for example, it would soon dispel the
myth that she cant sing and write good music. In 1973,

she released the jazzy, Feeling the Space.

When John and Yoko released his last album, Double

Fantasy, both of them shared the duties and
compositions, often counterpointing the others songs
(such as his Im Losing You with hers Im Moving On).
The night John was shot they were working on her song,
Walking on Thin Ice, which later became a dance hit.
Yoko, like with her art, has continued to put out several
albums over the years and as I said, has had many dance
hits. Several others have recorded her songs from Elvis
Costello and Rosanne Cash, to more recent urban and
alternative artists. Yoko is in her 80s now, but doesnt
seem to be slowing down one bit in her art, music or
pursuit of peace and social change. And more and more
the world and fans are finally catching up with her.

I was privileged to see Yoko and Sean perform in a small

Toronto club in 1996 for her album, Rising. And it was
interesting to see how she won over even the few Yoko
detractors by the end of the show. I had actually seen one
of her early art films in a small movie theatre in my
university town, before I knew she was with John Lennon,
and also around that same time, witnessed a music
performance by John Cage, legendary art concrete
BOSTON HEARLD: Feb. 16, 2015: Monday's great
women: Yoko Ono, Helen Mirren, Uma Thurman
I LIKE criticism. It makes you strong," says LeBron James.
THIS IS perhaps true. And in that mind-set, Yoko Ono must be one
of the strongest of humans. What Yoko endured during her
marriage to John Lennon -- and even for years after she was
widowed -- was enough to bring down another person. But Yoko
stayed true to every single ideal of her life and her art. In doing
so, she has survived triumphantly. In her 80s she has seen the
cultural world turn around and embrace her -- not just her own
generation or people in their 50s or 60s who still carry a lot of
nostalgia for the Beatles and John. Nope, Yoko became a big deal
on the dance charts with her unusual and uncompromising music.
Kids know Yoko!
Now she is being celebrated in a soon-to-be published limited
edition book, "See Hear Yoko" by Bob Gruen and Jody Denberg.
Gruen, who was Yoko and John's personal photographer, and
Denberg, who interviewed Yoko many times over a 25-year span,
have packed their tome with more than 200 photos and
observations about this impressive, talented and courageous
woman. (And might I add, for all her strength, a much more
vulnerable person than the insulting and racist "dragon lady"
publicity of her early, fraught years with John.)

"See Hear Yoko" is out next week, from Harper Collins


* From May 17 to September 7, 2015, The Museum

of Modern Art presents its first exhibition dedicated
exclusively to the work of Yoko Ono, taking as its
point of departure the artists unofficial MoMA
debut in late 1971.
Yoko singing her haunting, Mrs. Lennon, 1971: