Yoko Ono Lennon (born February 18, 1933) is a Japanese artist and musician. She is known for her work as an avant-garde artist and musician and her marriage and works with English musician John Lennon. She currently lives in New York City.
Ono was born in 1933. Her mother was Isoko Ono, of the Yasuda banking family, and her father was Eisuke Ono, who worked for the Yokohama Specie Bank. Two weeks before she was born, her father was transferred to San Francisco. The rest of the family followed soon after. In 1937, her father was transferred back to Japan and Ono was enrolled at Tokyo's Peers' School, the most exclusive school in Japan, open only to those descended from aristocrats (in the House of Peers) or the imperial family.
In 1940, the family moved to New York where Ono's father was working. In 1941, her father was transferred to Hanoi and the family returned to Japan. Ono was then enrolled in an exclusive Christian primary school run by the Mitsui family. She remained in Tokyo through the great fire-bombing of March 9, 1945. During the fire-bombing, she was sheltered with other members of her family in a special bunker in the Azabu district of Tokyo, far from the heavy bombing. After the bombing, Ono went to the Karuizawa mountain resort with members of her family. The younger members of the imperial family were sent to the same resort area.
Ono has said that she and her family were forced to beg for food while pulling their belongings in a wheelbarrow; and it was during this period in her life that Ono says she developed her "aggressive" attitude and understanding of "outsider" status when children taunted her and her brother, who were once well-to-do. Other stories have her mother bringing a large amount of property with them to the countryside which they bartered for food. One often quoted story has her mother bartering a German-made sewing machine for sixty kilograms of rice with which to feed the family. Her father remained in the city and, unbeknownst to them, was eventually incarcerated in a prisoner of war camp in China. In an interview by Democracy Now's Amy Goodman on October 16, 2007, Ono said of her father "He was in French Indo-China which is Vietnam actually...in Saigon. He was in a concentration camp."
By April 1946, the Peers' school was reopened and Ono was enrolled. The school, located near the imperial palace, had not been damaged by the war. She graduated in 1951 and was accepted into the philosophy program of Peers' University, the first woman ever to be accepted into that department of the exclusive university. But after two semesters, she left the school.
Emergence into the art world
Ono's family moved to Scarsdale in the suburbs of New York City after the war. She left Japan to rejoin the family and enrolled in nearby Sarah Lawrence College. While her parents approved of her college choice, 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 others 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 in the New York art world, helped Ono start her career by using her Lower East Side loft as a concert hall. At one concert, Ono 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. He had heard of Ono 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 (as observers describe Tony and Ono 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 Ono lying atop a piano played by John Cage. Soon the Coxes returned to New York with Kyoko.
In the early years of this marriage, Ono left most of Kyoko's parenting to Cox while she pursued her art full-time and Tony managed publicity. After she left Cox for John Lennon, Ono and Cox engaged in a bitter legal battle for custody of Kyoko, which resulted in Ono being awarded full custody. However, in 1971, Cox disappeared with eight-year-old Kyoko, in violation of the custody order. Cox subsequently became a Christian and raised Kyoko in a Christian group known as the Church of the Living Word (or "the Walk"). Cox left the group with Kyoko in 1977. Living an underground existence, Cox changed the girl's name to Rosemary. In 1980, Cox and Kyoko sent a sympathy message to Ono after the death of John Lennon. Afterward, the bitterness between the parents lessened slightly and Ono publicly announced in People Magazine that she would no longer seek out the now-adult Kyoko but still wished to make contact with her.
Ono and Kyoko were finally reunited in 1994. Kyoko lives quietly in Colorado and avoids publicity.
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 60s, 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 (such as tapes of snow falling, machines dispensing clouds)—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 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." Another influence cited by art critics 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 nude. 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", 1964 as a protest for peace, during which she sat on stage and invited the audience to use scissors to cut off her clothing until she was naked. Ono performed this piece in Tokyo as well as London, garnering drastically different attention. Ono's cultural background and reality as a woman, placed her as submissive, and fully covered. Cutting the clothing away would be an act that destroyed the social protections and in a way, be a rape. In Japan, the audience was shy and cautious. In London, the audience participators became zealous to get a piece of her clothing and became violent to the point where she had to be protected by security. She did it again in 2003. 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 seek Piece: Hide until everybody goes home. Hide until everybody forgets about you. Hide until everybody 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 who 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." 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, Fred DeAsis, 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, 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."
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."
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." 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."
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."
Life with Lennon
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 personal encounter with Ono involved her passing him a card that read simply "Breathe". He was taken with the positivity, humour, and interactivity of her work, 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 (approximately £2300 or $4600 in 2007 money), he later reported he thought "This is a joke, this is pretty funny". 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".
They began an affair approximately two years later, eventually resulting in Lennon divorcing his first wife, Cynthia Lennon.
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 "Yoko" means "ocean child"). Other Lennon songs about Ono are said to include: "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", "Don't Let Me Down", "Happiness Is a Warm Gun", "Well Well Well", "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". Ono also contributed backing vocals (on "Birthday"), and one line of lead vocals (on "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill") to The White Album. Many of the couple's later albums were released under the name the Plastic Ono Band. The couple also appeared together at concerts; when Lennon was invited to play with Frank Zappa at the Fillmore on June 5, 1971, Ono joined in as well.
In 1969, the Plastic Ono Band's first album, Live Peace in Toronto 1969, 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 and sang.
Ono and Lennon married on March 20, 1969 in Gibraltar.
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, but bear much in common with sounds in nature (especially those made by animals) and free jazz techniques used by wind and brass players. The performers included Ornette Coleman and other renowned free jazz performers. The personnel was supplemented by John Lennon, Ringo Starr and minor performers. Some songs consisted of wordless vocalizations, in a style that would influence Meredith Monk, and other musical artists who have used screams and vocal noise in lieu of words. Some punk bands, including Public Image Ltd consider this album 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 psychedelic 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, particularly for tracks such as "Move on Fast", "Yang Yang" and "Death of Samantha."
After the Beatles disbanded, Lennon and Ono cohabitated in London and then in New York. They were arrested for possession of cannabis resin on October 18, 1968. The arrest would be significant to their future together. Their relationship was very strained as Lennon faced near-certain deportation from the United States 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. Their son, Sean, was born on Lennon's 35th birthday, October 9, 1975. After Sean's birth, the couple lived in relative seclusion at the Dakota in New York. Lennon retired from music to become a house-husband caring for their child, until shortly before his murder in December 1980, which Ono witnessed at close range. Ono has stated that the couple were thinking about going out to dinner (after spending several hours in a recording studio), but were returning to their apartment instead, because John wanted to see Sean before he was put to bed. Following the murder, she went into complete seclusion for an extended period.
Ono funded the construction and maintenance of the Strawberry Fields memorial in New York City's Central Park, across from where they lived and John died; it was officially dedicated on October 9, 1985, which would have been his 45th birthday.
In 2000, she founded the John Lennon museum in Saitama, Japan, her home town.
On October 9, 2007, Ono dedicated a new memorial called the Imagine Peace Tower, located on the island of Videy, 1 km outside the Skarfabakki harbour in Reykjavķk in Iceland. Each year, between October 9 and December 8, it will project a vertical beam of light high into the sky.
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 "Cut Piece."
In early 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 took this as an indication that her sound had reached the mainstream. 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 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 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."
Some time after her husband's murder, Ono began a relationship with antiques dealer Sam Havadtoy, which lasted until 2001. She had also been linked to art dealer and Greta Garbo confidante Sam Green, who is mentioned in Lennon's will. In 1982, she released 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 her and their son. The album scored minor chart success and airplay with the singles "My Man" and "Never Say Goodbye."
In 1984, a tribute album titled Every Man Has a Woman was released, featuring a selection of Ono songs 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 as an unfinished demo.
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.
Ono went on hiatus until signing with Rykodisc in 1992 to release the comprehensive six-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, she produced her own musical entitled New York Rock, featuring Broadway renditions of her songs.
In 1995, she released Rising, a collaboration with her son Sean 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.
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 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.
Ono's latest album is Yes, I'm a Witch, a collection of remixes and covers from her back catalog by various artists including The Flaming Lips, Cat Power, Antony, DJ Spooky,Porcupine Tree and Peaches, released in February 2007, along with a special edition of Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band. Yes I'm a Witch has been critically well-received. Another compilation of Ono dance remixes entitled Open Your Box is also due in April.
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,Fred DeAsis, Yvonne Rainer, La Monte Young, Richard Maxfield, Zbigniew Rybczyński, Yo La Tengo, DJ Spooky, and Andy Warhol. In 1987 Ono was one of the speakers at Warhol's funeral.
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 Bobby Seale, 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. Ono remained outspoken in her support of feminism, and openly bitter about the racism she had experienced from rock fans, especially in the UK. 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 2004, Ono remade her song "Everyman... Everywoman..." 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."
Ono took out a full-page advertisement in the January 5, 2008 edition of The New York Times that read simply "IMAGINE PEACE."
Relationships with Paul McCartney and Cynthia Lennon
Ono occasionally argued with ex-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, apart from those appearing on the album Please Please Me, was credited as 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 such an agreement never existed. The two other Beatles agreed that the credits should remain as they always had been and McCartney withdrew his request. However, the dispute resurfaced in 2002. On his Back in the U.S. Live 2002 album, 19 Beatles' songs are described as "written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon." However earlier albums released by both Lennon and McCartney also modified credits for Beatles songs. In 1976, McCartney released a live album called Wings Over America which credited several Beatles tracks as P. McCartney-J. Lennon compositions. Similarly, a 1998 John Lennon anthology, Lennon Legend, listed the composer of "Give Peace a Chance" as John Lennon rather than the original composing credit of Lennon-McCartney.
In 1995, McCartney and his family collaborated with Ono and Sean Lennon to create the song "Hiroshima Sky is Always Blue", which commemorates the 50th 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's memorial service in 1998.
When asked about Ono during his October 18, 2001 appearance on The Howard Stern Show, McCartney said "We haven't got the greatest relationship in the world, that's for sure. But we get along when have to, we're okay." He later admitted that he would be unwilling to comment about the treatment of Julian Lennon on the air, fearing that it would hurt their business relationship.
Accepting an award at the 2005 Q Awards, Ono 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 had 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". Ono later issued a statement claiming she did not mean any offense, as her comment was an attempt to console her husband, not attack McCartney; she went on to insist that she respected McCartney and that it was the press who had taken her comments out of context. She also said, "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." At the June 2006 premier of Cirque du Soleil's Beatles performance "Love", pictures were taken of her and Paul hugging.
Ono's relationship with Cynthia, John's ex-wife, is strained. In her 2006 biography John (Crown Publishing) Cynthia portrays Ono as a selfish, spiteful woman, who in the 1970s dominated John as a sort of powerful mother figure, the same way John had been dominated by his Aunt Mimi in childhood.
Some music historians believe Ono is responsible for breaking up The Beatles. Others argue that the breakup was caused by the fact that the Beatles were moving in different directions musically and personally. Beatles historian Bob Spitz concluded that John Lennon wanted to disband the Beatles and saw in Ono the perfect wedge to drive between himself and the others.
Her relationship with Cynthia Lennon remains strained. In a recent BBC interview, Cynthia Lennon said Ono's behaviour toward Julian Lennon after his father's death was "shameful" and remarked of Ono's "lonely" existence in her "ivory tower". In her 2006 biography, John, (London: Hodder) Cynthia Lennon portrays Ono as a selfish, spiteful woman. In the book she describes learning about Ono's control over John (who referred to Ono as "mother") in the period in the mid-1970s when Ono chose May Pang to be John's companion. Cynthia hypothesizes that John had a "mother complex," allowing himself to be dominated by strong women, and draws a parallel between his relationship with Ono and that with his domineering aunt/mother figure Mimi
Liverpool Biennial 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. Others appreciated the conceptuality of the work. Chris Brown, of Liverpool's Daily Post, wrote: "Many have loved the work… and Ono has again managed to get the eyes of the world looking in our direction."
Ono performed at the opening ceremony for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, 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", Lennon's anthem to world peace.
On 13 December 2006, Ono's bodyguard Koral Karson was arrested after he was taped trying to extort Ono for two million dollars, threatening to release private conversations and photographs.
Recently, Ono appeared on Larry King Live along with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Olivia Harrison. On 29 June 2007, she appeared on the Japanese televised music program, Bokura no Ongaku, to interview Japanese psychedelic-rock band, Love Psychedelico.
Ono headlined the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago on 14 July 2007, performing a full set that mixed music and performance art. She sang "Mulberry", a song about her time in the countryside after the Japanese collapse in World War II for only the third time in her life, with Thurston Moore; Ono had previously performed the song once with John Lennon and once with Sean Lennon.
On 9 October 2007 Ono officially lit the Imagine Peace Tower on Višey Island in Iceland dedicated to peace and to her late husband, John Lennon.