Over the years, Yoko Ono has been called a variety of not-so-nice names. But it's time we call her a feminist & trailblazing artist.
The name “Yoko Ono” invokes a visceral reaction in people.
During the peak of The Beatles’ popularity, she was called ugly, talentless, and a homewrecker.
When she and John Lennon recorded music together, she was accused of destroying his musical legacy.
To this day, her name is used derisively against women. A woman who interferes with male camaraderie is referred to as a “Yoko Ono.”
But it’s 2020. It’s time to give Ms. Ono the credit, and respect, she deserves.
Before she’d even heard the name “John Lennon,” Ono was considered the High Priestess of the Happening.
In the 1960s, when art movements dominated conversations amongst the intelligentsia, The Fluxus Movement was the “it” movement amongst “it” movements.
Comprised of artists, composers, designers, and poets, Fluxus — of which Ono was an early curator — emphasized process over products.
Today, Fluxus is looked at as the proper progenitor of both the current multimedia movement and conceptual art as a whole.
If you, today, can call an artist a singer/songwriter/painter/actor/director, it’s because Yoko Ono made it possible.
Ono’s art itself was considered both feminist and visionary.
Her 1964 “Cut Piece,” which had people cut her clothes, spoke on “rape culture” decades before the phrase was even coined.
She was also a classically trained pianist who was influenced by Gagaku, the Japanese imperial sound.
Her profile was certainly raised by her Beatle beau, but Yoko Ono didn’t need John Lennon.
When The Beatles officially called it quits in September 1969, the world of pop culture was in an uproar.
Since it seemed to come so suddenly, the Fab Four’s fans were looking for a scapegoat.
And, they found it in Ono.
Seen as “running interference” between Lennon and the other three Beatles, Ono was derided and insulted in the popular press at the time. Because she was allowed in the hallowed studio space — off-limits to the other Beatle wives and girlfriends — it was easy to blame her for the popular band’s dissolution.
Many years later, however, Paul McCartney — who would know better than anyone else what really went down — made clear that Yoko Ono had nothing to do with The Beatles’ breakup.
She certainly didn’t break the group up. I don’t think you can blame her for anything. John was just tired of the band’s unhealthy rivalry and wanted to go his own way. Yoko’s source of inspiration gave him the courage to face change. When Yoko came along, part of her attraction was her avant garde side, her view of things. She showed him another way to be, which was very attractive to him.
It’s certainly true, though, that Yoko Ono and John Lennon were having an affair while he was still married.
Ono is not a saint. Neither would she claim as much.
But the onus of marital fidelity fell on Lennon, not on Ono.
Besides, Lennon wasn’t exactly a nice guy.
During the 1970s, Yoko Ono was derided for having a “non-traditional” voice. Critics were decidedly unkind to her and the Plastic Ono Band. Her avant-garde sound was frequently compared to the sounds of a dying cat. And her non-conformist appearance made her ripe for straw-man criticism.
But today, she’s credited with influencing some of the best and brightest sounds in rock’n’roll. Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, and Diamanda Galas are just three of the many artists who tip their musical hat to the Widow Lennon.
And as for the claims that Yoko Ono tarnished John Lennon’s musical legacy?
One word refutes that ridiculous claim: “Imagine.”
It’s time to give Yoko Ono the credit, and respect, she deserves.