Yoko Ono

The Beatles circle

Feb 18, 1933


From Wikipedia:

Yoko Ono (/ˈjoʊkoʊ ˈoʊnoʊ/ YOH-koh OH-noh; Japanese: 小野 洋子, romanized: Ono Yōko, usually spelled in katakana オノ・ヨーコ; born February 18, 1933) is a Japanese multimedia artist, singer, songwriter, and peace activist. Her work also encompasses performance art and filmmaking.

Ono grew up in Tokyo and moved to New York City in 1952 to join her family. She became involved with New York City’s downtown artists scene in the early 1960s, which included the Fluxus group, and became well known in 1969 when she married English musician John Lennon of the Beatles, with whom she would subsequently record as a duo in the Plastic Ono Band. The couple used their honeymoon as a stage for public protests against the Vietnam War. She and Lennon remained married until he was murdered in front of the couple’s apartment building, the Dakota, on 8 December 1980. Together they had one son, Sean, who later also became a musician.

Ono began a career in popular music in 1969, forming the Plastic Ono Band with Lennon and producing a number of avant-garde music albums in the 1970s. She achieved commercial and critical success in 1980 with the chart-topping album Double Fantasy, a collaboration with Lennon that was released three weeks before his murder, winning the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. To date, she has had twelve number one singles on the US Dance charts, and in 2016 was named the 11th most successful dance club artist of all time by Billboard magazine. Many musicians have paid tribute to Ono as an artist in her own right and as a muse and icon, including Elvis Costello,[failed verification] the B-52’s, Sonic Youth and Meredith Monk.

As Lennon’s widow, Ono works to preserve his legacy. She funded the Strawberry Fields memorial in Manhattan’s Central Park, the Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland, and the John Lennon Museum in Saitama, Japan (which closed in 2010). She has made significant philanthropic contributions to the arts, peace, disaster relief in Japan and the Philippines, and other such causes. In 2002, she inaugurated a biennial $50,000 LennonOno Grant for Peace. In 2012, she received the Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt Human Rights Award and co-founded the group Artists Against Fracking. […]

Relationship with John Lennon

Ono’s first contact with any member of the Beatles occurred when she visited Paul McCartney at his home in London to obtain a Lennon–McCartney song manuscript for a book John Cage was working on, Notations. McCartney declined to give her any of his manuscripts but suggested that Lennon might oblige. Lennon later gave Ono the original handwritten lyrics to “The Word“.

Ono and Lennon first met on November 7, 1966, at the Indica Gallery in London, where she was preparing Unfinished Paintings, her conceptual art exhibit about interactive painting and sculpture. They were introduced by gallery owner John Dunbar. One piece, Ceiling Painting/Yes Painting, had a ladder painted white with a magnifying glass at the top. When Lennon climbed the ladder, he looked through the magnifying glass and was able to read the word YES which was written in miniature. He greatly enjoyed this experience as it was a positive message, whereas most concept art he encountered at the time was anti-everything.

Lennon was also intrigued by Ono’s Hammer a Nail where viewers were invited to hammer a nail into a wooden board painted white. Although the exhibition had not yet opened, Lennon wanted to hammer a nail into the clean board, but Ono stopped him. Dunbar asked her, “Don’t you know who this is? He’s a millionaire! He might buy it.” Ono feigned not knowing of the Beatles (even as she had gone to see Paul McCartney asking for a Beatle song score), but relented on the condition that Lennon pay her five shillings, to which Lennon replied, “I’ll give you an imaginary five shillings and hammer an imaginary nail in.”

In a 2002 interview, Ono said, “I was very attracted to him. It was a really strange situation.” Ono started writing to Lennon, sending him her conceptual artworks, and soon the two began corresponding. In September 1967, Lennon sponsored Ono’s solo Half-A-Wind Show, at Lisson Gallery in London. When Lennon’s wife Cynthia asked for an explanation of why Ono was telephoning them at home, he told her that Ono was only trying to obtain money for her “avant-garde bullshit”.

In early 1968, while the Beatles were making their visit to India, Lennon wrote the song “Julia” and included a reference to Ono: “Ocean child calls me”, referring to the translation of Yoko’s Japanese spelling. In May 1968, while his wife was on holiday in Greece, Lennon invited Ono to visit. They spent the night recording a selection of avant-garde tape loops, after which, he said, they “made love at dawn”. The recordings made by the two during this session ultimately became their first collaborative album, the musique concrete work Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins. When Lennon’s wife returned home, she found Ono wearing her bathrobe and drinking tea with Lennon, who simply said, “Oh, hi.”

On September 24 and 25, 1968, Lennon wrote and recorded “Happiness Is a Warm Gun“, which contains sexual references to Ono. Ono became pregnant, but she suffered the miscarriage of a child on November 21, 1968, a few weeks after Lennon’s divorce from Cynthia was granted. On December 12, 1968, Lennon and Ono participated in the BBC documentary about The Rolling Stones, The Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus, along with several other high-profile musicians. Lennon performed his Beatles composition “Yer Blues” towards the end, with an improvised vocal performance by Ono rounding out the set. The film would not be released until 1996, due to the death of The Rolling Stones’ founding member Brian Jones a few months after it was shot.

During the final two years of the Beatles, Lennon and Ono created and attended public protests against the Vietnam War. They collaborated on a series of avant-garde recordings, beginning in 1968 with Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins, which notoriously featured an unretouched image of the two artists nude on the front cover. The same year, the couple contributed an experimental sound collage to The Beatles’ self-titled “White Album” called “Revolution 9“, with Ono contributing additional vocals to “Birthday“, and one lead vocal line on “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill“, marking the only occasion in a Beatles recording in which a woman sings lead vocals.

On March 20, 1969, Lennon and Ono were married at the registry office in Gibraltar and spent their honeymoon in Amsterdam, campaigning with a week-long Bed-in for Peace. They planned another Bed-in in the US, but were denied entry to the country. They held one instead at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, where they recorded “Give Peace a Chance“. Lennon later stated his regrets about feeling “guilty enough to give McCartney credit as co-writer on my first independent single instead of giving it to Yoko, who had actually written it with me.” The couple often combined advocacy with performance art, such as in “bagism”, first introduced during a Vienna press conference, where they satirised prejudice and stereotyping by wearing a bag over their entire bodies. Lennon detailed this period in the Beatles’ song “The Ballad of John and Yoko“.

During the Amsterdam Bed In press conference, Yoko also earned controversy in the Jewish community for saying during the press conference that, “If I was a Jewish girl in Hitler’s day, I would approach him and become his girlfriend. After 10 days in bed, he would come to my way of thinking. This world needs communication. And making love is a great way of communicating.” It was acknowledged that some Nazis, including Nazi “First Lady” Magda Goebbels, had Jewish lovers at one point in their lives.

Lennon changed his name by deed poll on April 22, 1969, switching out Winston for Ono as a middle name. Although he used the name John Ono Lennon after that, official documents referred to him as John Winston Ono Lennon. The couple settled at Tittenhurst Park at Sunninghill, Berkshire, in southeast England. When Ono was injured in a car accident, Lennon arranged for a king-sized bed to be brought to the recording studio as he worked on the Beatles’ last recorded album, Abbey Road.

After “The Ballad of John and Yoko”, Lennon and Ono decided it would be better to form their own band to release their newer, more personally representative work, rather than release the material as the Beatles. To this end they formed the Plastic Ono Band, a name coined by Lennon after Ono’s use of “plastic stands” for recording purposes. […]


Ono appeared onstage at Microsoft’s June 1, 2009, E3 Expo press conference with Olivia Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr to promote the Beatles: Rock Band video game, which was universally praised by critics.


The English press dubbed Ono “the woman who broke up the Beatles”, which had been foreseen by Paul McCartney in 1969 during the group’s rehearsals for their film and album Let It Be, when he said “It’s going to be such an incredible sort of comical thing, like, in fifty years’ time, you know: ‘They broke up ’cause Yoko sat on an amp.'” In an interview with Dick Cavett, Lennon explicitly denied that Ono broke up the Beatles, and Harrison said during an interview with Cavett that the problems within the group began long before Ono came onto the scene. Ono herself has said that the Beatles broke up without any direct involvement from her, adding “I don’t think I could have tried even to break them up.”

While the Beatles were together, every song written by Lennon or McCartney was credited as Lennon–McCartney regardless of whether the song was a collaboration or written solely by one of the two (except for those appearing on their first album, Please Please Me, which originally credited the songs to McCartney–Lennon). In 1976, McCartney released a live album called Wings over America, which credited the five Beatles tracks as P. McCartney–J. Lennon compositions, but neither Lennon nor Ono objected. After Lennon’s death, however, McCartney again attempted to change the order to McCartney–Lennon for songs that were solely or predominantly written by him, such as “Yesterday“,[clarification needed] but Ono would not allow it, saying she felt this broke an agreement that the two had made while Lennon was still alive, and the surviving Beatle argued that such an agreement never existed. A spokesman for Ono said McCartney was making “an attempt to rewrite history”.

In a Rolling Stone interview in 1987, Ono pointed out McCartney’s place in the disintegration of the band. On the 1998 John Lennon anthology, Lennon Legend, the composer credit of “Give Peace a Chance” was changed to “John Lennon” from its original composing credit of “Lennon–McCartney”. Although Lennon wrote the song during his tenure with the Beatles, it was both written and recorded without the help of the band, and released as Lennon’s first independent single under the “Plastic Ono Band” moniker. Lennon subsequently expressed regret that he had not given co-writing credit to Ono instead, who actually helped him write the song. In 2002, McCartney released another live album, Back in the U.S. Live 2002, and the 19 Beatles songs included are described as “composed by Paul McCartney and John Lennon”, which reignited the debate over credits with Ono. Her spokesperson Elliott Mintz called it “an attempt to rewrite history”. Nevertheless, Ono did not sue.

In 1995, after the Beatles released Lennon’s “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love“, with demos provided by Ono, McCartney and his family collaborated with her and Sean to create the song “Hiroshima Sky Is Always Blue”, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombing of that 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.”[citation needed] Two years later, however, Ono publicly compared Lennon to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, while McCartney, she said, more closely resembled his less-talented rival Antonio Salieri. This remark infuriated McCartney’s wife Linda, who was dying from breast cancer at the time. When Linda died less than a year later, McCartney did not invite Ono to his wife’s memorial service in Manhattan.

Accepting an award at the 2005 Q Awards, Ono mentioned that Lennon had once felt insecure about his songwriting. She 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.”

In an October 2010 interview, Ono spoke about Lennon’s “lost weekend” and her subsequent reconciliation with him. She credited McCartney with helping save her marriage to John. “I want the world to know that it was a very touching thing that [Paul] did for John.” While visiting 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.” In 2012, McCartney revealed that he did not blame Ono for the breakup of the Beatles and credited Ono with inspiring much of Lennon’s post-Beatles work. […]

John’s in love with Yoko and he’s no longer in love with the other three of us.

Paul McCartney, to Ray Connelly

It simply became very difficult to write with Yoko sitting there. If I had to think of a line, I got very nervous. I might want to say something like ‘I love you, girl’, but with Yoko watching, I always felt that I had to come out with something clever and avant garde. She would probably have loved the simple stuff, but I was scared. I’m not blaming her; I’m blaming me. You can’t blame John for falling in love with Yoko any more than you can blame me for falling in love with Linda. I told him on the phone the other day that, at the beginning of last year, I was annoyed with him. I was jealous because of Yoko and afraid about the break-up of a great musical partnership. It’s taken me a year to realise that they were in love, just like Linda and me.

Paul McCartney – About the January 1969 “Get Back” sessions – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman

Last updated on July 22, 2023

Songs written or co-written by Yoko Ono

Albums, EPs & singles which Yoko Ono contributed to

The Beatles (Mono)

By The Beatles • LP

Contribution: Backing vocals, Effects, Electronic sound effects, Samples, Vocals • 4 songs

The Beatles (Stereo)

By The Beatles • LP

Contribution: Backing vocals, Effects, Electronic sound effects, Samples, Vocals • 4 songs

Anthology 3

By The Beatles • Official album

Contribution: Accordion, Football rattle, Hand bell, Ripping paper percussion, Swanee whistle, Tambourine, Vibraphone, Vocals • 1 songs

The Beatles (Mono - 2009 remaster)

By The Beatles • Official album

Contribution: Backing vocals, Effects, Electronic sound effects, Samples, Vocals • 4 songs

The Beatles (Stereo - 2009 remaster)

By The Beatles • Official album

Contribution: Backing vocals, Effects, Electronic sound effects, Samples, Vocals • 4 songs

The Beatles (Mono - 2014 vinyl)

By The Beatles • LP

Contribution: Backing vocals, Effects, Electronic sound effects, Samples, Vocals • 4 songs

Anthology 3 (2016 remaster)

By The Beatles • Official album

Contribution: Accordion, Football rattle, Hand bell, Ripping paper percussion, Swanee whistle, Tambourine, Vibraphone, Vocals • 1 songs

The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)

By The Beatles • Official album

Contribution: Accordion, Backing vocals, Effects, Electronic sound effects, Football rattle, Hand bell, Lead vocals, Ripping paper percussion, Samples, Swanee whistle, Tambourine, Vibraphone, Vocals • 5 songs

Exit mobile version