Yoko Ono, the second wife of Beatle John Lennon, was born on February 18, 1933. For most of her life, she has been an avant-garde musician, artist, and filmmaker. Her family moved to New York City in 1940 because Ono's father, a banker and pianist, was working there. When he was transferred to Hanoi in 1946, Ono and her family returned to Japan. After the war, they moved to Scarsdale, New York, and Ono enrolled at prestigious Sarah Lawrence College.
As Ono acquired more and more sympathy for a bohemian lifestyle, she began to experiment with avant-garde art, including performance art, such as setting paintings on fire.
She married music composer Toshi Ichiyanagi in 1956, but the couple divorced in 1962. She married American musician and film producer Tony Cox that same year. Their daughter Kyoko Cox, was born on August 3, 1963. The marriage encountered trouble very early on, and Yoko relegated most of the parenting duties for Kyoko to her husband while she pursued a full-time career in art. After Ono paired with John Lennon years later, Cox and Ono fought a bitter custody battle over Kyoko. Ono was awarded full-time custody, buy Cox kidnapped the child, who he renamed Rosemary. Cox joined an evangelical Christian church and raised Kyoko through adulthood.
Ono is best known for being the wife of John Lennon, who was assassinated on December 8, 1980. Lennon first met Ono when he attended a showing of her work at London's Indica Gallery in 1966. He was drawn to a piece called "Ceiling Painting." Lennon climbed a short ladder and, using a magnifying glass hanging from the ceiling, read the small word "yes." Lennon said that it gave him a positive vibe. Other exhibits included an apple and a sign inviting patrons to hammer a nail into a white board.
While Ono is frequently blamed for breaking up the Beatles, the truth is that all four Beatles were starting to move in different artistic and personal directions. Yoko Ono nevertheless played a very important part in Beatles history. When the group was experiencing considerable friction while recording the White Album, Yoko became John's constant companion, sitting in on Beatles recording sessions, which had previously been closed to all outsiders. The other Beatles were not enthusiastic about Ono's presence.
Lennon referred to Ono in songs such as "Julia" and "The Ballad of John and Yoko." He also produced a controversial solo album with Ono called Two Virgins. The album was purely experimental, consisting of random electronic noises, talk, and shrieks. The cover depicted John and Yoko nude, with full frontal nudity, causing distributors to sell the LP with brown paper over the bottom portion of the front cover. "Revolution #9," a track from the White Album, was also a mix of unusual sound effects and random noises and voices. The track represented what Ono and Lennon considered to be a new wave of music that anyone could record.
Lennon stayed closely aligned with Ono during much of his solo career. His first band in the post-Beatles era was The Plastic Ono Band. He was also collaborating with Ono on Double Fantasy when he was killed in front of the Dakota Building in New York City.
On their honeymoon, John and Yoko also staged bed-ins for peace in Amsterdam and Toronto. It was at a bed-in in Toronto that "Give Peace a Chance" was recorded (in impromptu style) in the couple's hotel room. The couple separated in 1973, with Yoko again pursuing her solo career while sending John to live in Los Angeles. During this period in Lennon's life, known as his Lost Weekend (because of rampant drinking and drug abuse) John lived with Ono's assistant May Pang, with Yoko actually condoning the arrangement so she could keep tabs on her husband. John and Yoko reconciled in 1975, with their son Sean born on October 9, 1975 (also Lennon's own birthday).
After Lennon's assassination, Yoko lived the quiet life of a recluse. On October 9, 1985, however, Ono dedicated the Strawberry Fields Memorial (see sidebar for picture) in New York City's Central Park. On any given day, visitors can be seen playing music or leaving flowers at the memorial, which is only a few blocks away from the Dakota Building, where Yoko Ono still lives.
Yoko Ono gave her permission to the surviving Beatles to use unreleased tapes of Lennon for The Beatles Anthology project, and later gave her blessing to the Beatles Love project/CD for Cirque du Soleil. She continues to be an activist for many causes, and has also continued to be active in the worlds of music and art. For more information on Yoko Ono, consult BEATLES CONNECTIONS in the sitemap below in order to visit her personal website.
Beatles Albums: Background and History
Beatles Connections: Official Websites for the Beatles Inner Circle
Beatles General Discussion Topics
Beatles Roadies: Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans
Beatles Solo Discography
Beatles Songs Discussed on BeatlesFacts.org
Beatles Songs - Solo
Beatles Trivia Quiz
Books About the Beatles
Books by John Lennon and George Harrison
Sites Related to Beatles History
Songs Covered by the Beatles
The Beatles Official Website
The Lennon Pages