Yoko Ono

jody denberg series: yoko ono 2000


JD: Are you fearful that without your efforts that John's messages and art and concepts wouldn't endure? It seems like they would.

YO: They would. But there are ways of destroying it too. Say if somebody did a remix that was totally not like the original remix or something like that of course they can destroy the feeling of it. And also if they used it for some commercial that's not right, or, etcetera. But I, I don't have any feelings against using his song for commercial because I think that's another media where you can expose his songs.

JD: You have your own work that is not only enduring but flourishing here in the year 2000. And so you go from working on your work to John's work. Does that help keep you fresh for each?

YO: I don't know how it's working. I'm just like somebody who's really trying to go through a storm and come out well (laughs), you know. Well, this year it's been very heavy because of John's 60th birthday. And I'm very happy about that. You know, we're making so many special things to come out.

JD: John's son from his first marriage, Julian, he's very friendly with Sean, but he's been very outspoken about his disagreements with you, especially when it comes to the marketing of John's work. Do you ever think there'll be a time when Julian and you could be at peace with each other?

YO: Well, I think that the world is making it very difficult for us to get together too you know. And especially the press. Because I'm sure that they go to Julian and say "Well now, come on, what do you think about what she's doing to your father's work?" And then, it kind of, leads him into saying something that becomes sensational. And I don't think he means it really. But also, if he had meant it, I understand. I mean, there's a certain anger in him (pause). All children of broken marriages, you know they have some anger and sorrow. And, of course, it's not that easy to sort of like blame his father, because he passed away and all that. And, of course, he's not going to blame his mother. I mean, you know, the mother who was really taking care of him all this time and everything. So then (laughs) it's probably easier to attack me (laugh).

JD: There's been so much speculation about John's leather-bound desk diaries that he kept towards the end of his life. Would you ever publish those?

YO: Well, diaries are diaries. And you know, you don't write every day something about your personal life, thinking that one day people are going to read them. I mean I think it's a horror if you did that. So I don't think I would do that.

JD: In the years since John's death, and especially lately, there's just been this rash of books with hearsay and unfounded rumors. Yet, you never really seem to respond to the allegations and set the record straight. Why?

YO: Well, because I believe in just going on doing positive things and putting my energy in that. If I kept putting my energy into all these negative books and, and rumors and such, I'd be giving them energy. I just believe in going forward.

JD: Yoko, in the summer of 1980 you and John announced that you were going to make a new album, John's first album in five years. Was that an exciting time for the two of you in New York, or was the summer of 1980 sort of nervewracking?

YO: (Laughs) It was one of the most exciting summer for us. Because there was a five years hiatus or whatever, and you know, both of us are workaholics. We weren't really happy about that. We were trying to make the family life well and in that sense we were happy, a happy family. But there was something missing, you know, because both of us are artists. And so it was great to come out and finally do something.

JD: Even though Sean was only five do you think he had a reaction to the two of you all of a sudden being gone from home and at work?

YO: That was not a problem as you think because Sean was starting to grow up. Grow up, he was only five. But from around three, he would be going out with the nanny sometimes. He's starting to get a little bit more independent. He wasn't just cringing on me. He wasn't just sort of like holding onto John.

JD: Did you get resistance from people when they heard that John's new album was going to feature both John's songs and your songs in a dialogue?

YO: They might have felt that way. They might have felt terrible about it, but they didn't express that. For some reason by then they got used to the John and Yoko situation, I think.

JD: There's a lot of people who thought that the days when John was at the Dakota raising Sean, that he wasn't musically creative. And then there was this radio show called The Lost Lennon Tapes and there were a lot of song sketches and demos. There's obviously more music from John that hasn't been released, even if they are demos … Do you plan to share them one day?

YO: Yes, probably (laughs). Let me think about it, and give me some time, because I think that each one of the songs really deserves a kind of platform to have it brought out.

JD: At the end of October 1980 we all heard John's first new song in five years, (Just Like) Starting Over. With your new energy that you both felt, were you going to share it with a musical tour? Do you think you might have become more politically active?

YO: Not so politically active. I think that it would have been just, doing a really good tour together (laughs). John was thinking that, I should sing just sort of freak stuff, you know, that I did in Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band. He said he wants to do I Want To Hold Your Hand, and just drop on his knees and hold my hand. And I said "Well, that's going to really create an excitement, some kind of excitement (laughs)." That'd be so commercial! (Laughs).

JD: One of the bonus tracks on the reissue of Double Fantasy is a demo from John that we have never heard anywhere. It's called Help Me To Help Myself. What can you tell me about it?

YO: Well, I think you should hear it and judge for yourself. But I think it's a very controversial song. When John was playing the song on the piano and then he was saying "Oh this is going to be a very controversial song," he knew that too. It was to do with his kind of spiritual side. I think it's very interesting because it's a kind of song that has to do with a conversation with God. He was just kind of tongue-in-cheek about it. But they say that people do start to converse with God or whatever, in the end of their lives you know? And maybe he was doing that without him knowing.

JD: December 8th, 2000 marks the 20th anniversary of John's death. Twenty years later most people can tell you exactly where they were on that day and what they were doing. How did you handle December 8th 1980 after you returned to the Dakota?

YO: Well, it was very hard for me, really. I don't know how I managed in those days, you know. I think that one of the reasons why I survived, was because I kept telling myself that, I have to survive for Sean.

JD: Your son with John, Sean Lennon, he shares John's birthday. Does that make his birthdays bittersweet or even sweeter?

YO: It's very sweet. Because you see, the feeling that I have, and probably Sean does too, is the fact that John is still around, and looking over us and protecting us. So his birthday is really a happy moment for us, a happy day for us.

JD: How has your relationship with Sean evolved in the last 20 years?

YO: We became closer, I must say, because of the tragedy, I think. And also he's a very kind of, gentle, kind person. And, you know, he knows that his mother went through a difficult time. And also she's a working mother, you know, that kind of thing. And most children are actually, I think, very sympathetic to their working mothers.

JD: What is your reaction to those who theorize that John's death was the result of a conspiracy?

YO: (Sighs). Well, I would never know. There might have been some design or whatever. I don't know.

JD: There was a song that you and John co-wrote in 1972. It was called Attica State. And you said "free all prisoners everywhere." Now John's killer - who happens to be imprisoned in Attica State - is going to be up for parole by the end of 2000. What did you consider in forming your opinion that you had to give to the parole board?

YO: It's silly to put together the Attica State song and this one because the time is different too. But also when we were saying "free all prisoners everywhere" it has a lot to do with my song that's called Born In A Prison. In a sense that we are all prisoners, and it's a freedom of mind, spirit, and it's a kind of conceptual freedom we were talking about. In this day and age and in a situation, like this, I don't know how I would feel. And I think that I'm supposed to send my opinion into the parole board, and that's what I will do. I don't think that that's something that I should be discussing here.

JD: One of the bonus tracks on the reissued Double Fantasy is a song that you were working on in the studio the night that John died. I think John was holding a tape of the song in his hands when he was shot. It was your song, Walking On Thin Ice. A song about life's random fates. And John's guitar playing, it's perhaps the best he ever did on record. But it seemed like he was channeling something from somewhere else. Was the song ultimately a premonition?

YO: Well, it sounds like that, doesn't it? And it was a song that John liked so much, and he was listening to it over and over again. The … well … he was shot on Monday, and so over the weekend he was listening to it. It's not only very sad but it became a kind of reality that I was walking on thin ice after John's passing. Then I thought well, I have to switch the channel. That's what I thought.

JD: What do you remember about writing Walking On Thin Ice?

YO: It just came to me and I just wrote it. It was like (snaps fingers) like that. It was channeling maybe. It might have been kind of …a premonition?


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