a yoko ono biography

"Imagine" the film, promotional image.
”Imagine” the film, promotional image.

Two virgins

Yoko Ono and Tony Cox divorced in February 1969. After a bitter legal battle, Ono was awarded permanent custody of their daughter Kyoko.

Yoko and John unleashed a series of performances, recordings and events on a public that alternated between incomprehension and outrage. Few seemed to appreciate the underlying humour in the couple’s events, such as their public appearances in which they remained hidden in bags as a protest against judging by appearance. They also began holding Bed-Ins and on announcing their first, a Bed-In for Peace held in their honeymoon suite at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel in March 1969, the press had fought to get in, thinking that the two would be having sex for the cameras; what they found was a pair of newlyweds wearing pajamas and eager to talk about world peace. Another Bed-In in May 1969 in Montreal resulted in the recording of their first single, Give Peace A Chance, a Top 20 hit for the newly-christened Plastic Ono Band. At the time they kept flying back and forth from Britain to New York.

They also made films together, and continued their musical experimentations, making their first public performance together at Cambridge University in March 1969 shortly before their marriage. It was a show that demonstrated the schism between their respective audiences; the art crowd in attendance wouldn’t understand why Ono was working with a rock & roller, while the Beatles fans present hesitated to call Ono’s material music. Though their musical collaboration confounded many, it was a rejuvenating experience for Lennon, who had tired of the Beatles’ conventional image but was at loss as how to find a new direction for his music. Playing with Ono freed him, and he enthusiastically praised her own perception of music in interviews. ”If somebody with a rock oriented mind can possibly listen to her stuff you’ll see what she’s doing”, he told Rolling Stone. ”It’s fantastic. She makes music like you’ve never heard on earth. It’s like 20 years ahead of its time.” The two released their sibling solo albums, Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band and John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band in 1970. These records were of more conventional material, as opposed to their experimental LPs, which by now included Unfinished Music No.2: Life With The Lions and The Wedding Album.

Yoko Ono about her artistic collaboration with John Lennon in October 1993 (to Bordercrossings): ”You have to understand he was an artist before he became a rock star. He was an art student. So we were both very rounded artists in a sense. (The moving into one another’s spheres) got very exciting. But he was a very offbeat kind of artist to begin with. He had that sense. It wasn’t because he met me that suddenly he learned something. He would have wandered into New York City because he had that kind of sensibility. He always used to say, ”If I were born in New York City or in the Village, I would have been a great avant-garde artist.” In an article by The Wire (1996) Yoko ”insists that she was an outcast in the avant-garde community even before she took up with a pop star. She made a film called Bottoms/Film No.4 which Yoko called ”an aimless petition signed by people with their anuses”. After the film’s release, she says, ”All my avant-garde friends dropped me because I got a tremendous amount of attention and reviews. I was stuck in a strange place, up in the air. I was not in the avant-garde world but I was not as big as the [mainstream] world that John was in. 1967 was a very lonely passage, it was like I was in nowhereland. That’s when John noticed my work. And he picked me up!”