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Ono, Yoko

Ono, Yoko

Singer, composer

Yoko Ono has been sending shock waves through the worlds of art and music since the early 1960s. Although many think she never would have recorded a note if not for her association with John Lennon, Ono had been a musical performer for 11 years before marrying the late Beatle. By the mid-1990s, many critics had reevaluated her musical history, deeming her songs ahead of their time and influential to such cutting-edge musical entities as Public Enemy, Sonic Youth, and the B-52's. In fact, Onobox, a 1992 retrospective of Ono's solo work, received widespread critical acclaim. "That she [Ono] made music of marginal worth is repudiated once and for all by this lavish, illuminating six-CD overview of her remarkable pop life," attested David Fricke in Rolling Stone.

Born into a prominent Tokyo banking family in 1933, Yoko Ono"Ocean Child" in Japanesewas burdened with the high musical expectations of a father who had wanted to be a concert pianist. Inevitably, his plans to create a musical prodigy backfired, leading Ono to dislike "accepted" music. After her family moved to the United States in 1951, Ono became fascinated with twelve-tone composers such as Alban Berg while attending Sarah Lawrence College. Her own compositions at school were judged too radical by her music teacher.

In 1957 Ono married composer Toshi Ichiyanagi and moved to a loft in New York City's Greenwich Village. Embracing the avant garde, she began displaying her conceptual art and staging "events" organized by eccentric composer La Monte Young. Young was part of a movement known as Fluxus that attempted to break free from conventional standards of art and music. Ono's creative output was greatly influenced by John Cage, a iconoclastic composer whose work incorporated disorder and randomness. Her first musical performance, in 1961 at the Village Gate in New York, featured mumbled words, laughter, atonal music, and an actor speaking in monotone. Perhaps not surprisingly, Ono's early work was largely ignored, and critics referred to it as little more than screaming or moaning.

After divorcing Ichiyanagi, Ono married avant-garde artist Tony Cox in 1964. The couple made a series of bizarre films in London, including 1967's Bottoms, which consisted solely of close-ups of 365 bare backsides. In Paris she met jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman, who further stimulated her interest in vocal experimentation. Her songs tapped an eclectic blend of inspirations, including Berg's operettas, the Japanese Kabuki singing called hetai, Indian and Tibetan vocal techniques, and free jazz. Referring to these antecedents, Kristine McKenna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "Ono synthesized those elements into sound collages that had no precedent and haven't been matched yet in sheer adventurousness."

Ono met John Lennon in 1968 at a London gallery exhibition of her concept pieces. Eight years Lennon's senior, Ono claimed in a Rolling Stone interview that she had never even listened to the Beatles' music before meeting the songwriting legend. The outcry against the ensuing liaison was vicious. Although the strains of fame and a desire for individual expressionnot to mention growing antipathy among band members-were already threatening to split up the Fab Four, Ono was blamed for hastening the group's breakup. As quoted in The Guests Go in to Supper, Ono recalled, "Our partnership was still great, but mainly our energies were used in fighting the world from splitting us up." Ono and Lennon began collaborating on songs, but the public would not accept her as a legitimate contributor.

Ono signed with Apple Records and continued recording her vocal experimentations. Her 1970 Plastic Ono Band seta sister album to Lennon's identically titled offering of that yearfeatured the contributions of Lennon, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman, and Andy White but was called trash by most critics and reviled by the public. Her follow-up album, Fly, demonstrated the influences of her and Lennon's involvement in primal scream therapy. Indeed, Ono persisted in reshuffling the musical deck, integrating everyday sounds into musical patterns and news events into her lyrics. Many of her songs had a strident feminist outlook.

Reunited after a much publicized split in 1974, during which Lennon went on a drunken binge in Los Angeles, the couple had a son, Sean, who was born in 1975 on his father's birthday. Lennon took over child-rearing responsibilities while Ono managed the family's extensive financial empire. Five years later, the couple went back into the studio and created the widely praised Double Fantasy album. Soon after the album's release, in 1980, Lennon was gunned down by a psychotic fan outside the couple's apartment building in New York City. Onoand the worldwas devastated.

Ono remained active in various musical, film, and artistic pursuits after Lennon's death. A highlight was "Walking on Thin Ice," a 1981 single that earned her a Grammy nomination. In 1984 Ono released the album Milk and Honey, which showcased original material as well as previously unreleased offerings by Lennon. She produced a movie (and soundtrack) entitled Imagine in 1988, which incorporated outtakes from other film projects, videos, home movies, and new songs.

A six-CD retrospective of Ono's music, called Onobox, was released by Rykodisc in 1992. Ono followed this in 1995 with an album of new work by Ono and her son Sean, called Rising. Also that year, Ono's musical play New York Rock was produced Off Broadway in New York City. It was accompanied by an original cast recording of the show's music. Two years later, Ono released for the first time an album that she had recorded in 1974 called A Story. Still going strong in the 2000s, she released an album of new work, Blueprint for a Sunrise, in 2001.

For the Record . . .

Born on February 18, 1933, in Tokyo, Japan; daughter of Yeisuke (a banker) and Isoko Ono; married Toshi Ichiyanagi (a composer), c. 1957 (divorced, c. 1964); married Tony Cox (an artist and filmmaker), c. 1964 (divorced, c. 1969); married John Lennon (a musician), c. 1969 (died, 1980); children: (second marriage) Kyoko; (third marriage) Sean. Education: Attended Sarah Lawrence College.

Member of Fluxus avant-garde movement, 1960s; made stage debut with performance art piece, Village Gate, New York City, 1961; collaborated with composers La Monte Young, John Cage, and Ornette Coleman in art shows and musical performances; author of Grapefruit, 1964, and A Hole to See the Sky Through, 1971; with Cox, made film Bottoms, 1967; exhibited conceptual pieces, London, 1968; signed with Apple Records; recorded with John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band; released Plastic Ono Band, 1970; released multiple albums, both as a soloist, and with John Lennon through the 1970-80s; released albums on her own, 1990-2000s; musical play, New York Rock, produced in New York City, 1995; released original cast album of the music of New York Rock, 1995; released album with son Sean, Rising, 1995; released album recorded in 1974, A Story, for the first time in 1997; released Blueprint for a Sunrise, 2001.

Awards: Grammy Award, Album of the Year for Double Fantasy, 1981.

Addresses: Office Studio One, 1 West 72nd St., New York, NY 10023.

The impact of Lennon and his top-flight musical associates on Ono's career will always be debated. Jerry Hopkins's unauthorized biography, Yoko Ono, painted a picture of Ono as an evil, manipulating dictator who used Lennon to fuel her own rise to fame. But others view the much-vilified Ono as a victim whose own artistic development suffered because she was trapped in Lennon's shadow. She has transcended her scapegoating to forge her own musical path, refusing to be deterred by a lack of acceptance by critics or the public. As Fricke said of Ono in Rolling Stone, "Her husband may have punched her ticket into the mainstream, but Mrs. Lennon was nobody's rock & roll fool."

Selected discography

Solo

Plastic Ono Band, Apple, 1970.

Fly, Apple, 1971.

Approximately Infinite Universe, Apple, 1973.

Feeling the Space, Apple, 1973.

Season of Glass, Geffen, 1981.

Starpeace, Polygram, 1985.

Onobox, Rykodisc, 1992.

New York Rock (original cast recording), Capitol, 1995.

Rising, Capitol, 1995.

A Story, Rykodisc, 1997.

Blueprint for a Sunrise, Capitol, 2001.

With John Lennon

Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, Apple, 1968.

Wedding Album, Apple, 1969.

Live Peace in Toronto, Apple, 1969.

Some Time in New York City, Apple, 1972.

Double Fantasy, Geffen, 1980.

Sources

Books

Brown, Peter, and Steven Gaines, The Love You Make: An Insider's Story of the Beatles, McGraw-Hill, 1983.

Golson, Barry G., editor, The Playboy Interviews With John Lennon and Yoko Ono, conducted by David Scheff, Playboy Press, 1980.

Hopkins, Jerry, Yoko Ono, Macmillan, 1986.

Hounsome, Terry, New Rock Record, Facts on File, 1983.

Rees, Dafydd, and Luke Crampton, Rock Movers & Shakers, ABC/CLIO, 1991.

Seaman, Frederic, The Last Days of John Lennon: A Personal Memoir, Birch Lane, 1991.

Sumner, Melody, Kathleen Burch, and Michael Sumner, editors, The Guests Go in to Supper, Burning Books, 1986.

Periodicals

Creem, May 1992.

Entertainment Weekly, March 6, 1992.

Interview, February 1989.

Los Angeles Times, April 11, 1993.

Metro Times (Detroit, MI), September 29, 1993.

Musician, April 1992.

New York Times, March 13, 1994.

Oakland Press (Oakland County, MI), September 25, 1993.

People, July 23, 1992.

Publishers Weekly, December 19, 1986.

Rolling Stone, March 19, 1992; February 18, 1993.

Spin, September 1992.

Online

"Yoko Ono," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (January 23, 2004).

Additional information for this profile was obtained from liner notes to Onobox, Rykodisc, 1992.

Ed Decker and Michael Belfiore

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Ono, Yoko

Yoko one

Singer, composer, artist

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Yoko Ono has been sending shock waves through the worlds of art and music since the early 1960s. Although many think she never would have recorded a note if not for her association with John Lennon, Ono had been a musical performer for 11 years before marrying the late Beatle. By the mid-1990s, many critics had reevaluated her musical history, deeming her songs ahead of their time and influential to such cutting-edge musical entities as Public Enemy, Sonic Youth, and the B-52s. In fact, Onobox, a 1992 retrospective of Onos solo work, received widespread critical acclaim. That she [Ono] made music of marginal worth is repudiated once and for all by this lavish, illuminating six-CD overview of her remarkable pop life, attested David Fricke in Rolling Stone.

Born into a prominent Tokyo banking family in 1933, Yoko OnoOcean Child in Japanesewas burdened with the high musical expectations of a father who had wanted to be a concert pianist. Inevitably, his plans to create a musical prodigy backfired, leading Ono to dislike accepted music. After her family moved to the U.S. in 1951, Ono became fascinated with twelvetone composers such as Alban Berg while attending Sarah Lawrence College. Her own compositions at school were judged too radical by her music teacher.

In 1957 Ono married composer Toshi Ichiyanagi and moved to a loft in New York Citys Greenwich Village. Embracing the avant garde, she began displaying her conceptual art and staging events organized by eccentric composer La Monte Young. Young was part of a movement known as Fluxus that attempted to break free from conventional standards of art and music. Onos creative output was greatly influenced by John Cage, a iconoclastic composer whose work incorporated disorder and randomness. Her first musical performance, in 1961 at the Village Gate in New York, featured mumbled words, laughter, atonal music, and an actor speaking in monotone. Perhaps not surprisingly, Onos early work was largely ignored, and critics referred to it as little more than screaming or moaning.

After divorcing Ichiyanagi, Ono married avant-garde artist Tony Cox in 1964. The couple made a series of bizarre films in London, including 1967s Bottoms, which consisted solely of close-ups of 365 bare backsides. In Paris she met jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman, who further stimulated her interest in vocal experimentation. Her songs tapped an eclectic blend of inspirations, including Bergs operettas, the Japanese Kabuki singing called hetai, Indian and Tibetan vocal techniques, and free jazz. Referring to these antecedents, Kristine McKenna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, Ono synthesized those elements into sound collages that had

For the Record

Born February 18, 1933, in Tokyo, Japan; daughter of Yeisuke (a banker) and Isoko Ono; married Toshi Ichiyanagi (a composer), c. 1957 (divorced, c. 1964); married Tony Cox (an artist and filmmaker), c. 1964 (divorced, c. 1969); married John Lennon (a musician), c. 1969 (died, 1980); children: (second marriage) Kyoko; (third marriage) Sean. Education: Attended Sarah Lawrence College.

Member of Fluxus avantgarde movement, 1960s; made stage debut with performance art piece, Village Gate, New York City, 1961; collaborated with composers La Monte Young, John Cage, and Ornette Coleman in art shows and musical performances; author of Grapefruit, 1964, and A Hole to See the Sky Through, 1971; recording artist; with Cox, made film Bottoms, 1967; exhibited conceptual pieces, London, 1968; signed with Apple Records; recorded with John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band; released Plastic Ono Band, 1970.

Awards: Grammy Award for album of the year, 1981, for Double Fantasy.

Addresses: Office Studio One, 1 West 72nd St., New York, NY 10023.

no precedent and havent been matched yet in sheer adventurousness.

Ono met John Lennon in 1968 at a London gallery exhibition of her concept pieces. Eight years Lennons senior, Ono claimed in a Rolling Stone interview that she had never even listened to the Beatles music before meeting the songwriting legend. The outcry against the ensuing liaison was vicious. Although the strains of fame and a desire for individual expressionnot to mention growing antipathy among bandmemberswere already threatening to split up the Fab Four, Ono was blamed for hastening the groups breakup. As quoted in The Guests Go in to Supper, Ono recalled, Our partnership was still great, but mainly our energies were used in fighting the world from splitting us up. Ono and Lennon began collaborating on songs, but the public would not accept her as a legitimate contributor.

Ono signed with Apple Records and continued recording her vocal experimentations. Her 1970 Plastic Ono Band seta sister album to Lennons identically titled offering of that yearfeatured the contributions of Lennon, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman, and Andy White but was called trash by most critics and reviled by the public. Her follow-up album, Fly, demonstrated the influences of her and Lennons involvement in primal scream therapy. Indeed, Ono persisted in reshuffling the musical deck, integrating everyday sounds into musical patterns and news events into her lyrics. Many of her songs had a strident feminist outlook.

Reunited after a much publicized split in 1974, during which Lennon went on a drunken binge in Los Angeles, the couple had a son, Sean, who was born in 1975 on his fathers birthday. Lennon took over child-rearing responsibilities while Ono managed the familys extensive financial empire. Five years later, the couple went back into the studio and created the widely praised Double Fantasy album. Soon after the albums release, in 1980, Lennon was gunned down by a psychotic fan outside the couples apartment building in New York City. Onoand the worldwas devastated.

Ono has remained active in various musical, film, and artistic pursuits since Lennons death. A highlight was Walking on Thin Ice, a 1981 single that earned her a Grammy nomination. In 1984 Ono released the album Milk and Honey, which showcased original material as well as previously unreleased offerings by Lennon. She produced a movie (and soundtrack) entitled Imagine in 1988, which incorporated outtakes from other film projects, videos, home movies, and new songs.

The impact of Lennon and his top-flight musical associates on Onos career will always be debated. Jerry Hopkinss unauthorized biography, Yoko Ono, painted a picture of Ono as an evil, manipulating dictator who used Lennon to fuel her own rise to fame. But others view the much-vilified Ono as a victim whose own artistic development suffered because she was trapped in Lennons shadow. She has transcended her scapegoating to forge her own musical path, refusing to be deterred by a lack of acceptance by critics or the public. As Fricke said of Ono in Rolling Stone, Her husband may have punched her ticket into the mainstream, but Mrs. Lennon was nobodys rock & roll fool.

Selected discography

With John Lennon

Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, Apple, 1968.

Wedding Album, Apple, 1969.

Live Peace in Toronto, Apple, 1969.

Some Time in New York City, Apple, 1972.

Double Fantasy, Geffen, 1980.

Solo albums

Plastic Ono Band, Apple, 1970.

Fly, Apple, 1971.

Approximately Infinite Universe, Apple, 1973.

Feeling the Space, Apple, 1973.

Season of Glass, Geffen, 1981.

Starpeace, Polygram, 1985.

Onobox, Rykodisc, 1992.

Sources

Books

Brown, Peter, and Steven Gaines, The Love You Make: An Insiders Story of the Beatles, McGrawHill, 1983.

The Guests Go in to Supper, edited by Melody Sumner, Kathleen Burch, and Michael Sumner, Burning Books, 1986.

Hopkins, Jerry, Yoko Ono, Macmillan, 1986.

Hounsome, Terry, New Rock Record, Facts on File, 1983.

The Playboy Interviews With John Lennon and Yoko Ono, conducted by David Scheff, edited by G. Barry Golson, Playboy Press, 1980.

Rees, Dafydd, and Luke Crampton, Rock Movers & Shakers, ABC/CLIO, 1991.

Seaman, Frederic, The Last Days of John Lennon: A Personal Memoir, Birch Lane Press, 1991.

Periodicals

Creem, May 1992.

Entertainment Weekly, March 6, 1992.

Interview, February 1989.

Los Angeles Times, April 11, 1993.

Metro Times (Detroit), September 29, 1993.

Musician, April 1992.

New York Times, March 13, 1994.

Oakland Press (Oakland Co., MI), September 25, 1993.

People, July 23, 1992.

Publishers Weekly, December 19, 1986.

Rolling Stone, March 19, 1992; February 18, 1993.

Spin, September 1992.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from liner notes to Onobox, Rykodisc, 1992.

Ed Decker

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Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

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Notes:
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Lennon, Sean

Sean Lennon


Singer, songwriter


A select few musicians, like Sean Lennon, are celebrities before they write their first song or enter a recording studio for the first time. Born to famous popular musicians John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1975, it seemed less a question of whether he would become a musician than when he would begin his career in music. By his fifth birthday, the youngest Lennon even had a song—"Beautiful Boy"—written about him. However, unlike his half-brother, Julian Lennon, he often seemed satisfied to play subsidiary roles in other people's bands and appeared to be in no hurry to take center stage. Even when Sean Lennon recorded his first album, he chose to release it on a small label, refusing to cash in on the family legacy. "I've always been kind of scared of playing music," he told Jeff Giles in Newsweek. "It's impossible for anyone to listen to me objectively."

Lennon was born in New York City and was only five years old when Mark David Chapman murdered his father, John Lennon, outside their Dakota apartment off Central Park. Although the young boy generally avoided the press, he proved, at the age of eight, to have the same knack his father had, of fending off reporters. In one exchange a reporter asked him if there was any question that he would enjoy being asked. The eight-year-old, quoted in People, replied, "I like it best when reporters ask, 'Do you think it's time to be going?'" He loved music from an early age, first listening to Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Little Richard on his father's jukebox, and later delving into jazz, hip-hop, classic rock, and fusion. Lennon attended boarding school in Switzerland and then enrolled in Columbia University, though he dropped out after three semesters. "I kind of just didn't want to waste my time there," he told Entertainment Weekly. "I wanted to be hanging out with my friends and starting rock bands."

Lennon made his public debut in 1988, agreeing to be interviewed for Imagine, a film documentary about his father. At the age of 16 he initiated an ambitious project with Lenny Kravitz and Yoko Ono. Together, the three gathered a who's-who list of musicians to participate in a new recording of John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance," in response to the first Gulf War. All the performers, including Tom Petty, Bonnie Raitt, and L.L. Cool J, donated their services to the project, with the proceeds going to the John Lennon Greening of the World Scholarship Fund. Although this version of the song didn't chart as high as the original, it nonetheless reached Billboard 's Hot 100 in March of 1991. "The difference," wrote JT Griffith in All Music Guide, "has less to do with the quality of the song and more about one-sided media coverage of the Gulf War and lack of attention given to protesters." After the release of the recording, Lennon also made a guest appearance on Lenny Kravitz's Mama Said.

In 1995, after dropping out of Columbia University, Lennon made his musical debut playing guitar and keyboard in IMA, a band that subsequently recorded and toured with Ono when she returned to music. During the tour he was introduced to Cibo Matto, a Japanese duo who mixed alternative rock and hip-hop, and he worked with them to re-mix one of Ono's songs. Lennon then toured as a Cibo Matto's bassist, and subsequently started dating the keyboardist, Yuko Honda. Entertainment Weekly, referring to their relationship as "The Ballad of John and Yoko: The Next Generation," noted the similarities between the couple's relationship and that of John Lennon and Yoko Ono: Honda, like Ono, was Japanese, an artist, and older that Sean Lennon. When he was ready to record his first album, Honda would be by his side as a musician and producer.

When Lennon decided to concentrate on his own muse, he took an unconventional path. With his name recognition it would have been easy to get an audition with any major record label. Instead, Lennon sent demos to his friend, Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, who liked what he heard and asked young Lennon to record for his Grand Royal label. "The things that make a great musician are skills and lack of inhibition," Yauch told Entertainment Weekly. "Sean possesses both of these in abundance." Into the Sun became the first album from John Lennon's second son.

The album was released in the late spring of 1998, and although reviewers were quick to compare Lennon to his father, they also praised his willingness to go his own way. Stephen Thomas Erlewine recalled in All Music Guide that Lennon's debut album "had unexpectedly eclectic roots and a laid-back vibe, earning him positive critical reviews and securing a modest place in the post-alternative hierarchy." Critics also embraced Lennon's song craft. Tom Moon noted on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, "The melodies seem to pour from Sean Lennon, and even when he's not entirely original, he's thoroughly interesting." Although Into the Sun sold only moderately, it rose to number 154 on the Billboard chart and to number four on the Heatseekers' chart.

Following the release of Into the Sun, Lennon toured to support the album, including an appearance at the prestigious South by Southwest Festival in 1998, and then returned to a lower profile. He signed a contract with Columbia in 2001 but made no immediate plans to record his sophomore effort. Both Lennon and Cibo Matto performed at a benefit for the injured violinist Petra Haden in January of 2001, and Lennon likewise took part in Come Together: A Night for John Lennon's Words and Music that same year. In 2003 Lennon made a guest appearance on Dopo Yume's True Romance, and joined the band for a short tour in the East. Although Lennon seemed to turn up more often in gossip columns than in music magazines in the new millennium, he is reportedly working on a follow-up album.

Selected discography

Into the Sun, Grand Royal/Capitol, 1998.

For the Record …

Born on October 9, 1975, in New York, NY; son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Education: Attended Columbia University.

Spearheaded high profile re-recording of "Give Peace a Chance," 1991; joined rock trio, IMA, which backed Yoko Ono's Rising, 1995; joined Cibo Matto, mid-1990s; recorded debut, Into the Sun, 1998; performed on Dopo Yume's True Romance, 2003.

Addresses: Record company—Capitol Records, 1750 North Vine St., Hollywood, CA 90028-6274, website: http://www.hollywoodandvine.com.

Half Horse, Half Musician, EMI, 1999.

Sources

Periodicals

Entertainment Weekly, May 8, 1998, p. 34.

Newsweek, March 18, 1996, p. 64.

People, February 20, 1984, p. 73.

Online

"Sean Lennon," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/ (March 26, 2004).

Additional information was obtained from an interview with Sean Lennon on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, June 12, 1998.

—Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

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Ono, Yoko

Yoko Ono

Born February 18, 1933

Tokyo, Japan

Artist, writer, and performer

"When I first came out there was a lot of xenophobia [fear of foreigners] and suspicion because I was an Oriental woman standing with John [Lennon]. It scared people, and I understood that in some way. Now I'm 70, and people could say 'She's old' and be intolerant, but they haven't…. It's nice not to feel like an outsider. It's opened my life up."

W hen Yoko Ono turned seventy in 2003, she was enjoying more popular and critical respect than at any time during her more than forty years as an artist. A large retrospective exhibit of her artwork, called Transmodern Yoko, was on a world tour. Songs she released twenty years earlier had been remixed by contemporary artists and were playing regularly at dance clubs. "People think that their world will get smaller as they get older," she told Steve Dougherty of People magazine. "My experience is just the opposite. Your senses become more acute. You start to blossom."

Her career began with a small art-crowd following interested in her experimental art, films, and music. Then, Ono became internationally famous for her romance with John Lennon (1940–1980), a member of the the Beatles, the bestselling and most popular musical group of the 1960s. When the Beatles broke up in 1970, Ono was seen by some as having been a divisive force that contributed to Lennon's dissatisfaction with the band as well as having a negative impact on his music. After John and Yoko (as they were best known) turned to a quiet home life in the mid-1970s to raise their son, Sean (1975–), they reemerged in 1980 with a hit album, Double Fantasy. But Lennon was murdered in December of that year. Since then, Ono reemerged as an artist in her own right and helped keep alive the spirit of peace and imagination she and Lennon had found.

Art as event

Yoko Ono (whose name means "Ocean Child" in Japanese) was born into a wealthy family on February 18, 1933, in Tokyo, Japan. Her father, Eisuke (1935–), was head of the Bank of Japan. Her mother, Isoko, was from one of the richest and most powerful families in Japan. Her father, who had wanted to be a concert pianist, encouraged Ono's early interest in music, but his insistence in directing her actually contributed to her rebellion against "acceptable" music. Ono went to the Gakushuin School, which was usually reserved for members of Japan's royal family. When she was seven, her family moved briefly to Long Island, New York. They soon returned to Japan just before America entered World War II (1939–45) following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December 1941.

As World War II progressed, American planes began bombing Tokyo. The Ono children had an opportunity to stay in the Royal Palace with Ono's friends from school. Instead, their mother took them to a country home she had commissioned to be built. The house turned out to be poorly constructed, and the family had meager provisions while living in wartime conditions. Following the end of World War II, the family returned to Tokyo and Ono finished school. In her musical studies, she became greatly interested in vocal arrangements. Ono briefly attended Gakushuin University in Tokyo, where she was the first female student to focus on philosophy.

After she moved with her family to Scarsdale, a wealthy New York suburb, in 1951, Ono attended Sarah Lawrence College. She studied music, becoming fascinated with experiments in tone, and began writing poetry. She dropped out of college in 1955 to focus on her art. Ono met Toshi Ichiyanagi (1933–), an avant-garde, or unconventional, pianist who had been a student of John Cage (1912–1992), a leading composer whose work incorporated disorder, use of everyday noises, and randomness. The couple married in 1957 and moved to Manhattan. In 1958, Ono began showing her conceptual art pieces, in which the audience or viewer of the art contributed to the piece.

Ono's loft in Greenwich Village became a performance space by the early 1960s. In addition to displaying her conceptual art, she hosted "events" organized by composer La Monte Young (1935–). Young was part of a movement called "Fluxus" that attempted to break free from conventional standards of art and music. In 1961, Ono gave her first public musical performance. Held at the Village Gate in New York, the performance featured mumbled words, laughter, atonal music, and an actor speaking in monotone, according to Barbara Haskell in an essay that appeared in the catalogue, or guide, to Ono's later exhibit in 1989 at the Whitney Museum.

In 1963, Ono and Ichiyanagi lived briefly in Japan before breaking up and divorcing. Ono married avant-garde artist and filmmaker Tony Cox in 1964. They had a child, Kyoko. Also in that year, she published Grapefruit, a collection of surrealist poems and meditations. (Surrealism is a style of art and literature in which the artist or writer produces fantastic or other-worldly images by using unnatural or unusual combinations of elements.) John Lennon would say later that Grapefruit inspired his famous song, "Imagine" (one line from "Tunafish Sandwich Piece" is "Imagine one thousand suns in the sky at the same time").

In 1966, Ono was invited to participate in a multimedia conference/show in London called the "Destruction in Art Symposium." She and Cox traveled often to London, Paris, and New York between 1964 and 1968. They collaborated on a series of films while in London, including Bottoms (1967), which consists of close-ups of 365 bare backsides. In Paris, Ono met jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman (1930–), who further stimulated her interest in vocal experimentation. Her songs, according to Kristine McKenna in the Los Angeles Times, blended inspirations from experimental operettas, Japanese Kabuki (stylized theatrical) singing called hetai, Indian and Tibetan vocal techniques, and free jazz. "Ono synthesized those elements into sound collages that had no precedent and haven't been matched yet in sheer adventurousness," wrote McKenna. Many of these pieces were collected in Onobox, a

six-CD collection of Ono's solo musical work released in 1992. Some of the pieces are from a series of events she performed at Carnegie Recital Hall during this period.

Meets the Beatle

Having returned to London in 1968, Ono exhibited her artwork at Indica Gallery. The works included Painting to Hammer Nail In. It consisted of a wood panel with a hammer attached, which viewers were encouraged to use to pound nails into the panel—an example of her art that invited audience participation. John Lennon visited the exhibition and met Ono for the first time. Both were married at the time to other people, but they began seeing each other. After both divorced their spouses, Lennon and Ono were married on March 20, 1969.

Lennon was still with the Beatles, but the band members by this time were involved in various projects and often recorded separately. Fans hopeful that the Beatles would stay together blamed Ono, who accompanied Lennon everywhere, for Lennon's growing disinterest in the band. She sat in and sometimes contributed to recording sessions. But Lennon already had plans to move on from the band, and group infighting had led the band's drummer, Ringo Starr (1940–), to consider leaving as well.

Ono and Lennon, meanwhile, celebrated their relationship publicly. They staged an open honeymoon in Paris and Amsterdam and Lennon wrote a song about it that was one of the last Beatle recordings, "The Ballad of John and Yoko." In the spring of 1969, they staged a "bed-in" in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where celebrities and reporters crowded around the couple in bed in a hotel room. They announced they were promoting world peace, especially an end to the Vietnam War (1954–75). Lennon's song "Give Peace a Chance," recorded at the "bed-in," became a hit single and an anthem, or theme song, for peace activists, who sang the chorus, "All we are saying / is give peace a chance," at antiwar demonstrations.

Ono and Lennon began collaborating on songs, but most fans of Lennon would not accept her as a legitimate contributor. She signed with Apple Records, a label founded by the Beatles, and continued recording her vocal experimentations. In 1970, Ono and Lennon released individual albums, both titled Plastic Ono Band, but her album received poor reviews and sparked little public interest. Her next album, Fly, showed the influence of her involvement in primal scream therapy.

Contentment and tragedy

The couple briefly separated in 1974, but soon reunited and had a son, Sean, who was born in 1975 on his father's birthday. Lennon and Ono stayed out of the public eye for much of the rest of the decade. Lennon focused on raising his son, and Ono managed the family's extensive financial holdings—the Beatles had been the best-selling band in the history of recorded music. Ono revealed great business know-how as an investor in art, real estate, and cattle, and built up the family fortune estimated somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion.

Ono and Lennon returned to the recording studio and released the album Double Fantasy in 1980. More relaxed and melodic than their previous albums, Double Fantasy was popular and warmly received. It features seven compositions by Ono and seven by Lennon. Shortly after the album was released, Lennon was returning to his New York apartment after a recording session on a new song by Ono called "Walking on Thin Ice." Lennon was gunned down by Mark David Chapman (1955–), a psychotic "fan" outside the apartment building. Fans around the world were stunned that a man who had sung about peace and love was brutally murdered.

Ono and her son Sean neither avoided nor contributed to the international attention surrounding the killing, with the exception of making grateful acknowledgements to mourners. Ono gradually released new material that included Lennon songs, images of him on film, and his writings over the next decade. Meanwhile, she gradually returned to the public that had once been so critical of her influence on Lennon.

In 1981, Ono released an album, Season of Glass, that ignited some controversy for its cover, which showed the blood-stained broken pair of eyeglasses Lennon was wearing when he was killed, and for a song that consisted of gunshots followed by wailing. In a New York Times article of August 5, 1981, Ono stated, "What was I supposed to do, avoid the subject? … A lot of people advised me that I shouldn't put that on the cover of the record, but I wanted the whole world to see those glasses with blood on them and to realize that John had been killed. It wasn't like he died of old age or drugs or something." A highlight of the album was "Walking on Thin Ice," the song she had been recording on the night Lennon was killed. The song earned Ono a Grammy Award nomination.

Ono became active in various musical, film, and artistic pursuits. In 1984, she released the album Milk and Honey, which included new songs as well as several songs recorded by Lennon that were previously unreleased. Ono produced the movie and soundtrack for Imagine in 1988, which blended scenes from her other film projects, home movies, and new songs. In 1989, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York staged a retrospective of her work from the 1960s, and the Museum of Modern Art showed several of her films, along with those by other Fluxus artists. Another retrospective in 2002, Transmodern Yoko, showed art spanning her entire career. After making its debut at New York's Japan Society Gallery, the exhibit went on a world tour.

The collection Onobox, a 1992 musical retrospective of Ono's solo work, received acclaim that had been minimal when many of the songs were first released. "That she made music of marginal worth is repudiated [rejected] once and for all by this lavish, illuminating six-CD overview of her remarkable pop life," wrote David Fricke in Rolling Stone magazine. In 1994, Ono created New York Rock, an opera for the WPA Theater in New York City.

Ono's seventieth birthday in 2003 drew wide attention in the media. The popularity of remixes of her songs at dance clubs made Ono a performer in demand again, noted Josh Tyrangiel in Time magazine. She does not attempt to hide her pleasure at her unexpected relevance, he noted. "I think it's a message," she said to Tyrangiel. "When I first came out there was a lot of xenophobia [fear of foreigners] and suspicion because I was an Oriental woman standing with John. It scared people, and I understood that in some way. Now I'm 70, and people could say 'She's old' and be intolerant, but they haven't. This club world has been so embracing. It's nice not to feel like an outsider. It's opened my life up."

—Roger Matuz

For More Information

Books

Haskell, Barbara. "Yoko Ono: Objects." In Yoko Ono: Objects, Films. New York: The Whitney Museum of American Art, 1989.

Hendricks, Jon, ed. YES Yoko Ono (book and CD). New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001.

Sheff, David. All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. New York: Griffin Trade Paperback, 2000.

Periodicals

Dougherty, Steve. "Oh Yes! Ono Turns 70: Yoko Ono Finds Happiness in Her Kids, Her Art and Memories of John." People (March 31, 2003): pp. 97–103.

Fricke, David. "Onobox." Rolling Stone (March 19, 1992).

Mahoney, J. W. "Transmodern Yoko." Art in America (February 2002).

McKenna, Kristine. "Yoko Reconsidered." Los Angeles Times (April 11, 1993): p. CAL3.

Palmer, Robert. "Yoko Ono Asks: 'Was I Supposed to Avoid the Subject?'" New York Times (August 5, 1981): p. C17.

Perreault, John. "Yoko Ono at the Whitney: Age of Bronze." Village Voice (February 7, 1989): p. 29.

Tyrangiel, Josh. "An Unlikely Dance Queen: Twenty-two Years after Its Release, a Dusty Yoko Ono Song Becomes a Dance-club Chart Topper." Time (May 26, 2003): p. 71.

Web Sites

AIU: A Yoko Ono Box.http://www.a-i-u.net/ (accessed on March 22, 2004).

Instant Karma! A John and Yoko Site.http://www.instantkarma.com/ (accessed on March 22, 2004).

Onoweb.http://www.jeclique.com/onoweb/ (accessed on March 22, 2004).

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Ono, Yoko

Ono, Yoko

Ono, Yoko, Japanese-born American vocalist, songwriter, and performance artist; b. Tokyo, Feb. 18, 1933. She was born to a wealthy banking family. In 1947 she moved to N.Y., where she entered Sarah Lawrence Coll. (1953). She became active in Manhattan conceptual-art circles, and in 1966 met John Lennon of The Beatles; they became companions and collaborators, marrying in 1969. Under her influence, Lennon became interested in avant-garde ideas that drew him away from rock, contributing to the breakup of The Beatles in 1970. After Lennon’s death in 1980, Ono produced several posthumous collaborations. Her solo recordings include Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band (1970), Fly (1971), Approximately Infinite Universe (1973), Feeling the Space (1973), Seasons of Glass (1981), It’s Alright (1982), and Every Man Has a Woman (1984). Her recordings with Lennon include Unfinished Music no. 1:2 Virgins (1968) and no. 2: Life with the Lions (1969), Wedding Album (1969), Live Peace in Toronto 1969 (1970), Double Fantasy (1980), Milk and Honey (1982), and Heart Play: Unfinished Dialogue (1983). Ono’s work is often bizarre, her shrill tremolo voice moving over a fluid, arrhythmic background reflecting Asian influences; some of her recordings, notably those between 1980 and 1984, are popular in style. In 1992 she released Onobox, a collection of 6 compact discs featuring a wide range of music, from pop to serious scores. Her musical N.Y. Rock was premiered in N.Y on March 30, 1994.

Bibliography

J. Cott and C. Doudna, eds., The Ballad of John and Yoko (N.Y, 1982).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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