Today is the 82nd birthday of Yoko Ono. First, let’s think about how it is strange to attach an age to her, and now let’s talk about that is still creating art and music, like right now. Her efforts to promote world peace and equality will be her legacy. The world is very lucky that she is still in it.
BEST KNOWN FOR: Yoko Ono is a multimedia artist who became known worldwide in the 1960s when she married Beatles front man John Lennon.
Multimedia artist and performer Yoko Ono was born on February 18, 1933, in Tokyo, Japan, the eldest of three children born to Eisuke and Isoko, a wealthy aristocratic family. Her father, who worked for the Yokohama Specie Bank, was transferred to San Francisco, California, two weeks before she was born. The rest of the family soon followed. Her father was transferred back to Japan in 1937, and she susbequently enrolled at the elite Peers School (formerly known as the Gakushuin School) in Tokyo.
The family moved to New York in 1940, then back to Japan in 1941, when her father was transferred to Hanoi on the eve of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Ono remained in Tokyo through World War II, including the great firebombing of 1945. At the age of 18, Ono moved with her parents to Scarsdale, New York. She studied at Sarah Lawrence College, but left to elope with her first husband, Toshi Ichiyanagi.
Settling in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, Ono developed an interest in art and began writing poetry. Considered too radical by many, her work was not well-received, but she gained recognition after working with American jazz musician/film producer Anthony Cox, who later became her second husband. Cox financed and helped coordinate her “interactive conceptual events” in the early 1960s.
Ono’s work often demands the viewers’ participation and forces them to get involved. Her most famous piece was the “cut piece” staged in 1964, where the audience was invited to cut off pieces of her clothing until she was naked, an abstract commentary on discarding materialism.
Ono first met John Lennon of the English rock band the Beatles on November 9, 1966, when he visited a preview of her exhibition at the Indica Gallery in London, England. Lennon was taken with the positive, interactive nature of her work. He especially cited a ladder leading up to a black canvas with a spyglass on a chain, which revealed the word “yes” written on the ceiling. The two began an affair approximately 18 months later. Lennon divorced his first wife, Cynthia (with whom he had a son, Julian, born in 1963), and married Ono on March 20, 1969.
The couple collaborated on art, film and musical projects, and became famous for their series of “conceptual events” to promote world peace, including the “bed-in” held in an Amsterdam hotel room during their honeymoon in 1969.
Ono and Lennon became parents in 1975 with the arrival of their son, Sean. Lennon quit the music business to raise Sean. When he returned to the spotlight in 1980, Lennon was shot by a deranged fan, Mark David Chapman, only a few feet from Ono. Sean Lennon has grown up to a well-known musician in his own right.
Since Lennon’s death, Ono has continued her career, recording albums, performing concert tours and composing two off-Broadway musicals. She exhibited her art internationally, and the first U.S. retrospective of her work opened in New York City in 2002.
Ono has also continued to honor Lennon’s memory with a number of different projects. On October 9, 2002, she inaugurated the Lennon Ono Grant for Peace Prize to commemorate what would have been Lennon’s 62nd birthday. On Lennon’s birthday in 2007, she unveiled the Imagine Peace Tower on Videy, an island in Iceland. This outdoor artwork, created by Ono, represents her and Lennon’s commitment to world peace.