Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why It's Time to Give Yoko Ono A Break

It's remarkable to me that 70 years after John Lennon's birth, nearly 30 years after his death, and 40 years after the Beatles broke up, Yoko Ono still remains the most hated and vilified woman in the Beatles' legacy (even more so, I believe, than Heather Mills.) Case in point: I watched the video message she filmed for YouTube in honor of her late husband's birthday and was taken aback by the lowdown, nasty, vitriol-filled comments spewed at her. The c-word was in full swing mode, as were many racial epitaphs. Have these so-called fans not learned *anything* from listening to Beatles/Lennon music after all these years?

Maybe because I am not a baby boomer who lived through it all - the Ed Sullivan Show appearance, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and the meditation trip to India - I have a different perspective on Yoko Ono. I cannot claim to be a Yoko fan (listening to a human caterwauling is not a hobby in my spare time), but I do respect her. Yes, she may be a terrible singer, a homewrecker, and may have whored out Lennon's name a little too often for the love of the almighty dollar, but for those who still have a beef with the lady, I have three words for you: GET OVER IT. 

The fact is, John Lennon chose her, and they had a child together. I can only say that we often cannot choose who we fall in love with. I mean no disrespect to Cynthia Lennon, but Lennon's union with her was done out of necessity during a time when young men had to marry the women they impregnated. Unfortunately, Lennon's first son, Julian, paid a heavy price as an unplanned son of one of the most famous men in the world. I've seen very few photos of Cynthia smiling during the time she was married to John; at a time when others were enjoying everything the swinging 60s had to offer, she was clearly bearing the weight of the world on her shoulders.

Yoko was definitely a kindred spirit to John, despite their differences in background. She was also eight years older than him (a cougar before the term was coined) which many say nurtured the loss John suffered as a teen when his mother, Julia, was hit and killed by a drunk off-duty policeman. 

From the booklet that accompanies the Lennon Anthology CD box set, Ono has this to say of their relationship in the introduction:


They say that Venus is jealous of lovers. Forget Venus. In our case it was the whole world. But as far as we were concerned, we felt so lucky that we found each other. Aside of the fact that we were both rebellious and emotional, we were true opposites. John was tallish. I was smallish. John made music for the people. I made music for the avant-garde, though I did not think of my music in those terms at the time (I thought I was big-time.) John was humble, in a way only a very successful person could be. I was proud, like most people living in an Ivory Tower, who never had to test the big water. Coming from a semi-working class background, John was street-wise. I was totally inexperienced when it came to the games of the real world. And we felt so, so lucky that we fell in love with each other. It was a blessing neither of us expected at that time in our lives. We couldn't take our eyes off one another. We couldn't get enough of each other. But the outside pressure was very strong. It was so strong, that sometimes we had to separate to from each other in order to protect our love. We thought we were clever, that we did everything right, and nothing and nobody could tear us apart. Never, never, never. But it happened: our separation. So sudden, too. He was taken away from me for good. 

Even now, I think there are people who still cannot reconcile themselves to the idea that I had been in John's life. To those people I'd like to say, I'm sorry that we had hurt you. But that's what happened. That's how it was.


And as far as the ancient argument that Yoko Ono broke up the Beatles? Total bunk to me. Once their manager, Brian Epstein, passed away of a drug overdose in 1967, the glue that held the band together had been dissolved forever. Paul McCartney and Lennon then argued over who should manage the band, with McCartney vying to hand over the job over to his father-in-law, Lee Eastman, at one point, which Lennon was against. Let's face it - once 1968 rolled around, the band was on shaky legs. Bringing girlfriends into the recording studio had nothing to do with it.

I'm not saying that Yoko is an angel - she treated Julian Lennon poorly, even as an adult - wrangling with him over her late husband's estate. She also has a legendary grip on Lennon's image that's tighter than a nun's asshole; when the designers behind the Beatles Rock Band video game initially showed the animated version of Lennon to her, she argued that it didn't capture John's essence. 


Still, she has her moments - her guest appearance as herself on the 90s TV series Mad About You showed a funny side of Ono. She was shown dancing to Beatles music and asked the lead character, Paul Buchman, to make a film about the wind. And when my late friend Joe Pope, a Beatles expert who published his own magazine called Strawberry Fields Forever, interviewed Ono on a Boston radio station, she was nothing but gracious (she also addressed him as "Hi, Pope!" on the air, having met him several years earlier, and went on to say that she was glad he named his magazine after one of John's compositions, vs. a McCartney song.)


Most importantly, however, she has managed to continue Lennon's legacy the best she can: by allowing unreleased material of his to see the light of day and making philanthropic contributions to peace and arts programs. If anything, I so admire her mostly for the strong, loving union she shared with one of the world's most talented musicians. 


Forty years ago Lennon asked the public to "give peace a chance." I think we need to extend the same to Yoko.

6 comments:

Foryouglue said...

Thank you so much Pam!!

Amanda By Night said...

Go Yoko!

Even Paul McCartney said that blaming Yoko for the Beatles break up was just silly. They weren't friends but he also knew she had nothing to do with those issues.

I also believe she truly loved John and he loved her right back. It was pretty awesome, the two of them together! It's hard for me to think of one and not think of the other...

Marlene said...

You can't help who you love, for sure.

Luis said...

Great article! I'm a Beatles fan and I'm proud to say I never had anything against Yoko.

Darrin.. said...

I'm with you. Yoko seems like such a pleasant and peaceful person. I've never understood the deep resentment towards her.

jellyrollfortheearhole said...

I've long been an advocate for Ono. She was a brilliant artist in her own right, she didn't need Lennon to give her purpose. In fact, she may've had a stronger art legacy had she not met him. Plus, she was an interesting musician (if not well understood).

Lennon was one of those great geniuses that has only come along a few times in history, like Da Vinci. Beyond his abilities as a composer and musician, he was a brilliant lyricist, he was scathingly funny, nimble minded, laser sharp. Most people would've been overwhelmed by his sheer magnificence. Yoko wasn't.

Yoko was a strong personality. You'd have to be to stand with Lennon. Lennon responded to that strength and respected it. I can't imagine many who would've been his match. She was.

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