Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Yoko Ono Lennon (born February 18, 1933 in Tokyo, Japan) is a Japanese-born American musician and artist. In Japanese, her name is written 小野 洋子 (Ono Yōko). Her first name translates to "ocean child."
Born into a privileged background, she was the oldest of three children born to Isoko Yasuda, a member of one of Japan’s wealthiest banking families, and Eisuke Ono, who sacrificed a career as a classically-trained pianist to work as a banker. She attended the exclusive Gakushuin academy in Tokyo from primary school to the college division.
During World War II, the Ono family survived the bombing of Tokyo in an underground shelter, and later the mother and children fled to the country and begged for food while pulling their belongings in a wheelbarrow. Her father remained in the city and unbeknownst to them was incarcerated in a prisoner-of-war camp in China.
Ono married American Anthony Cox on November 28, 1962. Cox was a jazz musician, film producer, and art promoter. Their marriage was annulled on March 1, 1963; they re-married on June 6, and finally divorced on February 2, 1969. Their daughter, Kyoko Chan Cox, was born on August 8, 1963. After a bitter legal battle, Ono was awarded permanent custody of Kyoko. However, in 1971 Cox, who had become a Christian fundamentalist after his divorce from Ono, abducted Kyoko and vanished. Ono and her daughter were finally reunited in 1998.
An early member of the Fluxus art movement, Ono helped innovate both conceptual art and performance art. An example of her performance art is "Cut Piece", during which she sat on stage and invited the audience to use scissors to cut off her clothing until she was naked. An example of her conceptual art includes her book of instructions called "Grapefruit." This book was first produced in 1964, but later published several times. It was most widely distributed by Simon and Schuster in 1971, and reprinted by them again in 2000.
Ono was also an experimental filmmaker. She made sixteen films between 1964 and 1972, and gained particular renown for a 1966 film called simply "No. 4," but often referred to as "Bottoms." The film consists of a series of close-ups of human buttocks as the subject walks on a treadmill. The crack between the cheeks and the crease between the buttock and the leg divide the screen into four almost equal sections. The soundtrack consists of interviews with those who are being filmed as well as those considering joining the project. In 1996, the watch manufacturing company Swatch produced a limited edition watch that commemorates this film.
Ono's work may best be appreciated by an open mind. She has been described as “the world's most famous unknown artist: everybody knows her name, but nobody knows what she does.”
Ono is perhaps best known for marrying The Beatles' John Lennon. They first met when Lennon visited a preview of an exhibition of Ono's in London in 1966. He was taken with the attitude and interactivity of her work, such as a ladder leading up to the word 'Yes' written on the ceiling, an instruction to hammer a nail into a panel of wood, and a decomposing apple. They married on March 20, 1969 on the Rock of Gibraltar. Their son, Sean Taro Ono Lennon, was born on John's 35th birthday, on October 9, 1975.
Ono collaborated with John Lennon on many albums, beginning in 1968 when Lennon was still a Beatle with, Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, an album of experimental and difficult electronic music. Many later albums were released under the name the Plastic Ono Band.
In 1969, the Plastic Ono Band's first album, Live Peace In Toronto, was recorded during the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival Festival. In addition to Lennon and Ono, this first incarnation of the group consisted of guitarist Eric Clapton, bass player Klaus Voorman, and drummer Alan White. The first half of their performance consisted of rock standards, but during the second half, Ono took the microphone and along with the band performed what may be one of the first expressions of the avant-garde during a rock concert. The set ended with music that consisted mainly of feedback, while Ono screamed and vocalized.
Ono is often accused by Beatles fans of breaking up the band; however, in a 2003 interview by Jay Leno, she revealed the disappointment she felt by the breakup and how it affected the lifestyle that she was used to. There are Lennon fans who, in addition, blame Ono for the experimental phase (considered bizarre and somewhat unpopular) that Lennon explored in his work immediately following the Beatles' breakup. On the other hand, many fans consider—as Lennon consistently attested—that Ono had a profound and beneficial influence on his body of work.
Ono also achieved success as a musician in her own right. Indeed, years before meeting Lennon, she had her first major public performance in an all-Ono concert at the Carnegie Recital Hall in 1961. This concert featured radical experimental music and performances.
Ono's music changed after her marriage to John Lennon; while many of her early songs retain the surreal quality of her art and films, her later songs are usually more conventional.
In the spring of 1980, Lennon heard new wave artists such as Lene Lovich and the B52's and he remarked that they sounded as if they had been influenced by Ono's music. Indeed, many musicians have since paid tribute to Ono (both as an artist in her own right, and as a muse and iconic figure). For example, Elvis Costello recorded a version of Ono's song "Walking on Thin Ice", and Sonic Youth included a performance of Ono’s early conceptual “Voice Piece for Soprano” in their fin de siecle album "Goodbye 20th Century". One of Barenaked Ladies's best-known songs is "Be My Yoko Ono", and Dar Williams recorded a song called "I Won’t Be Your Yoko Ono".
On the night of December 8, 1980, Lennon and Ono were in the studio working on Ono's song "Walking On Thin Ice." When they returned to The Dakota, their home in New York City, a deranged fan murdered Lennon. Ono and Lennon's final album, Milk And Honey, was later released in 1984 in an unfinished state.
In 1996 Ono released the album Rising, a collaboration with her son Sean Lennon. Songs on this album were later released as remixes by alternative rock musicians, including: Cibo Matto, Ween, Tricky, and Thurston Moore. Starting in 2002, cutting-edge DJs began remixing other Ono songs for dance clubs. She had great success with new versions of "Walking on Thin Ice", remixed by top DJs and dance artists including Pet Shop Boys, Orange Factory , Peter Rauhofer , and Danny Tenaglia. In April 2003 Ono’s "Walking On Thin Ice (Remixes)" was rated #1 on Billboard Magazine’s “Dance/Club Play Chart,” gaining Ono her first number one hit.
During her career, Ono has collaborated with a diverse group of artists and musicians including John Cage, David Tudor, George Maciunas, Ornette Coleman, Charlotte Moorman, George Brecht, Jackson Mac Low, Jonas Mekas, Yvonne Rainer , La Monte Young, Richard Maxfield, Andy Warhol, and Yo La Tengo.
Since the 1960s, Ono has been a consistent and outspoken supporter of peace and human rights. After their marriage, Lennon and Ono held a "Bed-In for Peace" in their honeymoon suite at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel in March 1969. The press fought to get in, presuming that the two would be having sex for their cameras, but they instead found a pair of newlyweds wearing pajamas and eager to talk about and promote 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.
In 2002 Ono inaugurated her own peace award by giving $50,000 (£31,900) prize money to artists living "in regions of conflict." Israeli and Palestinian artists were the first recipients. In 2004 Ono remade her song "Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him" to support same-sex marriage, releasing remixes that included "Every Man Has a Man Who Loves Him" and "Every Woman Has a Woman Who Loves Her".
Ono has allegedly had a turbulent relationship with Paul McCartney for some time. The dispute centers on the writing credits for many Beatles songs. Traditionally they are credited to Lennon-McCartney. McCartney had wanted to change the order to "McCartney-Lennon" for songs that were solely or predominantly McCartney's, but Ono would not allow it.
Her photograph of Lennon's spectacles, bloodstained from when he was fatally shot outside their Manhattan apartment building on December 8, 1980, sold at auction in London in April 2002 for about $13,000.
She currently resides in New York City.
- Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins (1968)
- Unfinished Music No.2: Life With The Lions (1969)
- Wedding Album (1969)
- Live Peace In Toronto (1969)
- Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band (1970)
- Fly (1971)
- Sometime In New York City (1972)
- Approximately Infinite Universe (1973)
- Feeling The Space (1973)
- A Story (1974/97)
- Double Fantasy (1980)
- Season Of Glass (1981)
- It's Alright (I See Rainbows) (1982)
- Milk And Honey (1984)
- Every Man Has A Woman (1984)
- Starpeace (1985)
- Onobox (1992)
- Walking On Thin Ice (1992)
- Rising (1995)
- New York Rock (1995)
- Rising Mixes (1996)
- Blueprint For A Sunrise (2001)
- "Open Your Box" (maxi-single) (2001)
- "Will I"/"Fly" (maxi-single) (2002)
- "Yang Tang" (maxi-single) (2002)
- "Walking on Thin Ice" (maxi-single) (2003)
- "Every Man Has A Man Who Loves Him" and "Every Woman Has A Woman Who Loves Her" (singles promoting gay marriage) (2004)
- Instant Karma, magazine dedicated to John and Yoko. Since 1981.
- Yoko Ono fluxus debris! @ art / not art
- ::: ONOWEB: an international network of info and original projects about Yoko from our contributors
- Yoko Ono Box An extensive unofficial Yoko Ono Site
- ~ ONOVOX: spam-free discussion listserv with commented daily Yoko news.
- "Yoko Ono Makes Old Song Gay Friendly", Associated Press article, July 8, 2004.
- Yoko Ono's Snow review by Tom Johnson Originally published on February 7, 1977
- 1995 Interview with Yoko Ono
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