Thursday, March 3, 2011

Yoko Ono -- Aquarian

I wonder what women aged 25 or younger think of Yoko, or if she even makes their consciousness, beyond the widow of John Lennon, ex-Beatle.


For women my age, Yoko was most famous for being "the reason the Beatles broke up." A strange, exotic figure who remains a mystery after four decades since we first met her on John's arm.

But that's the outside, perhaps, a mask Yoko has worn or a joke she has played on us to retain what tiny pieces of privacy she could as first the notorious band-smasher, then the faithful wife and artistic partner, and then the widow who must constantly mourn for us the loss of a genius. I think it must be very difficult to wear these roles and, at the same time, live the private life and in truth mourn the loss of what seemed honestly to be a soulmate, raise his children, and keep making music as a public performer.


Of course, the fact that John's first wife was white and blonde, a wife John left for Yoko, who was older than he, Japanese, already an activist for peace (meaning anti-war, in the 60s), and friends with "weird" avant-garde artists... had nothing to do with the constant attacks of fans and the press.

Yoko always seems to be seen through the lens of John Lennon, but in fact she was an artist in her own right since the early 1960s. She was a performance artist before there was really an awareness outside the avant-garde of what that was. Ono's apartment became the site of "happenings," and she herself performed. Apparently, she was driven to write, perform, and organize constantly, and she came to be friends or at least acquaintances with everyone in this world, from John Cage to Andy Warhol to Judith Malina. She was a filmmaker, a conceptual artist, a writer, and a performer of her own works.


She was also married twice, was confined to a mental institution by her family, and, after a bitter divorce from her second husband, saw her daughter kidnapped by him although Ono had full custody; both disappeared in 1971 and it wasn't until 23 years later Ono met her daughter again.

Despite fans' notions, her life with Lennon wasn't perfect. He himself admitted that he hit his first wife, and credited Ono with changing his violent ways--teaching him about feminism, peace, and political activism. Obviously, Lennon was a smart man, but Ono's influence seemed to have offered him a new direction and outlet for his creative works. Since he died, Ono has continued to work toward peace, tolerance, and equality, including her work for gay rights, autism, and (still!) world peace.

In terms of her image, Yoko's hats, glasses, and crazy outfits serve her. She is an iconic figure, a survivor, and an artist. This song, "Walking on Thin Ice," gives a good idea of her style as a performer, a songwriter, and an artist... except she is mercurial, multi-faceted, and indefinable.



Paul McCartney said of her, "I thought she was a cold woman. I think that's wrong... she's just the opposite... I think she's just determined than most people to be herself." That's an Aquarius.



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