Yoko Ono is a 1960s artist and 1970s Musician of Japanese descent. As of 2020, her net worth is estimated to be $700 million.
Ono is most known for pioneering performance art and eventual marriage to the Beatles’ John Lennon.
Ono was born on 18th February, 1933 in Tokyo, Japan to an affluent family. Her parents are Isoko Ono and Eusike Ono.
Her name Yoko means Ocean child and indeed she has been an embodiment of strength like that of a sea tide across her life.
At age four, Ono enrolled into the prestigious Gakushuin School where she studied music until her formative years.
While there she wrote poetry and plays and received classical piano training. In 1952, she enrolled for philosophy becoming the first female to do so at the institution.
Ono would later quit the course however, joining her family in New York where her father worked as an executive banker.
Yoko Ono’s first breakthrough in the art industry was in 1960 when her downtown loft in Manhattan turned into a hub of seminars.
In many ways, her artwork was different from that of her contemporaries.
Instead of displaying finished work to revelers as was the trend, most of Ono’s work was presented as a set of instructions to which the audience was guided to accomplish accompanying tasks.
To Ono, art worked best when integrated into people’s lives and this couldn’t be achieved if paintings merely hung on walls.
For her Hammer a Nail for instance, attendees at her exhibitions were invited to hammer nails into a white board.
Similarly, Ono asked the audience to cut parts of a cloth she wore as she premiered her Cut Piece; a piece that depicted sexual violence and is held to one be of the earliest feminist works in performance art.
This style had also served to kindle her relationship with John Lennon in their earlier interactions.
At one of their meetings, Lennon had climbed the white ladder of the Ceiling Painting, and used the magnifying glasses on top to read the word “YES.”
In 1964, Ono published the Grape Fruit book which served to detail the guidelines to her art to the readers.
Other examples of her pieces are her canvass Be Stepped On (1960) in which she invited people at her shows to tread on it and Wish Tree which is displayed in the Museum of Modern Art, New York and has up to today attracted over a million contributions.
The instructions to the latter portrait are simple; “make a wish”, “write it down on a piece of paper”, and then “fold it and tie it around a branch of a Wish Tree.”
Her style would later be adopted by artists Joseph Beus, Chris Burden, and John Cage among many others.
Ono first got married in 1956 to a fellow composition student Ichiyanagi Toshi. The two remained together until 1962 when they divorced.
That very year, Yoko got married to filmmaker Anthony Cox. The two bore a child, Kyoko Chan Cox but still divorced in 1969.
Young Chan stayed with her father in the time that ensued and was in fact renamed to Ruth Holman.
Within a year of divorce, Yoko Ono got married once again this time round to John Lennon.
The two had however first met in 1966.
When Ono arrived in New York from Gakushuin, she joined Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville where she continued with her music studies for the next three years.
As we have seen already though, most of Ono’s earlier career was performance art. In fact, she dropped out of Sarah Lawrence.
But for a few compositions here and there, Ono only sung professionally upon meeting John Lennon and the formulation of the Plastic Ono Band.
When Lennon released his Give Peace a Chance in 1969 thus, it was backed by Remember Love by Ono.
The track also featured Eric Clapton as a guitarist, Klaus Voormann as a bass player, and Alan White as a drummer. Some of Ono’s singles that followed are Fly (1971) and Approximately Infinite Universe (1973).
Yoko continued to sing even upon the husband’s demise with some of the works she put out after being directly inspired by this unfortunate occurrence.
In this regard, she released an album titled Season of Glass in 1981.
Ono’s music is still impactful to date. Her new music is now released under the renewed All-new Plastic Ono Band.
The other members of the band are her son with John (Sean Lennon), Cornelius, and Yuka Honda. In 2009, her song with the band Between my Head and the Sky aired.
DJs have also now mixed her earlier songs into club bangers. In 2012, a Ralphi Rosario mix of her 1995 song Talking to the Universe ranked No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart becoming her seventh consecutive song to do so.
Billboard magazine also named Yoko as the all-time 11th most successful club dance artist in 2016.
The two first met at a London exhibition of Ono’s work. They would soon pick interest in each other and by 1968 they worked on experimental films and recordings for Two Virgin, an album whose controversial cover depicted a picture of both Ono and John naked. The couple got married in 1969.
It was during this time that the Plastic Ono band was formed. The venture proved successful as among other things their 1980 album Double Fantasy won a Grammy.
This meant however, that Lennon couldn’t continue with the Beatles. On this account, Ono was vilified by many as the woman who split-up the group so much so that she left her home in England to settle in Manhattan, New York.
Unfortunately, this controversy followed her even then when in 1980 David Chapman a Beatles fan murdered John Lennon in cold blood just outside the residence.
Prior to John’s death, John and Ono engaged themselves in activism too including when in 1969 they allowed the press into their honeymoon bedroom in Amsterdam in a campaign against the war in Vietnam in what was dubbed as “bed-ins.”
After Netherlands, the couple had sought to shoot their next episodes in America but the government denied them entry and so they settled for Queen Elizabeth hotel in Montreal.
In 1985, the couple had a son Sean Lennon who equally turned to music in his adulthood.
Ono has continued to hail John’s legacy many years after his passing including opening up a museum in his memory in Saitama, Japan (closed in 2010).
Ono the Activist
Separate from Lennon, Ono has involved herself in several social campaigns including philanthropy in cases of individuals hit by disasters as was with the victims of typhoon Pablo in 2010.
Ono also created an art piece towards autism awareness in the same year which was auctioned-off in sixty-seven different parts.
Indeed, many human rights organizations have recognized her efforts. On June 29th 2012 thus, Ono received a lifetime achievement award at the Dublin Biennial.
The Philippines’ Congress has also accorded her a citation and in 2012 she was named as the first Autism Ambassador for the Autism Speaks Organization.
This activism is inspired by Ono’s previous experiences. During World War II for instance, her father was abducted as a prisoner of war in Vietnam which event nearly reduced the rest of the family to beggars.
Ono has also indulged in film making though not as extensively. This was especially during her time with Cox. Her films were often short and precise.
In 1966 for example, she released a film titled Simply No.4 also popularly known as Bottoms which roughly run for five minutes.
Therein is revealed a human being walking on a treadmill with the camera up-close to their buttocks.
Ono also acted in a few more films including Aderson West’s Isle of Dogs in 2018.