One woman, four men and one myth: The artist and activist Yoko Ono became known worldwide alongside the brilliant singer John Lennon (1940-1980). But for a long time the eccentric woman with the long, black hair had anything but a good reputation. Many fans of the legendary British band The Beatles still believe that Lennon, Paul McCartney (80), Ringo Starr (82) and George Harrison (1943-2001) broke up because of them. She drove a wedge between everyone - so the legend goes. But that myth has long since been debunked, and Ono is far more than just Lennon's widow. For her 90th birthday on February 18, there are exciting facts about a multi-layered woman.
What many like to forget about Yoko Ono: She had already made a name for herself in the art scene before she married John Lennon. She established herself in New York as a conceptual artist and is considered a companion of the US Fluxus movement. It is not the work itself that counts, but rather the creative idea. One of her most important concept works is "Cut Piece" - the audience was allowed to use scissors to cut down the artist's clothes in the mid-1960s. To this day, it is a valued work of performance art. US model Kendall Jenner (27) once humorously recreated it for "W Magazine".
Not only in her art Ono is a pioneer of her time. As a musician she has also broken some conventions. She worked with sounds together with John Lennon in the 1960s and 1970s - screams and animal noises were among them. An absolute shock for many Beatles fans who were used to catchy melodies. "I wanted to try things that nobody had risked before," explained the 90-year-old in a 2010 interview with the "Süddeutsche Zeitung".
The duo Lennon and Ono also caused a stir with their first joint album "Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins" - mainly because of the cover. Because the two can be seen naked on it and that in the prudish 1960s. As an activist, she is still committed to good things today. With her "Bed-Ins" and her film "Bed Peace" she fought for world peace alongside her husband in 1969. Later she also campaigned, among other things, for the recognition of same-sex partnerships and took part in a campaign against presidential candidate George W. Bush (76) in 2004 - nevertheless he was re-elected.
Without question: The relationship between Yoko Ono and John Lennon was intense. The two met at her exhibition in London in 1966 and stayed in touch. Two years later, the whole thing ended in an affair, both then divorced their spouses. While Ono was married to Anthony Cox (86) at the time and had a daughter with him, Lennon was in a relationship with Cynthia (1939-2015) – the two also had son Julian (59) together. After some resistance, Ono and Lennon finally married in Gibraltar in 1969.
But things didn't always go smoothly. So the two were separated for about 18 months. It was then reported about wild party nights that Lennon is said to have indulged in during this time. "I'm ashamed when I think about that time. I behaved like an idiot at the time," he later said in an interview with "Playboy". While Ono was touring Japan and recording an album, Lennon made a commitment to a new woman. He had a relationship with her longtime assistant May Pang (72), the two even moved in together. The musician later described the time as a "lost weekend". But Ono also had her fingers in the pie: she proposed to Pang that she should become her husband's mistress and arranged everything. In early 1975, Ono and Lennon finally found each other again. Their son Sean (47) was born in October.
Before that, Ono was going through a tough time. After the divorce, her ex-husband Anthony Cox disappeared with their then seven-year-old daughter Kyoko (59). The artist did not see her again until she was an adult. "I missed her so much that it hurt physically, like someone ripped off part of my body," she said in a 2010 interview with Brigitte magazine. Together with Lennon, she had been looking for her daughter for years. "He was always the driving force, even when I couldn't anymore." She described the contact with her daughter as "good".
For a long time, the myth persisted that Yoko Ono was the reason the Beatles broke up. But band member Paul McCartney recently explained on the "Howard Stern Show" how it really happened. John Lennon dissolved the group. "There was a meeting where John came in and said, 'I'm leaving the group.'" McCartney clarified that Ono was a good choice for his friend. "Even though we thought she was being pushy because she was on the shoot and we've never had anything like that before. But when you look back you're like, 'The guy was madly in love with her. And you just have to respect that.' So we did that."
A tragic event occurred on December 8, 1980: John Lennon was shot dead in front of her home in New York by a mentally confused Mark David Chapman (67) - in front of Yoko Ono's eyes. After this horrific day, the artist is busy honoring and preserving her late husband's life's work. She has published Lennon's material over the years, and she was also on board as a producer on some documentaries, such as Peter Jackson's (61) "The Beatles: Get Back".
To this day she lives in the Dekota Building in New York. So in the house in front of which her great love was shot. Ono regularly takes action against the use of her name or Lennon. A beverage manufacturer wanted to sell its lemonade under the name John Lemon - the artist stopped the whole thing. Fans of the late singer can visit a small memorial in Central Park that Yoko Ono designed after his death. This is entitled "Strawberry Fields" and is named after the Beatles song "Strawberry Fields Forever".
Yoko Ono regularly turns to those responsible and demands that her husband's murderer should never be released from prison. In August 2022, his application for dismissal was rejected. She dealt with the death of her great love in her own way: for the cover of her album "Season of Glass" (1981), she placed his blood-smeared glasses on a table in the shared apartment. In the album she processed the tragic and far too early loss.
But Ono also had to put up with a lot: "In the last fifty, sixty years I have been insulted, lies have been spread about me and hate letters have been sent to me," she told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" in 2013. She turned the hatred into positive energy. "That was so much energy that I now have enough for two hundred years." She did not lose hope and continued to work as an artist after Lennon's death. In 2009 she received the Golden Lion for her life's work at the Venice Art Biennale.