#RespectYourElders: Yoko Ono, age 86, is an artist, filmmaker, peace advocate and musician. Many people know of her marriage to John Lennon, the late guitarist and singer of the Beatles.
Ono was born in 1933 in Tokyo, Japan. As a young girl, she wrote poetry, plays, learned classical piano and took voice lessons. She briefly studied philosophy at Gakushūin University in Tokyo before moving to Scarsdale, New York with her family. Once in the United States, Ono pursued writing and music at Sarah Lawrence College, but never graduated.
In the late 1950s, Ono’s experimental performance art took shape in her New York loft. During these shows, she set paintings on fire and invited audiences to cut her clothing and step on her artwork. Ono drew inspiration from incorporating art into everyday life. She became associated with the Fluxus movement, which was an avant-garde, international group of artists who aimed to bring social and economic change to the art world.
She was married twice and had one daughter, Kyoko Chan Cox, before her marriage to John Lennon in 1969. They married three years after meeting at her art exhibition in London. Ono’s popularity skyrocketed after her marriage to Lennon.
The couple’s honeymoon consisted of two week-long bed-ins in Amsterdam and Canada where Ono and Lennon protested the Vietnam War. They invited the press into their hotel rooms, where they laid in bed, surrounded by hand-drawn signs and flowers.
While Ono and Lennon pushed for peace, the Beatles’ relationship had become anything but peaceful. Shortly after their marriage, the Beatles broke up. While it’s a common rumor that Ono broke up the band, Paul McCartney has said the real cause was the band’s rivalry and need for change.
The Beatles’ breakup opened up opportunities for Ono and Lennon to collaborate on art, film and musical projects. The couple released eight records including “Wedding Album” and “Double Fantasy,” which won the Album of the Year Award at the Grammys in 1982, shortly after Lennon passed away.
“I think John is with us here today.” Ono said during her acceptance speech. “Both John and I were always very proud and happy that we were part of the human race. He made good music for the Earth and for the universe.”
Ono continued her work as an artist and peace advocate after her husband’s death. In 1981 she began the “Wish Tree” initiative, through which across the world, trees native to the location are planted under her guidance. Once the tree has grown, visitors are encouraged to write a wish and tie it to the tree. Over one million wishes have been collected from the “Wish Trees.” Those wishes are kept at the site of the Imagine Peace Tower near Reykjavik in Iceland, which is a beaming light that illuminates the sky and memorial Ono dedicated to Lennon.
Ono and Lennon’s relationship is still widely discussed by fans, including in the recent documentary, “John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky,” which premiered on the A&E network in March 2019 and is now available on Netflix. It tells the story of Lennon’s album “Imagine,” and the couple’s creative collaborations.
Always an optimist, Ono has said: “We are all dreamers creating the next world, the next beautiful world for ourselves and for our children.”