Born into a privileged background, she attended the exclusive Gakushuin academy in Tokyo from primary school all the way through to the college division. After 2 months at the university, she moved with her family to Scarsdale, New York and enrolled in Sarah Lawrence College. In 1956, she married composer Toshi Ichiyanagi. They divorced in 1962. She married American Christian fundamentalist filmmaker Tony Cox on November 28, 1962. The marriage was annulled on March 1, 1963; they re-married that June 6, and divorced on February 2, 1969. Their daughter, Kyoko Chan Cox, was born on August 8, 1963.
An early member of the Fluxus art movement, Ono is best known for marrying The Beatles' John Lennon. They met when John visited a preview of an exhibition of Yoko's. He was taken with the attitude of the exhibits, such as a telescope looking at the word 'Yes' on a ceiling, a block of wood with protruding nails to be hammered in, 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.
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 impacted upon a life 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 performed with Lennon on several of his albums, beginning with the 1968 Two Virgins and including those recorded under the name of the Plastic Ono Band. Ono also achieved moderate success as a musician in her own right. Many of her earlier songs retain the surreal quality of her art and films; however, her later songs are more conventional. Quite a few of her songs have been covered by other prominent musicians, including Elvis Costello's, among others, one of "Walking On Thin Ice".
Recently she began expanding her music to dance tracks. In 2002 she released a double-single called Will I? / Fly, each with some remixes. In 2003 she had more success with new versions of "Walking on Thin Ice", remixed by top DJs and dance artists including Pet Shop Boys, Orange Factory and Peter Rauhofer. There were so many mixes, and their popularity was high enough, that she made plans to remix more of her material. She made much of her music available through Apple's iTunes Music Store and was glad of the results. An album compilation of all the WOTI mixes was also planned.
Many of the friends she had worked with on her Thin Ice single, as well as in the art world in general, were gay. Continuing her DJing, in 2004 she remade her "Every Man loves a Woman" song in support of same-sex marriages, releasing a single with remixes that included "Every Man loves a Man" and "Every Woman loves a Woman" versions (as well as straight versions, too).
Ono has allegedly had a turbulent relationship with Paul McCartney for some time in a dispute centred around the writing credits for many Beatles songs, traditionally credited to Lennon/McCartney. McCartney had wanted to change this to Paul McCartney and John Lennon for some songs, but she would not allow it. She had also wanted to remove the McCartney credit for "Give Peace a Chance".
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.
See also: Japanese American
- 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)
- Welcome: The Many Sides Of Yoko Ono (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)
- Will I / Fly (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.
- Filmography from IMDb
- Associated Press article, July 8, 2004: "Yoko Ono Makes Old Song Gay Friendly"
- Yoko Ono's Snow review by Tom Johnson Originally published on February 7, 1977