About Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono is a Japanese American artist and musician originally coming to wider attention through her relationship with The Beatles' John Lennon. An avante-garde artist, her relationship, and subsequent marriage, with Lennon saw her cast as the villain in The Beatles split, a tag she still unfairly bears today.
Ono was born in Tokyo, Japan, the eldest of three children born to Eisuke and Isoko, a wealthy aristocratic family. Her father, who worked for the Yokohama Specie Bank, was transferred to San Francisco two weeks before she was born. The rest of the family soon followed. Her father was transferred back to Japan in 1937, and she enrolled at the elite Peers’ School in Tokyo.
In 1940, the family moved to New York, then back to Japan in 1941 when her father was transferred to Hanoi on the eve of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Ono remained in Tokyo through World War II, including the great-fire bombing of 1945. At age 18, Ono moved with her parents to Scarsdale, New York. She studied at Sarah Lawrence College, but left to elope with her first husband, Toshi Ichiyanagi.
Settling in Greenwich Village, she developed her interest in art and also began writing poetry. Considered too radical by many, her work was not well received but she gained recognition after working with American jazz musician/film producer Anthony Cox, who later became her second husband. Cox financed and helped coordinate her "interactive conceptual events" in the early 1960s. Yoko's work often demands the viewers' participation and forces them to get involved. Her most famous piece was the "cut piece" staged in 1964, where the audience was invited to cut off pieces of her clothing until she was naked, an abstract commentary on discarding materialism.
Ono first met John Lennon of the English rock band The Beatles November 9, 1966, when he visited a preview of her exhibition at the Indica Gallery in London. He was taken with the positive, interactive nature of her work. He especially cited a ladder leading up to a black canvas with a spyglass on a chain, which revealed the word “yes’ written on the ceiling. They began an affair approximately 18 months later. Lennon divorced his first wife, Cynthia (they had a son, Julian, born in 1963), and married Ono on March 20, 1969.
The couple collaborated on art, film, and musical projects, and became famous for their series of ‘conceptual events’ to promote world peace, including the ‘bed-in’ held in an Amsterdam hotel room during their honeymoon in 1969.
Ono has two children, including Kyoko Chan Cox in 1963 with Tony Cox. In 1971, Cox defied a court order and took Kyoko and disappeared. Kyoko and Yoko reconciled in 1994. Ono's second child, Sean, was born in 1975 with Lennon. He is a well-known musician. John Lennon quit the music business to raise Sean. When he returned to the spotlight in 1980, Lennon was shot by a deranged fan, only a few feet from Ono.
Following Lennon's death, Ono continued her career and has recorded albums, performed concert tours, and composed two off-Broadway musicals. She exhibited her art internationally, and in 2002 the first U.S. retrospective of her work opened in New York City. On October 9th that year, to commemorate what would have been Lennon' 62nd birthday, she inaugurated the Lennon Ono Grant for Peace prize.
Yoko Ono was born in 1933 to mother Isoko Ono, the great-granddaughter of Zenjiro Yasuda of the Yasuda banking family, and to father Yeisuke Ono, a banker and one-time classical pianist who was a descendant of an Emperor of Japan.