Yoko And Me

Originally published in 2003 on

My God Yoko turns 80 on February 18th. The Most Famous Widow in the World is still going strong. It's time to give this woman her props. Her due.

Yoko of the long, wild hair, the "bed in" and the peace marches. Yoko, the artist of turned the world on end because she dared to love John Lennon.

"I knew Yoko then as most people did --- band breaker, screamer and all-round bad lady."

Yoko has been immortalized in song, both by her late husband and other musicians. Who can forget that 1991 Barenaked Ladies song "Be My Yoko Ono."

I don't like all these people slagging her for breaking up the Beatles
(Don't blame it on Yokey)…
(CHORUS) You can be my Yoko Ono
You can follow me wherever I go
Be my, be my, be my Yoko Ono

I was someone's Yoko once.

In my last year of university my friend Cindy became enchanted with John Lennon. We made a grand entrance as the charismatic couple at our friends' Hallowe'en bash by dancing into the room to the tune of Imagine: she, resplendent in a white suite, tin foil halo and round shades and me with flowing tresses, hippie skirt and enormous sunglasses. John and Yoko -- Hallowe'en ghouls.

I knew Yoko then as most people did --- band breaker, screamer and all-round bad lady.

Yoko is much maligned for her relationship to John Lennon. People generally think she was lucky to be with him. What they don't realize is that he was lucky to be with her.

Yoko Ono is an accomplished conceptual artist./ She started conceptual art when there were no words for it. That's how John met her, figuratively, when she held her first one-woman art show in London in 1966. One of her installations required people to climb a ladder to the ceiling and to look through a magnifying glass. John did so to find the word "yes!" He was smitten.

Look at the lyrics of the songs he wrote after meeting Ono. In "Oh My Love" Lennon sings:

Oh my love for the first time in my life
My eyes are wide open
Oh my lover for the first time in my life
My eyes can see
I see the wind, oh I see the trees
Everything is clear in my heart

Many people like to talk about her "singing" (yes she screams) or give their opinion about how she alienated John from his mates and first wife. It's like reducing a master artist to a simple brush strike – "Oh yes Picasso, he had terrible teeth."

When I went to Antigua for a holiday, men would call out to me "Yoko" or "China" – somehow, she became the Most Famous Asian Woman. Yet, I didn't know much about Yoko until I went to a play called "The Yoko Ono Project" in 2000. Toronto actress Jean Yoon wanted to reclaim Yoko's name.

Through her play, I discovered Yoko was born into a strict, wealthy Japanese family. Women at the time weren't expected to have their own careers, let alone one as a multi-disciplinary artist. After getting a degree in philosophy at a Tokyo university, Yoko took a divergent path from her family. She went to study music in New York. From there she married and divorced twice.

Soon after Yoko and John hooked up officially, there were comparisons to Linda – Paul McCartney's wife who died in 1998 of breast cancer. Linda came on the scene the same time as Yoko, Linda is described as more "affable' and therefore the "anti-Yoko."

Even the esteemed liberal mag, the Village Voice, compared Yoko to a Dragon Lady.

In a Watch magazine article about her 1996 CD "Rising," the reviewer suggested John's killer "could have saved us all a lot of grief by just aiming one foot to the right."

The violence in this statement is reprehensible. Yoko watched the person she loved slaughtered in front of her. She had to hold is dying body as life drifted from him. For the reviewer to utter this wish is tantamount to a hate crime.

Yoko didn't fit the stereotype of a rock star girlfriend/wife. She had to stay unassuming – as submissive as a geisha, or peoples' image of one.

She had guts to stick it out. She kept quiet and didn't answer her critics. Instead, Yoko ploughed through in her own fashion --- still screaming, still making art and still talking about love and peace.

She has withstood her detractors with a dignity that transcends all the small-minded hate heaped on her. I finally met Yoko in 2002 when the Art Gallery of Ontario put on a retrospective of her work titled "Yes, Yoko Ono" Cindy and I procured tickets to her talk.

Her presence imbued the room with peace and tranquility.

At the end of her lecture, she gave us blue puzzle pieces and said they were fragments of the sky broken up on Sept. 11 when the Twin Towers fell. Yoko urged us to get together in New York four years later to put the sky back together.

One of Yoko's famous sayings is "I thought art was a verb, not a noun." She lives it.

Yoko, you rock. John Knew that. It's in the words he left behind in "Dear Yoko."

After all is really said and done
The two of us are really one
The goddess really smiled upon our love, dear Yoko.