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Music / Yoko Ono

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Keeper of the Lennon flame.

"I know that when I say this I may be stepping on pins and needles
But I don't like all these people slagging her for breaking up the Beatles
(don't blame it on Yokey!)
I mean, if I was John and you were Yoko I would gladly give up musical genius
Just to have you as my very own personal Venus"
Barenaked Ladies, "Be My Yoko Ono"

Yoko Ono (Japanese: 小野 洋子, born February 18, 1933), is a Japanese-American artist and musician who is most widely known for her relationship with John Lennon of The Beatles. When Yoko first met John Lennon, she was an artist exhibiting in the UK. Working with artist group Fluxus throughout the 1960s, Ono was a pioneer in the burgeoning conceptual art movement which included work in sculpture, performance, filmmaking and music.

Ono collaborated with experimental luminaries such as John Cage and jazz legend Ornette Coleman. In 1961, years before meeting Lennon, she had her first major public performance in a concert at the 258-seat Carnegie Recital Hall (not the larger "Main Hall"). This concert featured radical experimental music and performances. She had a second engagement at the Carnegie Recital Hall in 1965, in which she debuted "Cut Piece," a seminal performance within the conceptual art movement.

After John Lennon left the Beatles, the two artists collaborated on music together - working together on very different projects all underneath the umbrella of "Plastic Ono Band." Yoko collaborated together with John on his first three albums: Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins (1968), Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions (1968) and Wedding Album (1969). In 1970, Yoko Ono began to release a number of solo records, which began incorporating rock and blues songs into them, as she was recording many of them in the same studios and with the same musicians that John was using. Although Yoko's work was poorly received initially, the albums have survived and aged well - proving to be part of the foundation of punk rock and new wave music.

Studio and Live Discography (* = John and Yoko, ** = Yoko Ono):

  • 1968 - Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins*
  • 1969 - Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions*
  • 1969 - Wedding Album*
  • 1969 - Live Peace In Toronto 1969*
  • 1970 - Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band**
  • 1971 - Fly**
  • 1972 - Some Time In New York City* note 
  • 1973 - Approximately Infinite Universe
  • 1973 - Feeling the Space** (credited to Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band & Something Different)
  • 1980 - Double Fantasy*
  • 1981 - Season of Glass**
  • 1982 - It's Alright (I See Rainbows)**
  • 1984 - Milk And Honey*
  • 1985 - Starpeace**
  • 1986 - Live In New York City*
  • 1994 - New York Rock** (musical)
  • 1996 - Rising** (with Ima)
  • 1997 - A Story**
  • 2001 - Blueprint for a Sunrise**
  • 2009 - BETWEEN MY HEAD AND THE SKY** (credited to Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band)
  • 2012 - YOKOKIMTHURSTON** (with Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore)
  • 2013 - TAKE ME TO THE LAND OF HELL** (credited to Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band)

Yoko Ono provides the following tropes:

  • All That Glitters: In 2006, she gained considerable notoriety for "Promise Piece-Bones", taking a priceless 500 year old Ming vase and shattering it into pieces and handing each shard away, as a tribute to losing a friend (fellow Fluxus artist Nam June Paik) whom she considered more valuable than an old jar could ever be.
  • Blue Blood: She was a descendent of the Yasuda clan of samurai warrior-scholars (who later founded the Yasuda zaibatsu conglomerate, centered on banking) on her mother's side, while her paternal grandfather was ennobled (into the Japanese kazoku nobility) in 1915.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Some of the art and performance pieces she has done have shown her to be a little ... zany.
    • In fact, many of them (especially the notorious "No. 4"note ) are meant to be funny, but people unfamiliar with surrealist art often didn't realize this.
    • An example of her humorous attitude is seen in a short Fluxus film. The word Art is displayed in beautiful script on a sidewalk a-frame board. Yoko walks in with a large shopping bag — the kind elegant department stores used to give you — and stands next to the sign as if waiting for a bus. The bag has the single letter F on it. Tell me you aren't at least smiling right now.
  • Cool Old Lady: She sang with Lady Gaga, members of Sonic Youth, and more. Both her musical and artistic works have regained a major critical revision by the mid-90s.
  • Cool Shades: Often wore giant sunglasses that covered half of her face.
  • Distinct Double Album: Fly features rock and blues songs, a piano ballad and a piece for tabla on the first disc; and avant-garde music and scores for short films on the second disc.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Her warbling is meant to resemble orgasming in some songs, specifically the end of "Kiss Kiss Kiss" and midway through "AOS". In an interview discussing "Kiss Kiss Kiss," she describes the orgasm as "crying out to be held, to be touched," and ridicules how women's pleasure isn't seen as natural.
  • Long Title: "Greenfield Morning I Pushed an Empty Baby Carriage All Over the City" and "Don't Worry, Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)"
  • Minimalist Cast: Her films usually feature a bare minimum of people.
    • "Fly" features the titular creature crawling across a nude Virginia Lust.
    • "Eye Blink" is one minute of exactly that.
    • "Cut Piece" features Yoko seated on stage while the audience is invited to use scissors to remove a small piece of her dress.
  • My Beloved Smother: According to some biographers, her relationship with John Lennon had elements of this; he even referred to her as "Mother", and John appreciated dating an older woman for the maternal aspects.
  • One-Woman Wail: Often noted for this.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Her album Fly contains "Airmale", the score to John Lennon's film Erection note  and "Fly", the soundtrack to her film of the same name. It also includes audio versions of her art pieces "Toilet Piece" (which was a microphone amplifying a flushing toilet in Carnegie Hall) and "Telephone Piece" (in which she would call a telephone inside a museum, say "Hello, this is Yoko," and then hang up.)
  • P.O.V. Cam: Her short film "Rape" is told from the perspective of the rapist (though the assailant knocks the woman over in an alleyway, instead of doing something much more harmful.)
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: Throughout the years, she's made several of them, including "No Bed for Beatle John" and "Mrs. Lennon". Her 1974 album A Story consists of this mostly.
    • "Listen, the Snow is Falling", released as the B-side to "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" and later covered by Galaxie 500.
  • Take That!: Her song, "Yes, I'm a Witch" probably, as it contains the lyrics "Yes, I'm a witch, I'm a bitch/I don't care what you say/My voice is real, my voice speaks truth/I don't fit in your ways..." and she seems to be speaking to her haters. She also mentioned that she's "gonna stick around for quite a while". She has been, to this day.
  • Wild Hair: In her heyday, Yoko was known for sporting large, seemingly unkempt hair, which provided a unique silhouette and facial frame that she is mostly remembered for. She began sporting a ponytail in the 80s before cutting it shorter.
  • Yoko Oh No: Trope Namer... unfortunately.