How big of a force of nature do you have to be to be accused of singlehandedly breaking up the biggest rock band in music history?
Yoko Ono confuses people—people who don’t know what to make of such a complicated, enigmatic, unapologetic woman (especially one married to a beloved rock star). I’ve started using her as a sort of character litmus test: I know whether I’m going to like somebody based on their opinion of Yoko. If you think she’s a bitch who destroyed the the Fab Four, then we probably aren’t going to get along. Because Yoko was amazing all by herself, and the Beatles had problems enough on their own—they didn’t need her help to break up.
Yoko Ono was a conceptual artist way before she met John Lennon—probably her most famous (and my favorite) work was Cut Piece, from 1965, where she sat on a stage and allowed audience members to come up and cut off pieces of her clothing.
It was a brave experiment, in which she placed enormous trust in the hands of strangers. Yoko was also a musician—her albums were experimental, avant garde, conceptual, and a whole bunch of other adjectives that basically say this woman is brilliant.
Even if you don’t dig her music—which is fair!—you gotta at least admire Yoko as a person. She’s had so much shit, many of it motivated by sexism and racism, flung at her over the years, and she still stands strong and committed: committed to her artwork, committed to inspiring and provoking radical thinking, and above all committed to her message of imagining peace.
(And because I am a fan of FURTHER READING, here are two things you need to check out if you have even a passing interest in Yoko Ono: Cara Kulwicki’s five-part series on why Yoko got a totally bad rap from Beatles fans who just didn’t get it, and Bitch magazine’s homage to the icon from other artists and musicians.)