Saturday, December 19, 2009

In Defense of Yoko Ono

By James Magary

Singer and multimedia avant-garde artist Yoko Ono has been reviled by Beatles fans for decades. She has been consistently viewed in the press and among fans as being the one who "broke up the Beatles", despite the fact that none of the Beatles themselves ever made that claim.

Although John Lennon consistently supported Yoko and her work, and even collaborated with her on much of his own music, she has never received proper recognition as an artist in her own right. Ono has contributed a lot to the world of music and art, and it is clear from the band's history that it was their own acrimony and creative differences that sent them their separate ways. So why is there so much disrespect towards Yoko Ono?

Ono has the distinction of being the only long-term songwriting collaborator to work with John Lennon, other than Paul McCartney. This fact is likely responsible for much of the resentment towards her. After all, the Beatles were the most respected and beloved band of the 1960's, and they broke up in the prime of their career (Abbey Road, their last album, is widely regarded as one of their best).

Following their breakup, many fans saw that John Lennon wanted to collaborate only with Ono, who by then had become his wife, but many viewed the collaboration as far inferior to the work that John had produced with Paul McCartney. It is also apparent from the film "Let It Be" that there was much tension in the band while Yoko was with them in the studio.

However, these facts do not make Ono responsible for the breakup. Many Beatles fans do not seem willing to accept that the Beatles were heading towards a breakup due to the increasingly diverging views of John and Paul as to how to proceed with the band's career. By 1969, the Beatles had not toured in 3 years, and Paul wanted to relaunch the band as a touring act, but John Lennon did not share this interest.

In addition, the songwriting partnership between the two had changed dramatically, to the point where they did not write songs together (nor did they need to, as evidenced by the continuing brilliant quality of their respective work). All indications were that John and Paul were growing apart as artists, and simply outgrew the Beatles, which began as an innocent rock and roll group when they were both teenagers.

Fans tend to feel as through they have been denied several additional Beatles albums, and a lot of the blame is directed at Yoko Ono for that. I think a better way to look at it is that the Beatles had a "perfect" career, and went out on top, crossing Abbey Road and heading into immortality while still at the peak of their creative powers. I think it is a good thing that the world was spared the sight of the Beatles in creative decline, which is something fans have had to endure from many other artists from the Beatles era.

The last point on Yoko is that she actually deserves credit for being a genuine influence on some great work that John did in the 1970's, and in 1980 before his tragic murder. And, she was a worthwhile composer and recording artist in her own right. In fact, many of the songs primarily composed by Yoko on the albums they did together was more innovative, and has proven to be more influential, than John's songs, and how unexpected is that? Bands like the B52s and Cibo Matto cite Yoko as a major influence on their work, and she continues to make new recordings to this day which push the boundaries of pop music.

I will sum it up with my favorite line from the Barenaked ladies song "Be My Yoko Ono." "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)!"

Many fans are renewing their appreciation of the Beatles music (which does in fact include Yoko Ono's voice on two songs, "Revolution 9" and "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill", both from the White Album), on the recently released remastered albums and box sets. Fans can also get the entire Beatles catalog in high quality audiophile 24 bit FLAC format sound or high quality mp3's on the Beatles USB Apple product, scheduled for release on December 8th, 2009.

To learn more, or to read about the Beatles USB Apple click here:

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