Happy Birthday to Yoko Ono, who turns 80 years old on Monday (February 18th). Yoko was born in Tokyo to a musician turned extremely successful banker Eisuke Ono, who was a descendant of the Emperor of Japan. Yoko's mother, Isoko Ono, is the granddaughter of Zenjiro Yasuda, of the famed Yasuda banking family. Despite her contributions to the conceptual art world, she will forever be entwined both personally and artistically with late husband John Lennon. Yoko and the couple's son, Sean Lennon, are currently active in the anti-fracking campaign in New York State.
John and Yoko met on November 9th, 1966 -- the night before he show opening at London's Indica Art Gallery, and became romantically linked sometime between mid-1967 and mid-1968. By the spring of 1968, the pair, whom Lennon took to calling "Johnandyoko," began a long-standing artistic partnership with the recording of their debut album, called Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins. The album included experimental sounds recorded in Lennon's home studio, and featured an album cover showing them nude.
John Lennon recalled meeting Yoko in 1966: "I'm looking for action, y'know? I see this thing, 'Hammer A Nail In' -- it's a board with a chain and a hammer hanging on it and a bunch of nails at the bottom. I said, 'Well, can I hammer a nail in?' (Yoko laughs) She says, 'No.' But she came over and says, 'You can hammer one in for five schillings. I said, 'Are you. . . I'll give you an imaginary five schillings and hammer an imaginary nail in, alright?' And that's when we fell -- (sings) da da da da."
The couple shared an intense and symbiotic relationship, and after five years of non-stop time together in which they recorded, performed, and worked together on various political and creative pursuits, they separated for 14 months.
Upon reconciling in January 1975, Ono became pregnant, and on October 9th, 1975, which was Lennon's 35th birthday, she gave birth to the couple's only child, Sean Taro Ono Lennon.
After Lennon's murder on December 8th, 1980, Ono inherited complete control of the Lennon estate and has commemorated most of his posthumous birthdays with numerous projects, including previously unreleased music, a radio show, an album of interviews, and a clothing and housewares line, to a mixed response from fans.
Joe Raiola, the writer-director of the annual John Lennon tribute held in New York City, told us that despite her many critics, Yoko Ono has never lost her integrity: "The amazing thing to me about Yoko, and I've never heard this said, and there are so many people who vilify her, who hate her, who can't stand her. Now, her husband was shot in cold blood in front of her. And all of their ideals could've been thrown out the window at that point or subsequently. All this stuff about peace and love. Not once did I ever hear Yoko call for revenge."