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Yoko Ono

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A gentle force that has touched millions

Born in Tokyo, Japan, Yoko Ono moved to the USA at the age of 14 and was later immersed in the New York avant garde milieu. A reputation as a film-maker and conceptual artist preceded her collaborations with John Lennon which followed in the wake of their meeting in 1966. The couple's links were both professional and personal - they married in 1969 - and whereas Lennon introduced Yoko to rock, she in turn brought an appreciation of electronic music. Early collaborations, Two Virgins, Life With The Lions and Wedding Album, were self-indulgent and wilfully obscure, but with the formation of the Plastic Ono Band the Lennons began to forge an exciting musical direction.

Unfairly vilified as the architect of the Beatles' demise, Yoko emerged as a creative force in her own right with a series of excellent compositions, including "Don't Worry Kyoto" and "Listen, The Snow Is Falling". Yoko Ono/The Plastic Ono Band, her companion collection to Lennon's cathartic solo debut, was equally compulsive listening and a talent to captivate or confront was also prevalent on Fly, Approximately Infinite Universe and Feeling The Space. Several tracks, including "Men Men Men" and "Woman Power", addressed feminist issues while her music's sparse honesty contrasted with the era's penchant for self-indulgence.

The couple's relationship continued to undergo public scrutiny, particularly in the wake of a highly publicized separation, but the birth of their son Sean, following their reconciliation, resulted in a prolonged retirement. The Lennons re-emerged in 1980 with Double Fantasy, for which they shared creative responsibility, and were returning home from completing a new Yoko single on the night John was shot dead. The resultant track, "Walking On Thin Ice", was thus imbued with a certain poignancy, but while not without merit, the artist's ensuing albums have failed to match its intensity. Ono has also supervised the release of unpublished material - videos, writings and recordings - drawn from Lennon's archive and continues to pursue their pacifist causes.

She has tolerated much indifference and abuse over the years, initially because she dared to fall in love with a Beatle and latterly because it was felt that she manipulated Lennon. Through all the flack Ono has maintained her integrity and dignity, and her music was granted a belated reappraisal on 1992's The Ono Box. She returned to music in 1995 together with her son Sean Lennon and his band Ima. Rising came as a surprise, with Ima adding great texture to Ono's strong lyrics.

She also contiunes her peace activist role, and the following is reprinted from the BBC News:

BBC News UK Edition

Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK

Ono launches peace prize
The artists, Yoko Ono and Kofi Annan
The artists were honoured by Ono and UN chief Kofi Annan (second from right)
Yoko Ono, widow of the late Beatle John Lennon, has inaugurated her own peace award by giving $50,000 (31,900) prize money to Israeli and Palestinian artists.

Ono bestowed the first Lennon Ono Grant for Peace to Israeli Zvi Goldstein and Palestinian Khalil Rabah on Wednesday at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, for their efforts to remain "creative and inspirational" amid the tensions of war.

The award was made on the day that would have been Lennon's 62nd birthday. Lennon was shot dead outside his New York apartment in 1980 by Mark Chapman.

Earlier this week, Chapman - who was jailed after he admitted killing the celebrated musician - failed to secure his release from prison after the New York State parole board turned down his second parole bid.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono campaigning for peace
The bed protest became world famous

At the awards ceremony, Ono said: "Imagine all the people living life in peace," echoing the words to Lenon's peace anthem Imagine.

She added that future grants would be given only to artists living "in regions of conflict".

Goldstein is an award-winning Israeli artist who lives in Jerusalem. He accepted the award "in memory of all those who died in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict".

Rabah lives and works in Ramallah and organised the first institution for contemporary art in the West Bank. He was also a pioneer in exhibiting his work alongside that of Israeli artists.

"I think we need to continue this spirit of the possibility of peace," Rabah said.


Ono and Lennon, in their years together, attracted much attention with their gestures to promote world peace.

The pictures of their hotel "bed-in" have become some of the most enduring of the last few decades.

yoko ono
Ono carries on Lennon's peace work

Likewise, Imagine, is considered timeless. Since Lennon's death, Ono has continued her campaigning around the world.

Earlier this year she was believed to have paid 150,000 for a giant billboard space amid the flashing neon signs of Piccadilly Circus.

There, she has placed a poster bearing the words: "Imagine all the people living life in peace" - a lyric from Imagine.

Wednesday's ceremony was attended by around 300 people, made up of artists and diplomats, including UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Mr Annan said: "Individuals can make a difference; individuals can play a role, and she's (Ono) out there making a difference and I think it's great."

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