Yoko Ono spreads message of peace, love in Long Branch

by Kathy Dzielak, Asbury Park Press

Ask Yoko Ono how she feels about the Internet, and the answer probably shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“I do Twitter, I do Facebook, I do MySpace,” says the 77-year-old Ono. “I just love the fact that it’s given me an opportunity to have a conversation with people.

“It’s a very strong form of communication.”

Communication has always been key for Ono.

Beatle John Lennon became smitten with the Japanese-American artist after she communicated the word “Yes” as part of her 1966 installation at London’s Indica Gallery.

It was the beginning of a passionate, productive and historic pairing that, in many ways, has never ended, 30 years after Lennon was murdered outside the couple’s home in New York City’s Dakota building, on Dec. 8, 1980.

Since that day, Ono has focused on the positive. As the 70th anniversary of Lennon’s birthday approaches — Oct. 9, 1940 — she’s immersed in preserving her husband’s legacy of art and music while spreading the couple’s message of love and peace.

As part of that effort, she is presenting a touring exhibition titled “In My Life: The Artwork of John Lennon,” making a stop this weekend at Pier Village in Long Branch. A suggested donation of $2 will benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Long Branch, a respite for families of seriously ill children.

Although Ono won’t be attending the exhibition, she says she’s excited to be bringing it to the Jersey Shore.

“I think New Jersey is starting to have a new growth,” she says. “In Asbury Park, right?”

Many of the pictures on view and for sale are charming and delightfully childlike in their simplicity. Some are the result of Lennon’s early communications with the couple’s son, Sean, who will turn 35 on the birthdate he shares with his father: Oct. 9.

Now a musician in his own right, Sean was just 5 years old when his father died.

“Sean was having a lot of fun with John (before he died),” Ono recalls. “They were always having a dialogue by doing drawings together. Sean would do a drawing and show it to John, and John would say, “What is that?,’ and Sean would say, “Well this is a . . . ‘ and give some long, long explanation, and John would put that (explanation) underneath the drawing, as the title of the drawing. It was all very beautiful.”

“So, they were having a very good conversation,” Ono continues. “John was proud that he was an artist, and that he knew how to communicate with Sean through art.”

As for Ono, “I was the businesswoman,” she says with a giggle.

She’s still the businesswoman. This year, Ono is working with EMI Records to reissue Lennon’s complete musical catalog.

“They have not done anything like that before,” Ono says. “I remastered 121 songs — can you imagine? It’s very, very big.”

Ono says preserving Lennon’s legacy has at times felt like an enormous responsibility.

“One thing that (has been) kind of hard is that I realized how brilliant he was. . . I really realized it by going through all of his songs. But it was a pleasure to go through it — painful and a pleasure. Anyway, I just wanted to say (to him), “Hey, you were good,’ but he’s not right next me — I mean, I wish he was — so I could say to him, “Hey, you were good, you were good.’ ”

I’m sure he knows that, I assure her.

“I hope so,” Ono says, softly.

Aging gracefully

The World Wide Web and related social-networking technology didn’t exist in 1980. Had Lennon been around to witness the digital revolution, he would have said “count me in,” to hear Ono tell it.

Imagine: John Lennon, tweeting.

“I think he would still be political (today),” says Ono. “But I don’t think he would want to run for public office. You can’t do anything in office — there’s so much red tape — and besides, he didn’t need an office. But also, I think he’s still working. I think one of the reasons he had to fly up there was because he thought he might be a stronger power, maybe.”

She says growing older doesn’t concern her.

“I’m fully aware of the fact that I’m 77 — statistics I think show women are, on average, 78 when they die — but I don’t think I’m going to die next year; that would be very inconvenient,” she says with a laugh. “The thing is, I’m very thankful every day for being alive, because a lot of things have happened that were good, and I was still alive to experience it. Right after John’s passing, everyone thought maybe I was going to jump off a roof or something, but the point was, I had Sean — I just had to keep on going.”

How does Ono want to be remembered?

“I can’t think of (that) yet, and of course, they’re going to do whatever they want to do,” she says. “They’re going to talk about me the way they want to talk about me. Hopefully, they won’t be mean. I hope they say what I am doing had a good influence on other people.”

One more question: Is she happy?

“Oh, I’m happy, are you happy?” she says. “I think happiness is something that comes and goes. And you know, it’s good when you’re happy.”


Yoko Ono is promoting a touring exhibition titled “In My Life: The Artwork of John Lennon,” making a stop this weekend at Pier Village in Long Branch. A suggested donation of $2 will benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Long Branch, a respite for families of seriously ill children.

In My Life: The artwork of John Lennon
Noon to 9 p.m. today; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday Pier Village, 78 Ocean Ave., Long Branch
$2 donation suggested to benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Long Branch