By Jaan Uhelszki, The Morton Report
Yoko Ono is diminutive in size, but huge in spirit. She is a fearless artist who will attempt anything, whether it’s topping the Billboard charts as a dance diva in her seventh decade or redefining our concept of space with her art installations. Over the years she has become so much more than John Lennon’s still-grieving widow – and hardly anyone ever accuses her of breaking up the Beatles anymore – but she still does grieve that irreparable loss, but it no longer defines her.
She insists she never looks back, and while that may not be explicitly true, it’d be harder to find a more forward thinker. The Morton Report speaks to Ono before she reprises her “Silent Piece” mediation for the 2011 Solstice.
A question that you often ask yourself?
When am I going to clean out that closet?
What do you feel your true calling is?
Why is John’s legacy so enduring?
Because John shared so much of himself with the world.
Your fondest memory of John?
There are too many. As I said in my song, “Let me count the ways…”
What’s it like recording with Sean? Do you overcome the mother/son politics or do they rear their head in the studio?
It’s always a very pleasant experience. Probably because both of us totally get into music.
Advice that you gave him?
Do your own thinking.
Best piece of advice ever given to you?
Not advice, rather life experience.
I read in an interview that John is an enduring presence in your life and you feel that your partnership is not over yet? You’ve also said you communicate with him still. What form does that communication take?
That is not what I said. I said, “I ‘feel’ he still communicates with me.” I get a feeling. That’s all.
Do you feel that you are still the most misunderstood woman in the public eye, as Playboy once dubbed you? Is it important to be understood? What is more important?
I feel that it’s important for me that I was not hated based on some public misunderstanding. If I was going to be hated, I would at least want to be hated for what I did, not for what I didn’t do.
What is the greatest misconception about you?
That I was an evil person. I’m not.
What do you do to stay young – mentally, physically, artistically?
I don’t do anything particularly. I exercise sometimes, thinking that I should. I go on a diet sometimes, thinking that I should. But I soon get tired of it. I truly believe that the reason I am not old and shriveled up is because I don’t have time to sit on my laurels and nod off.
Do you have a motto?
Remember, everything is a blessing in disguise. Be thankful of every little thing that comes to you. (Of course, I quite often forget my motto and have to remind myself!)
You have influenced so many musicians, from Cat Power to the Flaming Lips to Sonic Youth to Ween. Do you think you’ve had a greater effect on women or men?
I don’t know. Men or women, I still don’t know if I had any effect on people. Put it this way, it’s something I’m not losing sleep over.
What role does intuition play in your life and work? Do you live on the subconscious plane?
I’m living everywhere. I hate to think that I’ve limited myself to living only in my subconscious!
Your son Sean said a few years ago, “Now is her time. People are more ready.” Do you think this is your time, artistically, cosmically in the way that 1966 was for you?
To me, it was always my time.
One thing that you would change about yourself?
Let me live for the longest time, healthy and active – that is, if there was a chance that I wouldn’t.
What makes you angry?
Injustice in the world.
How were you first discovered?
I was first discovered by my mother, coming out of her. She looked at me after I was scrubbed clean and was sleeping. She said I had an air of a great person even with my eyes closed. My father, sadly, was in another country at the time.
In the 1960s you were part of the Fluxus movement. I understand Beck’s grandfather Al Hansen had a piece called “Yoko Ono’s Piano Drop.” How did that come about? Did you have any input in the piece?
I learnt about the piece much later. It was very sweet of Al to create such a piece. But that was how Al was. He was a very sensitive artist with a beautiful soul.
Where does your art come from? Where are you usually when you get an idea
about a creation? What inspires you?
Newton was inspired by an apple dropping from the tree. What inspire us? Anything, is the answer.
Do you have an organized process or do you rely on chaos?
You know about the dragon with eight legs. He was walking very well, until somebody asked him, “How do you walk with eight legs?” Don’t ask questions like that if you like me at all, please!
Something you can’t live without.
Please describe a thing of beauty.
What fan tribute has touched you the most after John’s passing?
The fact that so many people sent me letters right away. I went to the office and saw a pile of letters. I started crying and said, “Oh dear, so many letters for John, but he can’t answer them anymore.” I automatically thought they were fans’ letters to John, as usual. When an assistant told me that they were for me, for a second, I could not believe what I heard. The letters
from fans really helped me to survive those initial years. They still do.
A dream you’ll always remember.
The dream John and I had together: to create a better world for the human race and the planet.
What do you think your greatest gift is?
Your favorite household chore, and why.
Cleaning. It makes me feel good.
The furthest you’ve gone for a laugh.
I laugh every day, without going anywhere specially. Life is full of great laughs.
Were you ever bored during the 1969 Bed-In? What did you two do to occupy
We had each other, and how!