By Emma Barnett, The Telegraph.
Life as the wife of a Beatle ‘never ends’, Yoko Ono tells Emma Barnett in a radio interview for Woman’s Hour, aired on Tuesday. They discuss John Lennon, her age – she is 80 – and her tireless passion for music.
Just who is Yoko Ono and how can she be 80 years-old? Her age is almost impossible to believe because very few can shake the youthful image of her in the sixties during her iconic ‘bed-ins’ with the love of her life: John Lennon.
It is sad to say, but for many, Yoko Ono’s life has been frozen in time since that fateful day her beloved husband was shot dead in New York.
However, even though she will always be known as Lennon’s widow, she has refused to be defined by what could be seen as a somewhat morbid status and is arguably performing more now, with her son, Sean Lennon and the Plastic Ono band, and putting on a greater number of art shows, than ever before.
I had the pleasure of interviewing her last week for BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. By sheer coincidence, I met Ono in her suite at the Mandarin Oriental in London, the day before I was to fly to Tokyo on a holiday.
Who could be a better person to land an interview with just hours before you hit Japan? Only one of the country’s most famous exports. I am to go to Robata for food and will have no trouble finding amazing cheap boutiques for clothes “on every street corner in Tokyo”, she informs me in her soft Japanese-accented voice. Right-o then. Who am I to argue with Yoko Ono?
We talked about Meltdown, the cultural bonanza she is organising for the South Bank next month, what life is like as an 80 year-old woman, how Lennon shaped her work and how he continues to influence her life and the causes she champions (such as her support of anti-fracking groups and the feminists Pussy Riot – who she has invited to the festival).
She believes the world is gradually becoming a better place but women still need to be treated with greater respect. The work of feminism is not yet done, particularly in Arabic countries, she laments.
Ono is also understandably passionate about ageism in Western society, especially against women. That’s one attitude she is not confident will improve anytime soon. Brilliantly she does think that more mothers and sons should perform music together and this action could help eradicate the idea that women past a certain age aren’t worth considering.
I don’t point out to her that most sons would rather rip out their own nasal hair than be seen jamming with their mums. You see, I like her thinking. Ono’s formula for ending ageism is heartening and at least unique – even if not realistic. She simply doesn’t do ‘dull’ or ‘predictability’.
Ono will have been asked hundreds, if not thousands of times, about her reaction to Lennon’s killing. And yet she is still generous with her honesty and emotion when reflecting upon the shocking murder of the most famous Beatle and the love of her life.
However, it is her description of life as the wife of a Beatle that I just can’t shake from my mind. Quite simply she says it was incredibly difficult and far tougher than being a politician’s spouse because “it never ends”. And the intense dislike she endured from many of the band’s fans definitely took its toll on her.
Being a Beatle wife may be a job for life and one sadly, Ono has had to do for the majority of hers without John Lennon by her side. But she doesn’t inspire sadness – amazingly, only hope. Her jaunty hat and square shades, both of which remained on throughout our chat, are a nod to her creativity and perennial youth – not to mention her slight figure and fantastic skin.
Hats off to you Yoko Ono. I only hope I feel as good and can do as much as you do when I’m pushing 80.