Interview by Rebecca Willa Davis, Nylon
THE INSIDER: YOKO ONO
The music icon wants you to give peace a chance – and start a dance revolution.
There are icons, and then there’s Yoko Ono. More than 40 years since she
cut up her clothing in front of an audience and staged bedroom
peace-ins, the artist has managed to stay relevant by—of all
things—staying true to herself. With a chart-topping single in ‘08 and
an new album featuring remixes of “Give Peace A Chance” by indie dance
artists coming out in mid-February, NYLON spoke with Ono to find out
just how she does it. The answer might surprise you.
What about “Give Peace a Chance” makes it such a timeless song?
Right now the world is rather confused and violent, so it’s very
important that we try to change that. Dance is a great way to change
it—while you’re dancing, you start to think “peace.”
How did you pick the musicians to collaborate with you on your new
album, Give Peace A Chance (The International Remixes)?
They were recommended to me, because I really didn’t know anything about
the indies in the world. But now my eyes are open to that world. I’m
excited about all of them.
Is there anyone who you haven’t collaborated with but would love to in
I think I will keep collaborating with the artists in the indie world.
But at the same time, I might try to reach people who are not really
known as indie artists. For instance, I might collaborate with my son
[Sean Lennon]. I just went Tokyo to join his concert, and when I was I
doing it—with his people, his band—I started to feel like maybe we
should do something together.
In what ways have major global changes—from the economy to America’s new
president—affected your work?
I think it’s a very, very beautiful time that we’re stepping into. When
I started promoting peace, a long time ago, very few people were talking
about world peace. Now, 99 percent of people want it. And we’re going to
Have there been any other major changes to the music world since you
It’s getting better, because in those days, there was a kind of
professionalism that was exclusive—very few people played guitar. Now,
there are so many people playing guitar from an early age. Music is
becoming something that’s not limited to anyone! It’s just a part of
life. Especially dance music—I love dancing. It’s just a healthy
thing…From your voice I can tell that you are a dancer.
Well, I grew up dancing and it’s something that’s stayed with me.
Keep dancing! Dance is so important in life. We should go through life
dancing rather than marching.
You’ve been working for decades yet still make music and art that
resonates with people; what’s your secret?
I don’t know—I’m very lucky in that way. I just do it because music to
me is like breathing. I have to keep doing it, I can’t stop. Whenever I
hear dance music, my body starts to move before I think.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
I take advice from everything that’s happening in the world, and it just
gives me knowledge and wisdom to deal with things. That’s what we all
have to do, instead of taking one [piece of] advice from somebody,
because sometimes that advice is not appropriate to what we’re doing.
Just take what’s happening to the world as a big advice.
What, then, is the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
There was very demeaning advice given to women. Like, when I was about
20, they said, “By 24 you’ll be finished. You won’t be looking good
after 24.” I thought, Really? I have three years to go? Even now there
are many things that are said about women that are not true. You listen
to them, but make your own judgement.
Do you have any exciting projects in the pipeline for 2009 and beyond?
I don’t really make long-range plans, which is better because the world
is changing so rapidly. When you plan two years before what you’ll be
doing, it’s usually not appropriate at the time. I’m just trying to do
my best every day. Now is what counts for me—each day.
When all is said and done, what do you hope will be your legacy?
I try to make people wake up to the idea that they are actually very
incredible people. Each person should know how incredible she or he is.
And that’s very important, because each person is like an oasis; you can
either irrigate the oasis or get very bad water, it’s just up to you.