John Lennon and Yoko Ono quickly became inseparable, and he referred to her in many of his songs. ‘Julia’ carried a reference to “Ocean child”, the kanji meaning of “yoko”. He also composed ‘Don’t Let Me Down’, ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ and ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ about her, and the 1969 single ‘The Ballad Of John And Yoko’ documented their wedding and honeymoon.
Unfinished Music No 2: Life With The Lions was released in May 1969, and their third and final experimental collection, Wedding Album, followed in November. The pair were also a part of the debut performance by Plastic Ono Band at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival Festival, at which they performed with Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann and Alan White. The concert ended with an extended avant-garde piece in which Ono repeatedly screamed over guitar feedback.
Lennon and Ono married on 20 March 1969 in Gibraltar; the details of their wedding and honeymoon were incorporated into Lennon’s single for The Beatles, ‘The Ballad Of John And Yoko’. The pair carried out a series of public anti-war appearances, including the famous ‘bed-ins for peace’ at the Amsterdam Hilton and the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.
In April 1969, on the roof of Apple Records, Lennon changed his name to John Ono Lennon.
After The Beatles
Yoko Ono released her first solo album, Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band, in 1970. It was a companion piece to John Lennon’s similarly-titled solo debut, and had near-identical covers. Both records were inspired by Primal Scream therapy which the Lennons were temporarily influenced by.
The Lennons began their married life at Tittenhurst Park in Ascot, Berkshire, where they lived between from summer 1969 until September 1971. They sold the 72-acre estate to Ringo Starr, who owned it until the late 1980s.
In 1971 she released a double album, Fly, which combined avant-garde experimentalism with more conventional rock. It was recorded at the studio at Tittenhurst, where Lennon’s album Imagine was recorded the same year.
Two singles, ‘Mrs Lennon’ and ‘Mind Train’, were released from Fly. Perhaps the most famous track, however, is ‘Don’t Worry, Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking For Her Hand In The Snow)’, written for Ono’s estranged daughter
In August 1971 the couple moved to New York City, living firstly on St Regis Hotel on 5th Avenue, East 55th Street, and then in a loft apartment at 105 Bank Street, Greenwich Village. Following a burglary they settled in the Dakota building at 1 West 72nd Street, in February 1973.
Ono released two rock albums in 1973: Approximately Infinite Universe and Feeling The Space, which were not commercially successful but were later reappraised and afforded critical and public respect.
By that year, however, the couple’s marriage had begun to sour, and they began living separate lives. Lennon moved to Los Angeles with his personal assistant May Pang, who became his lover at Ono’s suggestion. In Los Angeles he embarked on his infamous ‘lost weekend’, where he drank heavily with fellow bon vivants Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson, and Keith Moon.
Lennon and Ono reconciled in 1975, and their son Sean was born on Lennon’s 35th birthday, 9 October 1975. Following the birth the couple lived largely in seclusion in the Dakota, with Lennon becoming a house-husband until he returned to music recording in 1980 and released the album Double Fantasy with Ono.
On 8 December 1980 Lennon was murdered outside the Dakota while returning with Ono from a recording session. Following his death, Ono became a recluse for many months.
A single, ‘Walking On Thin Ice (For John)’, was released in February 1981, followed by an album, Season Of Glass, which drew controversy for its cover photograph depicting Lennon bloodstained glasses.
A tribute album, Every Man Has A Woman, was released in 1984. It featured a number of Ono songs performed by artists including Elvis Costello, Harry Nilsson, Roberta Flack, and Rosanne Cash. Also in 1984, Ono and Lennon’s final album, Milk And Honey, was released.
Yoko Ono funded the creation of the Strawberry Fields memorial in New York City’s Central Park, which was officially dedicated to Lennon on 9 October 1985, which would have been his 45th birthday.
In 1992 a six-disc box set Onobox was released by Rykodisc, which featured remastered highlights from her back catalogue and unreleased recordings. A single disc of highlights from the collection, titled Walking On Thin Ice, was also released. Rykodisc reissued all her solo albums in 1997.
In 2000 Ono founded the John Lennon Museum in Saitama, Japan, and on 9 October 2007 unveiled a memorial, the Imagine Peace Tower, on the island of Viðey near Reykjavik, Iceland. Each year, between 9 October and 8 December, the tower projects a vertical beam of light into the sky.
Yoko Ono continues to be active in the fields of art, music and peace campaigning. In 2001 she was reunited with her daughter Kyoko.