Yoko Ono on John Lennon: "We Understood Each Other"

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John Lennon

As a kid, I rummaged through my parents' cassettes, separating the good from the Billy Ocean. Sometimes, though, I'd come upon a tape that was beyond great, that was nearly perfect. And then I'd listen to it a thousand times while lying on my bedroom floor and eventually let it control my entire future. That's what happened with Double Fantasy. There was something holy and timeless when John Lennon's perfect pop sensibility met Yoko Ono's haunting sensuality.

When speaking with Ono this week about John Lennon's upcoming art show at the Village of Gulfstream Park, she emphasized their dynamic and fitting creative partnership. Yoko was a delight to interview. Easy with a laugh, she was emotionally open and realistic about her experiences. When a bad connection made my voice reverberate oddly, she laughingly made the sound on the other end of the line, patiently waiting for me to figure out how to fix the problem.

Yoko Ono is now 80 years old and still as relevant and productive and experimental as ever. She hit the dance charts with her Plastic Ono Band; just came out with a book, Acorns; curated the Meltdown Festival in London; and remains an intriguing visual artist. But this weekend is all about John Lennon and his artwork. Proceeds from the show benefit Feeding South Florida, Ono said, "because that's what John would have wanted."

New Times: You have a wonderful youthful energy and have been able to participate in so many cultural movements. Do you have a particular moment that stands out for you as the most creative?
Yoko Ono: Actually, what happened, of course you know, I was kind of a feisty, energetic woman. "Woman" is maybe not the word; "girl" or "gal." John was a very energetic person too, and we kind of met a match to a match, actually. To answer your question, the most energetic and exciting time was when John and I were together. It was nice that we understood each other.

You don't feel like you've had that chemistry with anyone since?
No, no, no. It's not very easy to meet somebody like John, you know [laughs]. Before that, that was my third marriage; the people that I had situations with before were all creative, energetic people, but still, John topped it all, of course.

Have you looked for a partner like that since, or did you know that John was the height of compatibility for you?
That was the height. I mean, of course, I'm not saying that... I'm not dead yet. You never know what's going to happen, in the sense that I might create another high(est) moment myself, you know. But that's possible. I'm still doing things, and sometimes I feel like, I've never had a situation like this, this excitement.

But John was very special, very unique, very different from any other encounter I had. When you go and see his work, you'll see that he was very special in that way too, just as an artist. People think John was just a musician guy; people don't take [his art] seriously sometimes. When you go to the exhibition and see his work, you will start to take his work seriously. You can't help it, they're so good.

John Lennon

Your work is very different from his.
Very, very different. So, thank God, because we didn't fight at all [laughs]. John liked my work, and I loved his work, so it went very well. I think we were so sort of blessed in that. Can you imagine if we were doing exactly the same kind of work [laughs]? Just getting kind of very upset with each other. No, there was nothing like that.

And yet you managed to collaborate so successfully.
Yes, we did collaborate. And those were very interesting in the sense that I never had a partnership work like that. It was always a one-woman thing. And so then I had to learn to do things with another person. John, he always had his three buddies, and he was, of course, working with them. So it wasn't that difficult for him, but for me, it was very difficult.

You've collaborated with just about every creative mind since...
It's a totally different collaboration. With John and I, we really collaborated. When I do a partnership or collaboration now, I meant like, I did the song and then somebody wanted to remix it or something. It's different. It's a collaboration too. With Sean, it's almost similar to what I was doing with John, because the collaboration goes a little bit further than just like remixing my stuff.

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[Excerpted from] London Times published May 9, 2010:

"Oh no! Yoko colours in Lennon's prints, The Beatle’s widow is under fire for adapting his drawings for sale" article by Cristina Ruiz and Ungoed-Thomas

"YOKO ONO faces a row over significantly altered prints of artworks by John Lennon, which have been sold for millions of pounds'.

"Lennon, who was a student at the Liverpool College of Art, produced three books of black-and-white illustrations. Prints of these works, overseen by Ono, have been offered for sale in Britain and America.

"However, some have been coloured in, issued as limited edition prints and stamped with the former Beatle’s special insignia. In some cases, it is claimed extra characters may have been added.

"Gary Arseneau, a Florida-based artist and creator of original lithographs who has investigated the sales, claims that the works should not be sold under the name of Lennon, who was shot dead in 1980.

"He said: 'This is work that John Lennon has never seen, never created, never approved, and never signed. The dead don’t create artwork.'" 

Caveat Emptor!

Gary Arseneau

artist, creator of original lithographs

Fernandina Beach, Florida

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