Why We Love… Yoko Ono
Forget for one moment that The Beatles ever existed. I know - it’s impossible. Whether true or not – it depends who you ask – they certainly did something to change music. But without them it’s very likely we would never had heard of Yoko Ono. Or perhaps we would have – by different means…
It doesn’t really matter – because arguably Yoko Ono has evolved significantly from the reputation she developed in the minds of fans of a certain four piece band in many ways. Artistically she has stepped forward a great deal – the wild experimentation of her early work continuing into the dance tinged and cutting edge work she produces today with the refreshed Plastic Ono Band.
Her most recent album Take Me to the Land of Hell is an example of why she remains an artist unique to this day. There are few performers active today still producing work as imaginative and fresh as her oeuvre. Regardless of the question of whether her career would have been half as successful without the early attention from more avant garde Beatles fans – it’s still refreshing to think that there is music as powerful and inspiring as that which Yoko Ono produces to this day.
The future looking sound of her last few releases with the Plastic Ono Band is a perfect encapsulation and evolution of what her art has always been about. There’s the smooth production touches from collaborators tUnE yArDs and Cornelius, appearances from names such as Lenny Kravitz and much more - There may be many hands involved in making the record but it’s bound by a single gesture of melodic peace and the distinctive voice of its main artist.
As with much of Yoko Ono’s music there is timeless feel despite the somewhat nostalgic themes she explores. On occasion it’s dream like, the synthetic sounds developing into cloud of ethereal performance art and other moments it’s as left field as anything out there. But it must be remembered that music is just one facet of Ono’s art. She is the writer of many books of poetry as well – the most recent, Acorn, released almost in conjunction with Take Me to the Land of Hell. Acorn contains a sequence of poems and accompanying dot illustrations, some of the former having been seen attached to installations along the Thames earlier this year as part of an Ono curated Meltdown and is fascinating reading.
But in a broader cultural context Yoko Ono is more than just the oft-quoted ‘mad woman who was married to one of The Beatles’ – an idea she acknowledges jokingly in the title of remix album Yes, I’m a Witch. She is in fact an artist in the truest sense. Her art has been seen all over the world in many contexts and forms and in whatever form, be it music, conceptual art installation or poem continues to inspire other artists to create. She is often cited as an inspiration by up and coming artists and most importantly continues to evolve her own art.
Her eclectic work has seen her appear on dance records in collaboration mode, in her own right under the ONO moniker on many a US Dance Chart topping remix single of her older work and of course on her own albums with the refreshed Plastic Ono band. Then there’s the exhibitions, books and festivals… this is an artist who has no plans to stop creating and the world is surely all the better for it.
Where next for this artist that has straddled the fringes of art and controversy for almost five decades with barely a pause for breath? Surely the answer to that remains to be seen but as the artist herself may say ‘I’m just talking to the universe…’
Words by Sebastian Gahan.