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John Lennon – did Yoko Ono make him?

35 years ago, John Lennon was brutally assassinated by Mark David Chapman.  Despite such a long time, the memory of the founder for some and co-founder for others of The Beatles is still alive in the hearts of many.

A concert in his honour, organised by his wife Yoko Ono, on December 6 was packed with stars like Steven Tyler, Eric Church, Aloe Black, Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow and Tom Morello.  They sang songs such as “Give Peace a Chance,” “You’ve Got to Hide your Love Away” and of course “Imagine,” songs which according to Eric Church still matter “because they said something.”  As for his wife, the woman he called “the world’s most famous unknown artist,” she got on stage and simply said, or rather shouted, “Rock n Roll is here to stay.”

Yoko Ono, 80, has known her fair share of suffering, heartache. Born into Japanese high society, she felt that her upbringing lacked in love.Especially that of a mother who even told her never to marry.  Being of course a rebel possessed with an independent spirit, she married, first to the composer Toshi Ichiyanagi and then to Tony Cox, an American art promoter with whom she had a daughter and he ran away with in 1971 when she was 7.

Her relationship that was a problem with her parents was the one she had with John Lennon because, as she said in an interview she gave to the British Telegraph, their pride was hurt that she had gone off with a working-class guy from Liverpool. “The family put out a press release in Japan saying ‘we are not proud of Yoko Ono’.”

John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s relationship was one that caused The Beatles’ fans and The Beatles themselves a lot of unease. The group didn’t manage it well, and it led to their split.

They hated the fact that he always deferred to her, especially when discussions concerned the group.  And that she was always present.

Fans called her racist names, and when the band split, the blame was placed squarely on her shoulders.  But as Paul McCartney, the other member of the group said some years later, “She certainly didn’t break the group up.  I think it was time for John certainly to leave.  It was a bit of a shock to all of us, he just announced, ‘oh I am leaving the group’.”

Rather, he credits Yoko Ono with giving Lennon a second part to his career, “writing things like ‘Imagine’ and ‘Give Peace a Chance’.  I don’t think he would have done that without Yoko.”

A man with not much confidence in his abilities – John Lennon reportedly even hated his own voice – Yoko Ono gave him the strength and the courage to try other interests.  He was an activist, but he also had an interest and dabbled in visual arts. But hatred has tough skin: 35 years after his death and regardless of Paul McCartney’s démenti, Yoko Ono still retains the spectre of the woman who split the Fab Four.

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