Continuing our week-long celebrations commemorating John Lennon's 75th birthday, here Yoko Ono recalls their relationship
Yoko released a statement on December 9, the day after the murder: “There is no funeral for John. Later in the week, we will set the time for a silent vigil to pray for his soul. We invite you to participate from wherever you are at the time. We thank you for the many flowers sent to John. But in the future, instead of flowers, please consider sending donations in his name to the Spirit Foundation Inc, John’s personal charitable foundation. He would have appreciated it very much. John loved and prayed for the human race. Please pray the same for him. Love Yoko and Sean.”
She issued another message the next day, describing how she had taken Sean to the spot where John fell, and announcing a 10-minute silent vigil. Later, at 2pm on December 10, Lennon was cremated at Ferncliff Crematorium in Hartsdale, Westchester County.
On December 14, at the end of the worldwide vigil, Yoko sent out a third statement: “Bless you for your tears and prayers. I saw John smiling in the sky. I saw sorrow changing into clarity. I saw all of us becoming one mind. Thank you. Love, Yoko.”
“After John, music was the thing that kept me going,” says Yoko in 2003. “The support of the public helped. I’m very thankful for that.”
She spent hours alone in the weeks after the murder.
“I was in a funk. Much time was spent in bed resting, but not always in bed. I did what I had to as well. I would be in bed and then I would go out to the studio to finish ‘Walking On Thin Ice’. It was supposed to be a dance kind of thing. After John’s passing, people told me, ‘Walking On Thin Ice’, they’re playing it in the clubs!”
She wrote in the sleevenotes: “Getting this together after what happened was hard. But I knew John would not rest his mind if I hadn’t. I hope you like it, John. I did my best.”
Yoko followed with the controversial Season Of Glass, released June 1981. A heart-breaking album, it featured songs about the murder, complete with sounds of gunfire, and a sleeve photograph of John’s bloodstained glasses.
Earl Slick, who played on the sessions, tells Uncut: “She got a lot of flak – the whole idea that she was going on to make a record. People had something to say about that, to which I answered, ‘What the fuck are you supposed to do?’ I think she needed to do it. You could see that there were times when she was down, a little morose. I think she was in shock the whole time. It was only three or four months after the fact.”
There were more albums through the 1980s, but it wasn’t until the next decade that Yoko began to receive an unexpected but growing respect for her music. With the Rising album, followed by a selection of Rising remixes, she won some unusually positive reviews.
And in the new millennium, in a remarkable turnaround, the music she had made some 20 years earlier was seized upon by contemporary musicians and updated.
With “Open Your Box”, remixed by The Orange Factory and released in June 2002, with “Kiss Kiss Kiss” remixed by Superchumbo, and with the latest remixes of “Walking On Thin Ice” hitting No 1, Yoko has now become the darling of dance.
She was, as Lennon always insisted, ahead of her time. And the “Dragon Lady” of yesterday has, against all the odds, become an inspirational figure today.
Does love survive death?
“Oh, yeah, sure.”
You’ve said that John is still around.
“Yeah, I feel that.”
How does he make himself known to you?
“Well, I mean, that’s very private…”
Wasn’t there an occasion when he saved your life?
“Oh yes, it was in San Francisco, and I got a message from him, actually, because there was nobody else… it wasn’t my brain thinking about it. ‘Quick,’ you know, ‘Get bodyguards and all that and protect Sean,’ which I did. “Two or three days later, several cops came in suddenly and said, ‘Excuse me, Mrs Lennon, but there’s a sniper out there and you have to be very careful.’ This was in 1982.
“The sniper, he shot out from the window just to test his gun. Nobody’s going to do something crazy like that. I think John was trying to tell the world, ‘This guy’s crazy and here he is – arrest him.’ And the cops went to his apartment and they arrested him.”
How do you recover from the murder of your husband?
“Part of me really hasn’t recovered, and that’s why I feel so badly for the widows and the children of 9/11, the family that’s left, because it’s something that you feel forever in a way, and you just digest it, of course. Sort of, in appearance you could look very well-adjusted maybe, but inside it’s a different story.”
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