Little Known Facts About Yoko Ono

September 7, 2023 | Morgan EUA

Little Known Facts About Yoko Ono

"Her husband may have punched her ticket into the mainstream, but Mrs. Lennon was nobody's rock & roll fool".—David Fricke, Rolling Stone.

It’s a shame that Yoko Ono is most remembered for her marriage to John Lennon. Ono is so much more than a wife, a mother, a woman, or any other label we could place on her. Throughout her life, she's preached world peace, gender equality, and acceptance for all. To this day, well into her 80s, Ono is a working artist and activist—she has let nothing, especially age, stop her. Ono is a role model for all people and has been recognized on numerous occasions for her many accomplishments, the least of which was marriage—I mean, she did it three times in her life, it’s not that special.

On the other hand, Ono’s marriage to Lennon did give her whole career a serious boost and we might not have the inspiring public figure we have today if it were not for Lennon’s own fame. In many ways we owe Lennon for the Ono we have today, but we probably also have Ono to thank for the Lennon we had before his passing. The two artists were unstoppable and Ono continues to live that legacy. This list of little-known facts about the wife of John Lennon will definitely make it obvious that Yoko Ono deserves fame in her own right".

I feel that I am starting a new life, a second life".—Yoko Ono.

1. Celebrity Status

Yoko Ono may be a famous figure, but part of her fame is owed to having had an ultra-famous husband—she was the second wife of John Lennon from The Beatles. The couple first met in 1966 and were married the next year.


2. Bilingual Upbringing

Ono has performed in both Japanese and English and spent most of her childhood years between Tokyo and New York City.

Yoko Ono attends women's march in New York. - 2018lev radin , Shutterstock

3. Ball and Chained to the Bed

It was no question that Lennon and Ono’s marriage was going to be a public affair. Clearly, this couple was meant to be because they decided to use the opportunity to spread a message of world peace. Their marriage was in 1969 when the Vietnamese War was raging, so they staged a “bed-in” (similar to a “sit-in”) in their honeymoon hotels in Amsterdam and in Montreal surrounded by messages of peace. They invited press in every day to document their honeymoon. Of course, the news outlets were hoping for some sexy action, but that’s not what they got. Instead, they witnessed a non-violent, experimental protest.

Photo of John Lennon & Yoko Ono - 1969Joost Evers / Anefo, Wikimedia Commons

4. Famous Last Words

Ono gained a lot of attention when she released a musical album with Lennon called “Double Fantasy". It was released in 1980 and would go on to top the charts. Unfortunately, it was also the final album released by Lennon before his passing.

Photo of John Lennon & Yoko Ono looking to camera - 1969Bernard Gotfryd, Wikimedia Commons

5. Strong and Free-Flowing

Yoko Ono means “Ocean Child” in Japanese.

Photo of Yoko Ono wearing dark jacket, white hat - 2011Earl McGehee, CC BY 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons

6. Supermom

Not just a musician, artist, and activist, Ono is also a mother of two! Her first child was a daughter with her second husband Anthony Cox named Kyoko Chan Cox. Her second child was a son with her third husband John Lennon named Sean Taro Ono Lennon.

Yoko OnoGetty Images

7. Destined to Be

Ono was a budding musician starting at the very young age of four. She took piano lessons from then until she was about 12 or 13.

B&W Photo of Yoko Ono looking at camera - 1969Eric Koch / Anefo, Wikimedia Commons

8. College Dropout

In Japan, Ono went to a very prestigious, exclusive school for children of Japanese nobility. After graduation, she was the first ever female accepted into the Gakushuin University philosophy program. Ono was a free spirit, though, and the school couldn’t keep her there long; she left after only two semesters.

Portrait of Yoko Ono wearing white hat. - 2006Eddie Janssens, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

9. Eloping Isn’t Easy

What better reason to run away than true love? Ono left her prestigious college to run away and marry a big name in experimental Japanese composing, Toshi Ichiyanagi. Their love wasn’t as true as it might’ve seemed at first, though, and they were divorced less than ten years later. This took a toll on Ono and she suffered from clinical depression while living with her parents before spending a brief time at a mental health institution in Japan.

B&W Portrait of Toshi Ichiyanagi looking a side - 1960Toshi Ichiyanagi, Wikimedia Commons

10. Take Two

Surprise! The divorce from Ichiyanagi wasn’t actually finalized before Ono tried to marry her second husband Anthony Cox. The new marriage was annulled until everything from the old marriage was wrapped up. She finally married the American musician and producer in 1963 which was very helpful in getting her out of the mental institution where she had been staying.

Yoko OnoGetty Images

11. Famous Friends

Two of the many important names that inspired Ono’s art were avant-garde composer John Cage and Dada artist Marcel Duchamp.

B&W photo of John Cage - 1988Rob Croes for Anefo, Wikimedia Commons

12. A Snip, Snip Here, A Snip, Snip There

Ono dipped her feet into many different artistic disciplines including, famously, performance art. Her most well-known performance art piece was called “Cut Piece,” in which she sits on stage with a pair of scissors and invites audience members to come up and cut a piece of her clothing. Some audience members were shy and took tiny snips at the fabric, but others would approach and slice a bra strap right off her shoulder. Ono accepted any interaction silently to comment on identity issues and violence against women.

Photo of Yoko Ono wearing black hat - 2010Simon Harriyott from Uckfield, England, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

13. Performance Juice

Ono’s conceptual art career nicely complimented her performance art career. One of her conceptual art pieces was a book called Grapefruit that documented instructions for different performance pieces, for instance: “Hide and Seek Piece: Hide until everybody goes home". Sometimes Ono would enact the instructions presented in her little book as performance art pieces in exhibitions.

Photo of Yoko Ono wearing black suit ,hat and glasses - 2010360b, Shutterstock

14. Let’s Make a Movie

Add “experimental filmmaker” to Ono’s long list of artistic career paths. A jack of all artistic trades, Ono made 16 short films in less than ten years and is probably best known for one called Bottoms. In Bottoms, people’s bums can be seen walking on a treadmill for five-and-a-half minutes. The end. We told you it was experimental.

Photo of Yoko Ono wearing red suit 2007Aleksandr Plyushchev, CC BY 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons

15. Escape Into Entertainment

According to Ono, the one thing you need as an artist is courage, but she believes that is a little-known fact in the public sphere because we seem to only be interested in entertainment that doesn’t force us to think or act.

Photo of Yoko Ono on stage - 2012Gregor Tatschl from Österreich, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

16. An Artist and a Muse

Not only did Ono make music, but she’s also had plenty of music made about her. The Barenaked Ladies wrote a song about a love affair that they compare to the one between Lennon and Ono. The song is named after her, too: “Be My Yoko Ono". Ono herself has listened to the song but said it definitely didn’t beat their classic “If I Had a Million Dollars,” which she preferred.

Bare Naked Ladies in Concert - 2010Phil Roeder , Flickr

17. The End of an Era

Ono’s full and inspiring life has also brought her some pain and trauma, the worst of which might be standing only a few feet away from John Lennon as one of his unstable, obsessive fans shot him in front of their home in 1980.

Yoko Ono and John Lennon - 1972Pelo magazine #21, 1972, Wikimedia Commons

18. Pretty Boys

On the topic of men in the media, Ono notes that the pretty men who show their feminine sides are the most popular male. Ono believes that The Beatles pioneered this way of being with their look.

The Beatles wearing suits waiting to perform - 1964Eric Koch for Anefo, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL, Wikimedia Commons

19. Winning!

Ono has had some recognition for her artistic actions, including two well deserved Grammy Awards for her work as an artist and producer and as a video producer.

Yoko ono wearing black suit and hat and shiny glasses smiling - 2005Everett Collection , Shutterstock

20. You Go, Yoko Ono!

Ono is well-known as a peace activist and her activism lives and breathes through her art. The MoMA presented her work in an exhibition called “Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1970” to display her art and discuss her activism during the Feminist Movement. The Observer Ethical Awards also recognized her for her activism by granting her their Lifetime Achievement Award. For Ono, art is not merely entertainment—it’s a way of expressing yourself and standing up for what you believe in.

Yoko ono wearing black suit ,black hat and glasses speaking on a microphone stand - 2013Eva Rinaldi, CC BY-SA 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons

21. Rock On

The show must go on! Ono continued her life with Lennon and her musical career by creating an off-Broadway musical called New York Rock. The show features many of her own songs from previous years and loosely tells the story of her and Lennon’s romance.

Yoko Ono wearing grey and white hat and transparent glasses standing in front of a microphone - 2006Everett Collection , Shutterstock

22. You May Say She’s a Dreamer

In honor of her late husband, Ono erected the Imagine Peace Tower in 2007. Add to her list of artistic pursuits large-scale art installation! This outdoor structure emits light between the days of Lennon’s birthday and death date every year and can be found in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Yoko OnoGetty Images

23. Peace, Love, and Grant Money

Also in honor of Lennon’s life, the LennonOno Grant for Peace is given to two recipients biennially who show a commitment to peace and human rights.

Yoko ono wearing transparent glasses - 2015May S. Young, CC BY-SA 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons

24. What the Frack?!

Today, Ono remains an active activist and public figure. An example of her present-day goals is her group Artists Against Fracking that she works on with her son Sean. In 2012, appalled by the prospect of fracking making its way to New York and releasing deadly chemicals into their water and air, Sean and Ono teamed up with as many other artists as possible to get the word out. The group tries to make known the negative impact of fracking and takes peaceful action to stop it.

Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono - 2002Everett Collection , Shutterstock

25. Artsy, Fluxy

Fluxus was an experimental art collective active in New York City in the ‘60s and ‘70s founded by George Maciunas. Maciunas assisted Ono in getting her art recognized by giving her a solo gallery show early in her career. Ono was associated with Fluxus and collaborated on many projects with them.

Photo of Yoko Ono wearing white coat - 2016Secretaría de Cultura de la Ciudad de México, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

26. Lights, Camera, Acting!

Like all famous artists inevitably do, Ono has a few acting credits. She appeared on screen in a few short films made with Lennon, but also acted with her voice for the Wes Anderson stop-motion film Isle of Dogs.

Photo of Yoko Ono wearing black suit - 2011Peabody Awards, CC BY 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons

27. Credit Where Credit is Due

Imagine all the credit, for working side-by-side… Because of a sound byte of John Lennon saying his hyper-famous song “Imagine” should be partially credited to Ono, the National Music Publishers’ Association has started adding Ono as a songwriter on the piece.

Yoko OnoGetty Images

28. Book Worm

Everyone knows the best writers are also avid readers. Ono says her favorite novel then and now remains Gone With the Wind.

Yoko ono wearing black jacket, jeans and hat - 2013Eva Rinaldi, CC BY-SA 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons

29. Night Owl

Inspiration comes at the most random times. For Ono, it often comes in the silence of the middle of the night. This comes with its pitfalls, though, because apparently she’s never been able to sleep continuously for more than four hours. She’s talked to doctors about this scenario and they say it’s nothing to be worried about. So, seize the inspiration when it arises!

Portrait of Yoko Ono out on the street wearing black clothes- 2018lev radin , Shutterstock

30. #NoMakeup

Clearly, a clean face and a clean mind lead to clear success for Yoko Ono. Ono reports that she only started wearing makeup after she hit the age of 50 and had never smoked until she met Lennon and he gave her a smoke at the age of 34.

B&W Photo of Yoko Ono holding a flower - 1969Eric Koch / Anefo, Wikimedia Commons

31. A Freezing Fountain of Youth

The secret to staying young as told by Ono? It’s not expensive creams or living your dreams. Nope, she says she still feels like she’s in her 40s because she takes an ice-cold bath every day.

B&W Photo of Yoko Ono wearing big white hat and dark glasses - 1969Joost Evers / Anefo, Wikimedia Commons

32. Under Wraps

In 1965, Ono created a performance piece called “Sky Piece to Jesus Christ". The piece was a reference to John Cage’s cult-like following and featured an orchestra playing music while being wrapped in gauze bandages until they can no longer move and play their instruments.

Yoko ono wearing black clothes and white hat holding a piece of paper in front of a people - 2016Secretaría de Cultura de la Ciudad de México, CC BY-SA 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons

33. Sing It, Sister

After The Beatles, Lennon and Ono started their own band called The Plastic Ono Band. The band was a moniker under which they could present solo and collaborative projects. The band also featured a number of different artists aside from just Lennon and Ono.

Yoko Ono and John Lennon performing - 1971Unidentified author , Wikimedia Commons

34. The Big Bucks

Due to her fame as a peace activist and performance artist, Ono’s net worth is a whopping $600,000,000.

Photo of Yoko Ono wearing black clothes and hat - 2010360b , Shutterstock

35. Only as Old as You Feel

Ono is still alive and kicking in the music world. She is beating down ageism as she continues to record hit dance tunes. In fact, in 2011 at age 78 she became the oldest person to have a dance song reach number one. Her dance music has even been reinterpreted and remixed by other artists.

Yoko Ono wearing white hat seating in front of a pink background - 2012s_bukley , Shutterstock

36. Who, Me?

One of Ono’s more confusing and conceptual artworks was featured by the MoMA in 1971. Upon arriving at the “exhibition,” audiences were made aware that there was no artwork. Rather, the audience members themselves were the art and were captured on video.

Yoko ono wearing white hat and black glasses looking a side - 2007Caio do Valle, Wikimedia Commons

37. Greatest Hits

In 1992 a retrospective of all of Ono’s music (which she had already been making for 11 years prior to her relationship with Lennon) was published, called Onobox. It was a six-CD set and received widespread critical acclaim.

Yoko Ono wearing white jacket ,black hat and glasses smiling to the camera- 2016Secretaría de Cultura de la Ciudad de México, CC BY-SA 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons

38. She Showed Them

Ono was not always well respected as an artist. Very early in her music career, when she was still attending Sarah Lawrence College, her music teacher deemed her compositions too radical for the school. Later, critics critiqued her music as just being noise, specifically screaming and moaning, and for this reason, her work was largely ignored.

Yoko Ono wearing black clothes and white and black hat talking to the people holding her hand up.Marcela Cataldi Cipolla, CC BY 3.0 , Wikimedia Commons

39. Mama’s Boy

While Ono and her son Sean work together to this day, Ono and her stepson Julian, John Lennon’s son with his first wife Cynthia, were not as close. Apparently, Julian was not included in Lennon’s will and was also left out of quality father-son time while Sean got plenty. Ono speculates that Julian won’t get too close to her because he is loyal to his mom and other family members.

Sean Lennon and mother Yoko Ono - 2014Ga Fullner , Shutterstock

40. Doing Time for all Time

Lennon’s murderer, Mark David Chapman, has been close to getting parole a number of times since Lennon’s death. Ono has fought the man’s parole on nine occasions for fear for her own life. What’s more, Chapman intentionally took a life and a great talent from the world. Justice must be served.

Yoko Ono in black suit and black hat seating on the sofa and looking front - 2010vipflash , Shutterstock

41. Losing a Mother in Finding the Father

Some of Ono’s heartbreak in life came when her second husband Tony Cox ran away with their daughter Kyoko during a battle for custody. The two joined “The Walk,” a radical religious group. They managed to get out of the group later when Cox realized that it was not the best life choice.

Yoko OnoGetty Images

42. War Is Over

Some of Ono’s commitment to world peace throughout her life and career might be due to her childhood during WWII in Japan. Ono and her immediate family survived a US army attack that took the lives of 83,000 people one night in 1945 because they hid underground in a bunker for the duration.

Yoko ono wearing black suit and big black hat making a peace sign with fingers - 2014Ga Fullner , Shutterstock

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

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