When John Lennon was killed in the December 1980, the attention of the world turned to his bereaved widow; Yoko Ono. Yoko Ono is a Japanese singer, songwriter, peace activist and filmmaker. As a filmmaker, she has worked on both English and Japanese films. Asides her incredible profile as a singer, Ono is perhaps famous for her marital relationship with the English singer-songwriter John Lennon who was a shining member of The Beatles from 1969 until his assassination in December 1980. Let’s get a closer look at the life of Yoko Ono.
Yoko Ono’s Background
Yoko Ono was born in Tokyo, Japan, on February 18, 1933, to parents; Eisuke and Isoko Ono. Her father, Eisuke was a wealthy banker and former classical pianist. By paternity, Yoko Ono comes from a long lineage of samurai warrior-scholars. On her mother’s side, Yoko Ono can be traced to the Yasuda clan and zaibatsu.
Her early life was characterized by an extensive back and forth between Japan and the United States. Only two weeks before her birth, her father was transferred to San Francisco by his employer, the Yokohama Specie Bank. His family soon joined him. As Ono recounts, she only got to meet her father when she was two years old. Yoko Ono has a younger brother, Keisuke, who was born in the United States in December 1936. In the US, Ono was enrolled in piano lessons when she clocked four. But that didn’t last for too long as her father got transferred back to Japan in 1937.
As expected, the family followed too. In Tokyo, Ono was enrolled in Gakushuin — an elitist school in Tokyo. Three years later, in 1940, the family moved back to the United States, settling in New York City this time. A year later, Eisuke received a transfer letter from New York City to Hanoi, and so the family returned to Japan.
Now back home, Yoko Ono was enrolled in Keimei Gakuen — a high-class Christian primary school operated by the Mitsui family. The Onos would remain in Tokyo throughout the second World War, including during the great fire-bombing of March 9, 1945. The bomb raids wouldn’t scar the family as they were sheltered in a special bunker in Tokyo’s Azabu district. However, the devastation from the bombing left the family poor and destitute. As Ono would later recount, her family begged for food as they tugged the remnant of their belongings in a wheelbarrow.
According to Ono, her mother once sold her German-made sewing machine for a meagre 60 kilograms (130 lb) of rice to feed the family. A year after the bombings, her school, unaffected by the carnage, was reopened and Ono re-enrolled. She became classmates with Prince Akihito, the future emperor of Japan. After graduating Gakushuin in 1951, she was offered admission to study philosophy at Gakushuin University. She became the first female to enroll in the program. Though she dropped out after two semesters.
She later moved to the United States to join her family. There, she enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College. Despite her parents’ disapproval, Ono attended art festivals where she befriended artists, poets, and a mixed array of people who lived the nonconformist lifestyle she so admired.
What Is Yoko Ono Famous For?
In the years that followed, Yoko Ono’s performances on Chamber Streets won her the attention of important avant-garde artists in New York. She began working with leading musicians such as Karl-Heinz Stockhausen, George Maciunas and Nam June Paik. Following the crash of her first marriage to Japanese composer Toshi Ichiyanagi, Ono returned to Tokyo to live with her parents. There, she met and married American jazz musician and filmmaker Anthony Cox (Their marriage was shortlived lasting for barely a year from 1962 to 1963) and soon returned to New York, to take up performance art.
Her Cut Piece which got positive attention. In 1965, she repeated Cut Piece in Manhattan and a year later, in London. Yoko Ono quickly became an art sensation. Despite her personal achievements, it was her marriage to John Lennon that made her very famous. She had met Lennon in London in 1966 during the preview of her art exhibition. The two would later collaborate on several musical and artistic projects. They later released their first album together; Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins and a trial piece Revolution 9 in The White Album. Soon after that, they released Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions and The Wedding Album followed soon after.
A year after the death of her husband, Yoko Ono released a soulful and grieving solo album Season of Glass and an optimistic album It’s Alright (I See Rainbows) in 1982. The ensuing years saw the release of Every Man has a Woman, Milk and Honey, and Starpeace. Switching into the visual arts, she released New York Rock. At the turn of the millennia, Yoko Ono began singing again and recorded several albums including; Blueprint for a Sunrise, Walking on Thin Ice (Remixes), Yes, I’m a Witch, Between My Head and the Sky and Yokokimthurston.
In 2005, Ono published her autobiography Memories of John Lennon. Her efforts over the years haven’t gone unnoticed. In 2005, the Japan Society of New York awarded her the lifetime achievement award. Four years later, Yoko Ono received the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale. In 2012, she was honored with the Oskar Kokoschka Prize; Austria’s highest award for applied art. The following year, she was declared an honorary patron to Alder Hey Charity, London and was made an honorary citizen of Reykjavik, Iceland.
How Much Yoko Ono’s Worth Now?
As of 2019, sources put Yoko Ono’s net worth at $500 million. Though famous for being John Lennon’s wife, Ono’s personal achievements are far greater and the incredible success of her career is what has garnered her huge fortune.