YOKO ONO

When I was growing up in the 70’s, Yoko Ono seemed to be viewed by society – or at least by much of the media – as an enemy of the state. How dare she seduce and be worshipped by our favourite Beatle, John Lennon? Against all the malevolent backchat were photographs of this tiny, demure-looking, beautifully dressed, powerful person.
Years later, when I discovered her art and music, I realised what a genius she is, as well as being very funny. My favourite of her songs is called ‘What a Bastard the World Is’ (1973). It is a lament of tortured anguish and exasperation about being disregarded by a man. Along with furious threats – ‘Are you listening, you jerk, you pig, you bastard, you scum of the earth’ – comes ‘Oh, don’t go, don’t go, please, don’t go, I didn’t mean it, I’m just in pain’, and the brilliant, world-weary line: ‘Female lib is fine for Joan of Arc.’
I remember listening to that song, feeling rather akin. I admired her for being that raw, and it made me laugh too, in sympathy for everyone in the song. It takes a lot to write that kind of thing. Yoko Ono is never short of courage.
Exert published as part of a feature in the forthcoming @Tate Etc. magazine issue 61 (Spring 2024) alongside a number of other personal responses to Yoko Ono’s work by figures from the worlds of art, music, fashion and activism.

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