Friday, Yoko Ono Lennon, widow of John Lennon, turns 78 years old. She's still as vibrant and prolific as ever, staying in the spotlight, not only as the keeper of Lennon's flame but also as an influential artist and public figure.
Here is where Beatles fans will scoff and say her art was garbage and that she destroyed their favorite band by manipulating Lennon against the other three members. The fact that they were four men who had conflicting personalities, and were already growing apart and dabbling in drugs couldn't have had any defining role in their break-up, could it?
Say what you want about Ono, who was eight years older than her late husband and will perform at SXSW this year. She pioneered in her own way. Yes, her voice could be considered shrill, but her artwork cannot be denied, especially given the acclaim it received before Lennon came into the picture. Neither can the pedigree of her talent.
Why does Yoko Ono still matter? Well...
5. Ushered the Avant-Garde Into the Mainstream: You can laugh at the bags, the screaming, the chanting, the art installations, but few people before her had such a grand audience to work in front of. Her and Lennon's relationship was a match made in heaven, bringing together a musician who dabbled in art, and an artist who needed a muse herself.
Artwork like hers, from the Fluxus school, being seen on a larger scale made way for No Wave music and for even the weirdest painters and artisans to gain wide acclaim. Love it or hate it, that matters.
4. Keeper of John's Legacy: As Lennon's widow, Ono is the keeper of his legacy. She keeps product and content in the public's hands. We aren't even talking about the Beatles, either. She's been doing this since before he was murdered in 1980, running the financial show while he was a househusband.
Lennon's writing, art, and music is a constant presence in her hands as a businesswoman now. Her son with Lennon, Sean, also reminds us daily of his dad. But then again, it's not as if we will would all forget about Lennon if it weren't for her, she just facilitates the machine that keeps Lennon profitable, which doesn't hurt humanity.
3. Still Making Music and Art at 78: Yet again, this is a person who continues to create, even at an age, 78 today, where most actresses, musicians, and artists would have settled in to write memoirs and luxuriate. She's released two of her strongest albums, 2007's Yes I'm a Witch and 2009's Between My Head and the Sky, which were both unrepentant odes to staying on true to your life's work.
As for physical art, she is still the subject of openings featuring new and old work. Her "Wish Tree" is one the most popular of her recent works. Plus, how many old ladies do you know that still wear hot pants on album covers?
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2. Helps Keeps Beatles Product On the Shelves: Along with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison's widow Olivia, Ono brokers deals yearly to keep the Beatles empire flowing with content. Books, merchandise, films, the recent addition of the Fab Four's catalog to the iTunes repetoire are all because of the widows and the two remaining Beatles. It takes all four sides to approve things like this. They all have a dedication to keeping the band relevant, and the money is probably good too.
1. She's Philanthropic: Ono is still giving money to charitable organizations and raising awareness of peace, the same way she did with Lennon while he was alive. She's been quoted as saying that she is as wealthy as McCartney is, giving her more than adequate funds to be a big donor to numerous causes involving AIDS, art, and other social causes.