Something I’ve been meaning to post for a couple of weeks now … I’ve long thought that Monica Kendrick is the best music writer at the Reader and the spot-on writeup she turned in just before Yoko Ono’s appearance at the recent Pitchfork Music Festival only reinforces that notion:
9:00 Yoko Ono
For decades her name was a punch line, shorthand for â€œunlistenable freakâ€ and â€œdifficult womanâ€ (badges of honor, really), but for the past 15 years Yoko Onoâ€™s reputation has undergone a steady and consistent rehabilitationâ€”younger musicians finally understand that her fiercely feminist oddity is a feature, not a bug, and that the spiritual simplicity of her art and activism isnâ€™t just the by-product of naivete (surely she canâ€™t have much left at 74). For this springâ€™s Yes, Iâ€™m a Witch (Astralwerks), Ono enlisted artists as diverse as the Flaming Lips, Porcupine Tree, and Le Tigre (to name just a few) to overhaul recordings from her back catalog, creating an album of challenging remixes. Though sheâ€™s fiercely protective of John Lennonâ€™s legacy, she recently donated the rights to his songs and their publishing royalties to Amnesty International, a gift thatâ€™s resulted in a two-CD collection of Lennon covers, Instant Karma, that benefits the agencyâ€™s campaign for Darfur and features the likes of U2, R.E.M., Green Day, and the Black-Eyed Peas. And a few years back she rewrote â€œEvery Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him,â€ one of her tunes from Double Fantasy, so that its lyrics support marriage equality for gays and lesbians. MK Aluminum Stage
I wasn’t able to catch the show myself â€” in addition to being swamped with work, outdoor shows in July just aren’t my favorite way to see concerts. Between the heat, the bugs, the humidity and the humanity I’m never able to actually enjoy the music.
But I have very fond memories of Yoko’s show at the Park West in 1996. It was a fabulous evening and a very cool crowd (just for example, a bunch of us got Fred Schneider’s autograph on the sidewalk out front after the show).
Here’s “New York Woman” from 1996′s superb Rising.
… And from earlier this year, here’s Yoko hanging out with Beth Ditto of The Gossip and Ana Matronic of Scissor Sisters, sharing the feminist rocker love.
For many years through the 80s and early 90s I felt like a one-man Yoko Ono anti-defamation league, patiently trying to get people to actually listen to her stunning recordings, and gritting my teeth as they repeated the same old tired, unfunny Joan Rivers one-liners.
And the worst calumny of all, the sadly ironic myth that Yoko somehow “broke up The Beatles.” Listen: When you claim Yoko is the reason The Beatles broke up, you’re really only revealing that you don’t know anything about The Beatles, if you honestly think they could have continued working together into the 70s, with or without Yoko â€” or for that matter, that John Lennon would have survived his heroin addiction and general disintigration without Yoko to pull him through. He was on a slow path to suicide and she pulled him off of it. Revitalized him. Gave him a reason to live. He said as much himself, many times â€” I was always astonished at how so many people who claimed to admire him refused to listen to his own testimony.
Without Yoko, there would not only have been no more Beatles â€” there would have been no “Imagine,” no “Instant Karma,” no Plastic Ono Band. Not to mention no Grapefruit or Approximately Infinite Universe.
So, anyway â€” it’s good to know that the world is finally starting to catch up to Yoko.