Yoko Ono is a huge part of the history of The Beatles, and almost fifty years after she first entered John Lennon’s life, she continues to divide fans. There are plenty of people who admire Yoko, but equally there are just as many who still blame her for the band’s demise, and who view her as a negative influence on John. So is she really as bad as she’s been made out to be?
Let’s begin with the theory that she ‘broke up The Beatles.’ This simply isn’t true. It’s understandable that fans at the time would look for someone to blame — as a younger fan, I can only imagine how crushing it was for those people to witness them breaking up — but the reality is, it was going to happen, with or without Yoko. There were already tensions between each of them; add Yoko’s ‘interfering’ presence in the studio to the mix and those tensions only became more apparent. Again, I can understand why the other Beatles were put out by John’s insistence on Yoko being there and having an input. But she was by no means responsible for the split.
Another problem many fans have with Yoko is her strong influence on John both musically and personally. They resent her involvement in performances, albums and interviews. Whatever John did, it seemed as though Yoko was always with him, as if they were basically the same person. It was difficult for people to get their heads around this, and with good reason.
Yet at the same time, it’s hard to dispute the love they so obviously had for one another. John was always fiercely defensive of her, as you would expect anyone to be of their partner. Why shouldn’t he be with the woman he loved? Let’s not forget that, from the very beginning of their relationship, Yoko had to put up with appalling racist abuse from people. This made John understandably very angry.
Some aspects of Yoko’s behaviour since John’s death have been difficult to comprehend. While there’s no doubt she has worked tirelessly in keeping his memory alive, there are some unsavoury stories about her treatment of certain people. She had a very strained relationship with John’s eldest son Julian, from his first marriage, for many years. The feeling was that Julian had been frozen out of John’s estate. This is undeniably unfair, though they seem to have put their differences aside in recent years for the sake of Julian’s relationship with his half-brother Sean.
Another relationship that has been repaired over time has been that between Yoko and Paul McCartney. They have been pictured together at many events and seem to get on very well these days. Yoko, along with George Harrison’s widow Olivia, has become a vital part of any Beatles decision-making that needs to happen. Paul has been very vocal about his change of heart: “My big awakening was, if John loves this woman, that’s gotta be right. I realised any resistance was something I had to overcome. Now it’s like we’re mates.” Who would have imagined that happening back in the late 60s?
The fact that Paul and Yoko can get on seems to be a sign that the fans too should put their animosity behind them. I’m not saying you have to be Yoko’s biggest fan. I’m certainly not — apart from anything else, I don’t much care for her own artistic and musical work — but I don’t hate her either. There are things she’s done that I don’t agree with, and she deserves some of the criticism that has been directed at her, but not all of it. When it comes to The Beatles, she can’t be held responsible for their break-up. In the end, while we lost a musician we adored, she lost the man she loved and shared her life with. That’s something we should all be able to respect.