10 Questions for Yoko Ono

4 minute read
Lily Rothman

You’ve had a productive year, including museum shows; a book, Acorn, that offers readers 100 conceptual instructions; and an album, Take Me to the Land of Hell, out on Sept. 17. What prompted all this creativity?
When I have time to do these things and I get inspired, I just do it.

How has your creative process evolved over the course of your career?
My career? I never think of it as a “career.” Art and music and all those things that I’m creating are just part of me.

Has that part of you changed?
I don’t think so, but maybe critics might say something else! My feeling is that this particular album is the best I did in 80 years. Also the book, Acorn. I was a bit nervous about it, so I reread it — and said, “Oh, that’s not bad.”

It’s been more than 40 years since “Give Peace a Chance” was recorded, and war is still a big part of the world. Do you ever get frustrated or feel like things will never improve?
Well, we’re still here. People say, “What’s happening now? You said that it’s going to be O.K.!” It’s going to be O.K., but it’s taking a little time, more time than I thought.

How optimistic!
It’s not being optimistic. I think I’m being pragmatic. I’m a pragmatic person. And I’m also being very practical and logical. I really think that we’re getting wiser and wiser. We can make it.

In addition to the album, you recently released a new remix of “Walking on Thin Ice,” the last track you worked on with John Lennon. What was it like to return to that song?
It’s a very strange kind of relationship I have with “Walking on Thin Ice,” because when I created it I just thought, Well, it’s a pretty good song. But then John and I produced it and he passed away right away. The memory of it is really painful, actually.

How much is he still part of your life today?
I’m proud that I was his wife. I am still, in a way, you know. I’m working on his work too. The fact that I’m doing that, as well as my work, I feel a little pride about it.

There’s a song on the album called “Little Boy Blue Your Daddy’s Gone.” Is that about your son?
Yes, that was a song to him, because I understand what he had to go through. When John and I were going to have Sean we said, “Anybody who is John and Yoko’s child should be very, very happy.” But we really hadn’t realized that it could be very difficult for him. And it was. And it is, in a way.

What does that “Land of Hell” from the title track mean to you? Is it a literal place?
Rolling Stone asked me to write something about John and me. In that, I was saying maybe people feel that they’re in heaven when they have a beautiful love relationship. We felt that our heaven was in hell. Hell was created by people, for us, but we still had heaven between us. So I thought that this time — well, we were so adamant about our love, and when I look around I feel that people are much more interested in making money and trying to be famous. They’re ignoring their hearts. That’s why there are so many heart operations, I think.

So you think people are more interested in fame and money than they used to be?
It seems like that. It’d be good if we loved each other and would give some focus to each other, and weren’t afraid of being passionate. To have a relationship that is pure and passionate and beautiful — I think people are scared of having that now. Especially guys.

Do you think you’ll ever retire?
I never thought of it. It would be so silly to retire now. It’s like my second life is opening up. When I became 70, I thought, Wow, it’s great! I’d like people to know, especially women. They’re always thinking, I’m going to be 40! What am I going to do? Well, 70 was great. Eighty’s even better.

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Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com