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Yoko Ono Posts Open Letter to Critics

Theo Wargo, Getty Images

Yoko Ono has faced harsh criticism throughout her career — so much so that it would be easy to assume she no longer hears or pays attention to any of it. But as she revealed in an open letter posted to her Imagine Peace website, she’s well aware of the insults people sling at her music.

What’s more, as Ono admitted in a post titled “DON’T STOP ME!,” she’s afraid she can’t help but internalize that criticism to some extent — and that, at her age, all the negativity will finally wear her down and make her “old and sick like many others of my age.”

As you know if you’ve spent any time with the Ono discography — which includes a pair of new 10″ singles released as part of her 82nd birthday celebration — much of her work is heavily experimental, up to and including her decidedly non-traditional singing voice. But as Ono argued in her letter, “I am not concerned with what my voice is doing. If I was, what you experience would not be. My voice will be dead, once I am concerned about it, in the way you are asking me to. Go to a classical concert, if you want to hear a ‘trained’ voice.”

Pointing out that there’s a double standard at work here — Ono singled out Iggy Pop as a male veteran rocker who isn’t criticized nearly as much for his untrained singing — she defiantly defended her self-expression, writing, “Let me be free. Let me be me! Don’t make me old, with your thinking and words about how I should be. You don’t have to come to my shows. I am giving tremendous energy with my voice, because that is me. Get my energy or shut up.”

There’s a lot more to the letter, which is well worth reading in its entirety, but in the end, Ono vows to tune out the critics and continue dancing to the beat of her own drum (or singing just off the beat, if that’s what she feels like doing). “I am afraid of just one thing. That those ageism criticism will finally influence me, I would succumb to it and get old,” concludes the post. “So I am covering my ears not to listen to you guys! Because dancing in the middle of an ageism society is a lonely trip. Don’t stone me! Let me be! Love me plenty for what I am!”

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