Yes, we realize the mountain we're up against here. It may even be an unwinnable battle. After all, Yoko Ono has withstood more public scorn and abuse than just about any other person in pop culture, let alone rock-star wife, over the past 50 years. But she was a visionary artist in her own right -- an unmistakably free-thinker who immediately attracted John Lennon with her avant-garde work.
For years, she carried the blame for the Beatles' breakup, which is ridiculous, of course, since the band was heading in that direction long before Ono entered Lennon's life. No matter, the damage was done. But we hope to change your mind, even just a little, about Ono's influence and significance. We acknowledge her music isn't for everyone, but if you're feeling adventurous, check out our list of the Top 10 Yoko Ono Songs for a few thrills.
"Yes, I'm Your Angel"From: 'Double Fantasy' (1980)
Released just weeks before his death, Lennon's last album (co-credited to Ono and subtitled A Heart Play), unwinds as a dialogue between the couple, whose songs alternate within Double Fantasy's tangled playlist. Ono's old-timey and playful "Yes, I'm Your Angel" balances nostalgic music-hall camp with genuine sentiment.
"You're the One"From: 'Milk and Honey' (1984)
Lennon and Ono followed Double Fantasy with another similarly structured album that arranged the couple's songs alongside each other (see No. 10 on our list of the Top 10 Yoko Ono Songs). The record was stitched together from Fantasy leftovers as well as from material Lennon and Ono were working on at the time of his death. Ono's love song, "You're the One," closed the album.
"My Man"From: 'It's Alright (I See Rainbows)' (1982)
At the time, 'It's Alright (I See Rainbows)' was Ono's most conventional-sounding album, drawing inspiration from the dance clubs and New Wave music that she influenced. Recorded not even two years after Lennon's death, the LP still bears painful scars. But overall it's a hopeful work brimming with purpose and possibilities.
"No, No, No"From: 'Season of Glass' (1981)
Season of Glass, Ono's only Top 50 album, was released less than six months after Lennon's death, and he haunts the record -- from his blood-splattered glasses on the LP's cover to the harrowing songs about coping with loss. "No, No, No" is one of the album's most powerful tracks, opening with four gunshots and Ono's anguished screams.
"Open Your Box"From: 'Fly' (1971)
Lennon plays guitar and co-produced this song (originally titled "Hirake") from Ono's second solo album. Like many of Ono's songs from the era, "Open Your Box," which also appeared as the B-side of Lennon's Top 20 hit "Power to the People," is about sex -- the title means exactly what you think it does. But the noisy chaos surrounding it is pure primal rage.
"Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him"From: 'Double Fantasy' (1980)
"Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him" was originally released on Double Fantasy as its penultimate track. Four years after Lennon's death, Ono's voice was stripped from the track, Lennon's backing vocals were turned up and the song was released as the lead single from the Ono tribute album "Every Man Has a Woman." We prefer Ono's original.
"Hell in Paradise"From: 'Starpeace' (1985)
Ono's 1985 concept album about peace and love (basically the same message she and Lennon were spreading since they first hooked up) would be her last record before a decade-plus long break. Like its predecessor, It's Alright (I See Rainbows) (see No. 8 on our list of the Top 10 Yoko Ono Songs), Starpeace worked within more traditional dance and pop landscapes. "Hell in Paradise," a club hit, is the record's highlight.
"Death of Samantha"From: 'Approximately Infinite Universe' (1973)
Lennon was once again behind the boards for Ono's 1973 double album, Approximately Infinite Universe, one of her first records to include traditional rock 'n' roll structures. "Death of Samantha," which features Lennon on guitar, is a bluesy dirge that's part-feminist manifesto, part-lover's lament, and one of her best songs.
"Kiss Kiss Kiss"From: 'Double Fantasy' (1980)
"Kiss Kiss Kiss" is probably Ono's best-known song, because it was featured on the B-side of Lennon's comeback single before his death, "(Just Like) Starting Over," and immediately followed that song on Double Fantasy. So whether or not they wanted to hear "Kiss Kiss Kiss," people are familiar with it. Like many of her cuts from the era, "Kiss Kiss Kiss" is infused with New Wave gloss. Bonus points: Ono has an orgasm at the end of the song.
"Walking on Thin Ice"From: 1981 single
Lennon and Ono put the finishing touches on "Walking on Thin Ice" the night he was killed. His guitar lines were the last thing he ever recorded. Less than a month after his murder, the song was released as a single and became Ono's first hit, reaching No. 58. We'd like to think it would have scored even without the backstory. It's a great New Wave song from the era and a testament to Ono's growing influence on other outre artists who followed.