John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s relationship has been the subject of much controversy over the years. While many Beatles fans incorrectly have blamed the Japanese multimedia artist for splitting up the iconic band, others launched more vitriolic, racist attacks against Ono which have unfortunately played a significant part in her position within popular culture.
In his final book titled Skywriting by Word of Mouth, which was published posthumously, Lennon shared his own opinions about the public backlash and the racism that Ono had to endure. According to Lennon, many people attacked Ono for how she looked even though she was considered to be very beautiful in Japan.
Through his writing, Lennon explored some of the cultural frameworks which were responsible for this rampant racism. The legendary musician said that many of his countrymen harboured anti-Japanese hostility because of their actions during the Second World War and these sentiments found an outlet when Yoko Ono became a prominent public figure.
While the misogyny and racism in the public discourse were propagated by thousands of Beatles fans, Lennon was also subjected to criticism by other media figures such as Michael Caine. The pioneering actor had a close relationship with members of The Beatles and he lived in the same neighbourhood as George Harrison.
“I knew John quite well, but George [Harrison] and I were neighbours and we used to go to each other’s houses for dinner,” Caine said in an interview. “I never did that with Paul [McCartney] or John. I invited George to dinner one evening and he brought what we thought was a guitar and we thought he was going to sing for us and we were all excited.”
Describing the encounter, Caine added: “What I didn’t know was that George was the president of the George Formby fan club. He was a famous, very funny singer who used to sing these silly songs. George had brought a ukulele and sang George Formby songs all evening. Which were great, but it was such a surprise.”
Critiquing the hypocritical ideas in the UK such as the widespread belief that racism was an American phenomenon, Lennon revealed that he should have expected such comments from some people in the country. However, he was definitely taken aback by Michael Caine’s comments on his relationship with Yoko Ono.
Lennon wrote: “I should not have been surprised by the outpouring of race-hatred and anti-female malice to which we were subjected in that bastion of democracy, Great Britain (including the now-reformed Michael Caine, who said something… to the effect that ‘I don’t see why ‘ee don’t find a nice English girl!)”.