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Music

The songs John Lennon wrote about Yoko Ono

@jackwhatley89

If you’re a fan of The Beatles, chances are you have an opinion of Yoko Ono. Whether you see her as the artistic soul that tapped into the creative genius of John Lennon or perhaps hold the misguided notion that the performance artist was instrumental in breaking up the Fab Four, the truth is, those opinions matter very little. Never one to be truly concerned with the words and thoughts of others, Ono operated primarily as one beating half of John Lennon’s heart in the 1960s and ’70s.

While it would be unfair to reduce Ono to simply Lennon’s walking talking muse, there are plenty of reasons to think that she was. Namely, the songs Lennon wrote for her. One of the most fruitful songwriters of his generation, if not the 20th century as a whole, Lennon always wrote his songs in pairs. For a long time, it had been Paul McCartney who had operated as the ballast to his armada of creativity. However, after meeting the well-to-do performance artist, Lennon found not only the love of his life but the permanent anchor he needed.

Ono became Lennon’s lifeblood. He simply couldn’t function without her in the vicinity of his creative process. It’s something that was expertly captured within Peter Jackson’s new documentary Get Back. Ever-present in the studio, Ono not only acted as an artistic instigator for Lennon to write his own magical journey into creative heaven, but she also became the direct object of those songs.

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It was, as they say, love at first sight for Lennon and Ono. Well, almost at least. When Lennon first came across the artist’s work during a particularly psychedelic art exhibition, the Beatle became infatuated with Ono. When she then confessed she didn’t know who he or The Beatles were, he fell head over heels in love with her. Quickly enough, Ono would begin to feature in some of the Fab Four’s songs.

Tracks like ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ and ‘Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey’ make light references to Ono on The White Album, but Lennon would find room on later records to make statements about his new love. One of the most notable songs is ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’, about which Lennon said in 1969: “t’s like an old-time ballad. It’s the story of us going along getting married, going to Paris, going to Amsterdam, all that. It’s ‘Johnny B. Paperback Writer.” Later, during his infamous interview with David Sheff, Lennon would call the song “a piece of journalism. It’s a folk song. That’s why I called it, ‘The Ballad Of…'”

A similar recording from Abbey Road was ‘I Want you (She’s So Heavy)’, which provided some of Lennon’s most simple lyrics in one of his most creative periods. And, in proper form, Lennon simply described the song, noting: “That’s me, about Yoko.”

One song that would arrive as a single and form part of the band’s exceptional rooftop performance was arguably one of Lennon’s best songs, ‘Don’t Let Me Down’. A powerhouse blues rocker, the song heavily relies on Lennon’s potent vocal performance, something Paul McCartney attributed to the subject matter of the track: “It was a very tense period. John was with Yoko and had escalated to heroin and all the accompanying paranoia, and he was putting himself out on a limb.

“I think that, as much as it excited and amused him, at the same time it secretly terrified him,” Macca confirmed. “So ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ was a genuine plea, ‘Don’t let me down, please, whatever you do. I’m out on this limb…’ It was saying to Yoko, ‘I’m really stepping out of line on this one. I’m really letting my vulnerability be seen, so you must not let me down.’ I think it was a genuine cry for help. It was a good song.”

Once Lennon left the band, he began working directly alongside Yoko Ono as part of the Plastic Ono Band; the object of his affections within the songs started to ring even more genuine. Tracks like ‘Aisumasen’, ‘Oh Yoko!’ and ‘I’m Losing You’ all offered new facets of their relationship. While some would try to hide their romantic relationship from public view, Lennon had long committed to expressing his every notion on record.

But perhaps one of his most vulnerable songs, ‘Love’ was a direct ode to Ono. Compared to ‘The Ballad Of John And Yoko’, Lennon’s other great ode to his wife, ‘Love’ is a remarkably stark track, as if he wanted to avoid anything that might detract from his adoration. The stripped-back, elemental sound that Lennon pursued on ‘Love’ feels almost like an extension of the primal therapy that he and Yoko Ono took part in following the break up of The Beatles in 1970. Lennon rarely spoke about ‘Love’ openly, but it’s possible that, at least in some ways, it was intended as a gift to Ono. “With Yoko, I really knew love for the first time,” he once said: “I’d never met anyone who was my equal in every imaginable way. My better, actually. The dream came true”.

Lennon’s final song for his wife and soul mate would come on Double Fantasy released around the time of his tragic death with ‘Dear Yoko’, and it’s middle eight, providing a beautiful and straightforward message: “Even when I watch TV / there’s a hole where you’re supposed to be”. It’s a sunshine beauty, delivered within a bittersweet notion of their enduring love and his tragic premature departure.

Below, we have the complete list of songs John Lennon wrote for Yoko Ono as well as a perfect playlist to celebrate the artist’s birthday.

The songs John Lennon wrote about Yoko Ono:

  • ‘Aisumasen’
  • ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’
  • ‘Dear Yoko’
  • ‘Don’t Let Me Down’
  • ‘Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey’
  • ‘God’
  • ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’
  • ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’
  • ‘I’m Losing You’
  • ‘Love’
  • ‘Oh Yoko!’