October 19th, 2010
06:19 PM ET

Ono: 'I was used as a scapegoat' in blame over Beatles breakup

New York (CNN) – John Lennon’s widow says racism and sexism played a role in how she was blamed for the breakup of the Beatles decades ago.

“I was used as a scapegoat, a very easy scapegoat. You know, a Japanese woman and whatever,” Yoko Ono tells CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview set to air Tuesday on CNN’s AC360°.

“You think some of it was sexism, racism?” Cooper queried.

“Sexism, racism,” Ono replied. “But also just remember that the United States and Britain were fighting with Japan in World War II. It was just after that in a way so I can understand how they felt.”

But Ono also tells Cooper that the public hostility directed at her “was sort of like a distant thing in a way because John and I were so close. And we were just totally involved in each other and in our work.”

October 9 would have been Lennon’s 70th birthday. Ono built a special tribute to him in Iceland and talks with Cooper about the importance of remembering Lennon’s life and spirit. In the first of the three-part interview, Ono also talks about her memories of first meeting Lennon and how she coped with his murder 30 years ago.

Filed under: 360° Radar
soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. ali haider

    the beatles had already.become tired of each other. Yoko just added to the frustration. but what they did after the break up as artists was so great that it kept getting better. Old grey haired beatles would have just faded. the break up cemented their legend forever.

    October 20, 2010 at 6:51 am |
  2. JTL

    Addendum:I started playing professionally while I was in high school,in 1964. I played and experienced all of the dynamic changes in music (2 most noteworthy were The Beatles & Jimi Hendrix)from Stax Soul - Mo'town - Top 40 - Psychedelic - BS&T - Stones - Blues & Jazz, et al. I had a great admiration for The Beatles' later work,starting with Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt Pepper.
    My wife and I are to this day STILL ANGRY about John's murder. The group was obviously fading,but Yoko = the final straw. In several documentaries recently aired on TV,she enabled & encouraged his political activism, while noble & very beneficial to needed socio/politco/economic change, I always had the impression she was riding on John's coat-tails. She did not cause the band's break-up, but in my opinion, she was and active stressor who facilitated their demise. JTL

    October 20, 2010 at 3:49 am |
  3. Ro from NYC

    There are always 3 sides to every story......The truth is a matter of perception.

    The Beatles remain an integral part of my life and journey. Though together for a relatively short time, their message is timeless.

    Every time I hear their songs, the more I learn and appreciate the worldview they espoused – peace and love.

    All you need...........

    October 20, 2010 at 1:47 am |
  4. Kuuipo

    After spending a great deal of time together over a dozen years and enduring the hysteria that was Beatlemania, the band members understandably had grown up, grown apart, and were eager to live separate lives. It was a natural process and it would have happened with or without Yoko Ono. I doubt that any reasonable person blames her for the breakup.

    October 20, 2010 at 1:31 am |
  5. Barb

    Ono is a strong woman. During that time period people were scared of that strength and would do anything to tear it down. I admire her strength and thank her for paving the way for future women.

    You can not stop change, the band members were meant to go in different directions. Life happened, it was no ones fault.

    October 20, 2010 at 1:29 am |
  6. kahliforni

    Yoko was the love of John's life, an artist mirroring his own creativity, and she simply came along when the Beatles were dying.

    October 20, 2010 at 1:26 am |
  7. Steve Bradley

    I personally think that The Beatles broke up over one thing: maturity. They wanted their own lives and their own careers. They took that wonderful music as far as they could take it and it was just time.

    October 20, 2010 at 1:20 am |
  8. Martin

    The Beatles were a band. Bands have a finite shelflife. People needed to get over this decades ago.

    October 20, 2010 at 12:56 am |
  9. nancy schreiber

    I believe that his last song,"Woman" said it all.

    October 20, 2010 at 12:56 am |
  10. Dave Soriano

    I do not want to see the convicted murderer ever leaving prison.

    October 20, 2010 at 12:51 am |
  11. Bert Weedon

    The thing that ultimately matters is that John loved Yoko, and she inspired his life and work for a period of nearly 14 years. One can never discern the essence of the dynamic or chemistry that exists between two people. What's the point of bashing Yoko? I've done more than my share, but I'm done. She's done a great deal to honor his memory and release more of his work. This is a longer journey than most people understand or imagine. We live out a drama with our kindred souls and advance in the process.

    October 20, 2010 at 12:40 am |
  12. Jaclyn

    Really Yoko? It had nothing to do with race or sex. To my understanding, the only problem the Beatles had with her was the fact she sat in on their recordings. That never happened before – no one brought in their significant others because it can affect work performance in any career. The Beatles were just growing apart. It really wasn't Yoko's fault, and any avid Beatles fan should know that. She's done well in protecting John's image postmortem. She's a little late in defending herself, unfortunately I think she has the wrong theory as to why she was blamed.

    October 20, 2010 at 12:39 am |
  13. Rock God

    Yoko rocks! I love her solo albums. She was an artist long before John came along. "Woman Power" is a cool song and she's a cool chick, baby!

    October 20, 2010 at 12:39 am |
  14. SuperMichael

    When the whole thing started, it was inspirational. An extraordinary success story that changed the world. But AD (i.e., after drugs), when we started to learn about who was a walrus and diamonds in the sky, the entertainment value remained high, but it needed to reach a natural endpoint. If Ono was responsible, God bless her. To think it was due to sexism or racism is quite ludicrous. But at least it gives us something to BS about 30 years later.

    October 20, 2010 at 12:37 am |
  15. Joe

    I don't think racism and sexism played a part, but I don't think she's to blame for their breakup. Yes, it was a dumb thing for John to do to have her at their sessions. But the band was already tettering on the brink at that point. Also, in some ways, perhaps it's best they broke up and never got back together. A lot of the mystique of the Beatles is that they ended it at the perfect time. They never had a bad record, they never had a failed album. They didn't do 20 reunion tours and fade away. The end of the Beatles is poetic in a lot of ways. And besides, I do not think their legacy would have remained quite as intact if they had gone out in a flurry of commercial flops.

    October 20, 2010 at 12:25 am |
  16. Artemis

    Yoko had a small amount to do with the breakup. The trenches of fame, controlling George Martin, and bad financial contracts had all of the band at odds with each other. The fact that Paul and John were moving forward with their personal lives and relationships was not the sole reason the band parted!

    October 20, 2010 at 12:23 am |
  17. Tyler

    I'm pretty sure none of the Beatles could stand each other by the end of it. It really was a ship with too many captains. That much genius in one band is likely to bring tension.

    Yoko may have had a part in the overall tension, but to say that she singlehandedly caused their breakup is absurd.

    Now, her music on the other hand...

    October 20, 2010 at 12:19 am |
  18. JTL

    I was a young musician at that time (and still am). After decades of playing in numerous groups and diverse venues, I can say with certainty that personality clashes, ego conflicts, and creative differences have shattered many (most, eventually) music groups at all levels of professional performance. But the one rule that was understood was this: Don't bring wives, girlfriends etc to rehersals, and, NEVER IN THE STUDIO.

    October 20, 2010 at 12:19 am |
  19. gina

    Look outside the box! Yoko had nothing to do with The Beatles –john wanted change----ask Paul---he knows–he was there!!!!!!!!!!

    October 20, 2010 at 12:09 am |
  20. Emilio Dumphuque

    I've always felt that the way to honor John was to honor his widow. I have nothing good to say of people that attack a good man's widow!!
    The Beatles were ready to break up. They weren't quite a business like the stones, they were soulful. Even Paul had more soul than the Stones! For other bands that survived, it's all about the money. Imagine.

    October 20, 2010 at 12:09 am |
  21. Sharon

    I agree with Hoofleau, plus it was hard to come up with "new" material singing the same songs over and over before a crowd, it took time and energy away from other things John wanted to do. Let It Be and Imagine were written by John, I think. Also, John needed someone "mature" and Ono seemed the perfect fit. But of course alot of American women were
    most likely jealous, John knew who he was looking for. Thank you Ono for being strong and
    telling us how you felt. You are doing a good job and John would be proud.

    October 20, 2010 at 12:05 am |
  22. Jeff

    "Anyone who blames Yoko for the breakup of the Beatles can thank Yoko for unleashing four passionate and talented solo artists to the world."

    It's just unfortunate that by releasing those four solo artists into the world that the world had to lose the chemistry those four made collectively. Nothing by a solo-Beatle compares to the foursome group of The Beatles

    October 20, 2010 at 12:04 am |
  23. Ozzi

    I think Yoko needs to get over this.

    October 19, 2010 at 11:51 pm |
  24. Melanopterus

    Honestly I don't blame her, while I am sure the situation between her and John might have been a factor I highly doubt it can be pinned on one thing and one thing alone.

    Creative differences were happening more and more, Paul and John were both strained by the fact that neither of them owned their own music (they had to share it). They group was spending to much time together etc etc etc.

    I do think that Ono was a scapegoat that everyone wanted to pin it on one thing and they picked her. However I don't think racism and sexism were the reason. People like having an explanation for what went wrong and she was a very logical deciding factor.

    I think it's pretty weak of her to just accuse so many fans of being racist and sexist, would they even be fans of John if they had that mind set? I can understand her wanting to defend herself and say she wasn't to blame but stamping that as a reason just made me lose a whole lot of respect for her.

    October 19, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
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