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. Bob

    To read accounts of Yoko's input in the studio: i.e. "Beatles, stop", (this from one of the biographies, I don't recall which one)is like nails on a chalkboard. I do respect John's right to do whatever he wanted. I do not respect screaming "performance" art.

    October 19, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
  2. Charles

    She was, in my opinion, treated unfairly was a result of her performance artist persona, not so much her race or anything of that nature. The average person fears and distrust performance artists. Its a fact. I think Yoko is great but do see this as the leading cause of her pop culture treatment.

    October 19, 2010 at 11:40 pm |
  3. Ficheye

    There are some interesting things being reported about John's relationship with Yoko. I'll leave it to the readers to google that up. But her albums were just awful, in my opinion. If she was in the studio making comments about music which she only had a distant understanding of, well, I could understand the resentment of her input.

    However, I think the Beatles were on the way to a breakup before she arrived. I've never blamed her, myself. John and Paul weren't the awesome songwriting team anymore. They didn't care for one another. BUT... it's amazing what they came up with at the end, even though they could hardly bear to be in the same room together. Come together!!!!

    October 19, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
  4. TCR

    I remember when Yoko came on the scene. Yoko hd nothing to do with breaking up the Beatles; rather, it was clear that John Lennon was fed up with being a Beatle and, both personally and artistically, wanted to move on.

    October 19, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
  5. bailoutsos

    The Fab Four were already fighting with each other before Yoko showed up.

    October 19, 2010 at 11:22 pm |
  6. billp

    I don't dispute that Ono was unjustly blamed for the Beatles' breakup, but I don't think she was blameless, either.

    October 19, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
  7. harvey nagelberg

    Didn't Paul say she tried to pick him up first?
    It was a shame that Lennon turned away from his talented mates to team up with a person with no discernible talent.

    October 19, 2010 at 11:10 pm |
  8. gwats

    The only constant in life is change. People tire of each other, kids grow up, and bands break up. Yoko really had no part in this and should have not been blamed. People will always resist change, even if it's for the better. Nothing, no matter how great, lasts forever. John Lennon lived his life fully with the love of his life in the time he had. How many of us can say that?

    October 19, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
  9. Breanna

    Honestly I don't blame her for "breaking up the Beatles" because John wanted her there and that was his decision, and if she made him happy I'm glad. But she's just such an annoying person. People dislike her for the fact that she constantly tried to usurp John. You can watch this in video after video of interviews where she'd cut him off with some trivial, borderline senseless comment while he was trying to say something no doubt profound. Not to mention the fact that she was that generation's Lady Gaga. She worked /so hard/ to "prove" how "weird" she was rather than just being so naturally, or being whoever she naturally was. If she had been that way naturally she would have been in the spotlight instead of (or with) John without having had to muscle her way there. A perfect example of what I'm talking about is their performance with Frank Zappa of "Baby, Please Don't Go" in which she just lets out random shrieking noises that did nothing but ruin the song because she somehow thought that was going to make her seem creative or eccentric. It doesn't, Yoko, it just reaffirms the notion that you try too hard. It doesn't take sexism or racism to recognize that.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:58 pm |
  10. Maman Brigitte

    The Beatles needed to break up at that point, and if Yoko was the catharsis, give her some credit. It would have been depressing if the Beatles sank into the sad ditch of middle-aged miasma. They quit at their peak, which is quite amazing.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
  11. galina

    great show tonight.

    i, just a regular girl, have 2 lennon experiences. when i was in 6th grade 37 years ago (or, so) got first pair of wire rims on union st. in sf, my last name was leslie at the time, john's file was next to mine, glasses paid for by emi.

    many years later, i was working in the fairmont hotel, i was coming up the stairs from the employee kitchen and a little boy caught my attention in the stairwell. he put his finger over his mouth in order for me to keep quiet. all of a sudden, from above, there was Yoko, callin, "sean, sean". sean looked at me in an effort to keep quiet. it was at that moment i realized who i was with. it was shortly after john passed, i believe yoko was in sf for a period of time.

    just a little story i thought i would share. very fond memories. i eventually bought aviator, purple lensed glasses. don't know what ever happened to those...

    October 19, 2010 at 10:55 pm |
  12. MillenniumJane

    I have always admired Yoko's artistic talent and quiet perseverence. She is a class act all the way!

    October 19, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
  13. garyis

    Yoko was Johns Love of loves. Maybe the other Beatles were uncomfortable when John would bring Yoko with him for recordings and rehearsals just as Wings were uncomfortable when Paul brought Linda his love of loves into the band.

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

    October 19, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
  14. Troy

    I always have, and always will enjoy the music of the Beatles. This is one of the few groups in which everyone can sing, play, and write music. Each of their songs had meaning and can still be appreciated to this day. This has always been my favorite group for over 30 years. Yoko, or no Yoko, John wanted a change. Everything happens for a reason, and it turned out great. We were blessed to hear the music of each of these four great artist.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
  15. fritzrose

    I know from personal experience that Yoko Ono is a wonderful person. She used to have lunch at a restaurant I worked at in NYC, and she always left a 200% tip. (Yes, that is "two hundred percent" tip.) We consistently had to do a manual computer override because the computer thought it was a mistake that anyone would leave that much money to the wait staff. She did every single time. Any waiter can tell you, THAT is the mark of a wonderful person.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
  16. Jon

    Actually, they all wanted out in a way but she was the obvious straw the broke the alpaca's back. They were all to blame; Paul's ego, Ringo's drinking, George's stifled creativity and disillusionment at the hands of Lennon McCartney and John with his heavy drug use (and obviously Yoko). They were the first, nobody before them had to go through what they did. 8 years must have seemed like a lifetime. As George said shortly before his death "we were the Spice Boys."

    October 19, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
  17. frank

    I think The Beatles created a 'Perfect Storm' of popularity that no one on their management side was prepared for. These artists were starved for creative peace and personal freedom. Even by their making of "A Hard Days Night" movie the quartet was a distant band of individual artists looking for their way out from one another and the madness they spawned. Yoko or not The Beatles were destined to break-up just as soon as they formed.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
  18. Will S

    She still *is* an easy scapegoat.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
  19. Chris

    When the members of The Beatles say that they had gone about as far as they could as The Beatles, I take them at their word. If they had tried to keep going, it could have been worse. As solo artists, each of them has left a huge footprint. How many other bands can say that?

    Ono is right - blaming her was easy. It was racist and sexist, but most of all, we just wanted The Beatles to keep going, no matter how unreasonable an expectation that was. We should all remember that John, Paul, George, and Ringo were as heartbroken as we all were. Of course, that's easier to see in hindsight.

    John would have been 70. If ever there was a time that we needed him, it is now. We need him asking us to give peace a chance. We need him challenging us to imagine no religion. We need to protect ourselves from the mind games that are turning us into nowhere men. I read the news today. Oh, boy.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:34 pm |
  20. Derek Taylor

    The Yoko Revisionist Tour continues!

    October 19, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
  21. Karen

    Ono just loves to hear herself talk, a professional widow now. It was not sexism or racism, it was just that people don't like her as a person.

    The Beatles time had come, and they moved on. Ono needs to move on too.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:26 pm |
  22. Willy Brown

    She just trying to sell more records. The Beatles were finished as a band long before John brought her to the set.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
  23. james

    Come on !!! back in the day, having this woman hanging around the studio while one of the greatest, important sessions was taking place would have irritated anyone. Musicians are touchy anyway. Sitting right on his lap while theyre recording was not right. She could have been helpful by being understanding of her presence. She was so creepy too.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
  24. ikantraed

    Everyone missed the beatles more than they liked his new political message he was supporting. Obviously the drugs and the climate of the times in the 70s had something to do with his change... People said the same thing about Cat Stevens who wrote that sweet "moonshadow" song after he converted to Islam.. It's the same kind of thing.. People grow accustomed to a certain style and message in the music they listen too.. When you are a downer to a bunch of people who already know full well about depression and expect something uplifting and entertaining, what do you expect them to feel? Were they buying your political message as much they were buying something good to listen to in the car?

    October 19, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
  25. Devin

    Shout out to Yoko! Loved her haunting voice in the songs she was in, especially the So This is Christmas song... emotionally stirring. Also, I'd second that the beatles were totally icons for their generation and their music will be passed down for many more generations to come!

    October 19, 2010 at 10:17 pm |
  26. Tina

    I am disappointed by her use of the buzzwords "racism" and "sexism." It is a lame reply.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  27. Steven Brown

    It's common knowledge that the breakup was due to a falling out between Lennon and McCartney. The former was into eclectic art as social commentary, and the latter was into music with sentimental lyrics. The two became mutually incompatible, and in marriage, that is grounds for divorce. Yoko Ono was just a sideshow.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
  28. Irene

    I always got the feeling that she road on the coattails of John. He needed her but if she were truly unselfish, she would have helped him to stay with the Beatles and transformed the world through his brilliant song-writing. She used him to get her agenda across.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:09 pm |
  29. RoBurque

    BS! Yoko was vilified because of the influence she exerted over John. In the same manner, Linda McCartney was blamed for having a controlling agenda over Paul. Believe me, it wasn't because Linda was a blonde Anglo.

    Whether you respect Ms. Ono's 'art' or not, were it not for her association with John, she would have been forgotten decades ago, with most of us never having heard her name.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
  30. Poll Question

    Do you blame Yoko Ono for the Beatles break up?



    October 19, 2010 at 10:06 pm |
  31. Bill

    Don't forget Paul was the one who announced he was leaving first. John wanted out - they did at one time or another - but they talked him into staying. Paul made his announcement which conveniently was timed around the release of his first solo record. As much as I would like to, I can't blame Yoko. Not one bit.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:06 pm |
  32. Love the Beatles

    Long live the Beatles. I love their music. Anyway, Yoko, take a sad song and make it better.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:00 pm |
  33. Quentin Eichenauer

    This is sad. She was blamed for breaking up the band not because of sexism or racism, but because that's what happens to bands, the members make outside connections which become more important and it all. falls. apart.

    By the 70s, my brother who fought in the Pacific Theater had already bought his second Datsun. The kids weren't thinking that way then, they woulda been more hung up on an African American than a Japanese.

    I'm glad John Lennon loved her, but I don't. Sad.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:59 pm |
  34. Acaraho

    John never loved his first wife and he fell head over heels for Yoko. Is that any different than what we see in some of today's celebrities? This is a non-issue for me.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:56 pm |
  35. Tony

    She is right ......no one wanted to see Lennon with her....people saw Cynthia Lennon as the victim and Brits just didn't take too kindly to this

    October 19, 2010 at 9:46 pm |
  36. rich

    I don't know if racism was why people were turned off by her. I do remember thinking his other wife was prettier and Yoko could have a pretty annoying singing voice. She had some nice songs, "Hard Times are Over" – probably the best.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:46 pm |
  37. Hoofleau

    She's innocent. John Lennon wanted the change. I think he got bored with all the hype and wanted a simpler life for himself and his loved ones.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:46 pm |
  38. obvious

    or perhaps it was because she was not very talented and john and her expected the other members of the beatles to treat her as an equal, and even to listen to ideas with greater weight than they.

    I'm sure sexism and rascism played a role, but someone should tell her that being married to John Lennon doesn't make her interesting, or charismatic, or likable, or significant (as an artist) in her own right, but she thought it did - and that probably played more a role in how people responded to her.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:39 pm |
  39. rich

    Anyone who blames Yoko for the breakup of the Beatles can thank Yoko for unleashing four passionate and talented solo artists to the world. I've loved the work and personalities of John, Paul, George, and Ringo ever since they came on Ed Sullivan for the first time. I'll respect John's decision, I could tell he really loved her until the end. Maybe it didn't work out for the Beatles, but I think a lot was going on at the time. If you asked Paul in person, I'm sure he'd give you plenty of reasons.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:38 pm |
  40. quite interesting

    I find it quite interesting that a man who has been dead for 30 years has made more of an impact than many living 30 year olds.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:26 pm |
  41. Austin Texas

    As A BEATLE fan for 48 years I still think that John wanted this lady there at the recording sessions...the only thing that bothers me is that I do not know for a fact that she wanted to be there no matter what...I think things turned out the best...Long Live the Beatles the best Band forever.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:19 pm |
  42. keith moon

    George Harrison well before he died,was very outspoken about Yoko NOT being the reason The Beatles broke up.McCartney and Ringo also have chimed in.She may have sped up the process by being at Lennon's side in the studio beginning with the 1968 White Album sessions,but the band would have eventually broke up anyway.Her presence in the studio created tension but how could it not?How would Yoko have felt if a complete stranger suddenly showed up in her art studio and stood there watching her create?As far as racism,give me a break.We are talking about the 1960's here.There was no PC back then.If the guys in The Beatles said anything offensive,it was low key and definitely not in front of Lennon.He had a volatile temper and would have gone after someone physically if they insulted Ono.This all sounds like Yoko trying to drum up media attention,kind of sad.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
  43. JT

    Actually, for breaking up the Beatles, I would blame John more than Yoko for he brought Yoko into this tight foursome as an equal of sorts. Yoko was instrumental but John could have told her to but out.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:00 pm |
  44. JT

    Actually, for breaking up the Beatles, I would blame John more than Yoko for he brought Yoko into this tight foursome as an equal of sorts. Yoko was instrumental but John could have told her to butt out.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:00 pm |

    Anderson, In honor of your ability to create a storm of truth, I want to thank you for perseverance and dedication to the topics you discuss, the places you share with the world and the faces and hearts you touch. You are an EAGLE...Keep of the good work..Laine

    October 19, 2010 at 8:57 pm |
  46. Mike

    One of the greatest bands ever broke up and one of the main members was clearly infatuated with a woman. Of course she was going to be made a scapegoat. But to cry racism and sexism is ridiculous. I am not saying that she was to blame, but it's the oldest cliche in the book, a band breaking up over a woman. Get over it.....your wealth far exceeds your talent!

    October 19, 2010 at 8:51 pm |
  47. Right

    If Lennon was alive today, bet she'd be an ex. Mrs.

    October 19, 2010 at 8:42 pm |
  48. adela

    Life in prison to me, means just that.
    After all this yrs can't forget that horrible
    day......and we still cry about it.
    We love you Yoko

    October 19, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
  49. Kristina Forsberg, Arjeplog Norrbotten

    Goodevening Mr Andersson. People in public should not blame Yoko Ono. She was wife to John Lennon but she did not have the responsibility for Beatles breakup.I´ll hope and belive thath grown ups can take their own responsibility for theirs deeds. Best regards/ Kristina

    October 19, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
  50. Kwak, Nohkwon

    The members were still young, filled with passion for their great style of music. Ono may have seemed a kind of intruder, breaking up the harmony in beatles both in life and in music. And the mob mentality, specifically of girls, against a rather short Japanese woman in love with John also may have shaken the young boys. But after this long period of time, personally, I am so sorry for Ono, the one that must have loved and will still love John most for sure.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:32 am |
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