Skip to main content

Yoko Ono is a musician with a lot of name recognition. Name recognition doesn’t always translate into singles sales. Although virtually all classic rock fans know who she is, only a small percentage of them could name one of her songs.

In spite of this, Yoko always maintained a fan following who appreciate her as an avant-gardist. Many people feel her work as a musician has been unjustly dismissed. This raises an interesting question: Did Yoko ever have a hit song?

A 1968 photograph of Yoko Ono and John Lennon outdoors | Susan Wood/Getty Images

Yoko Ono’s first hit song

Yoko hit the Billboard Hot 100 a grand total of two times. The first was in 1981. That year, her solo song “Walking On Thin Ice” hit #58.

Does that really count as a hit? Most music fans would say a song has to perform better on the charts to qualify as a hit. But for Yoko, it was her biggest solo hit ever.

Why did the song perform better than her numerous other singles? Part of it was likely the timing of the single’s release. The track was released onto the market in 1981, not long after John Lennon’s murder. John’s death understandably led to an increased public interest in Yoko and her music.
“Walking On Thin Ice,” one of Yoko Ono’s two charting singles

Another reason why the song may have performed as well as it did is the morbid curiosity the song inspired. John was murdered shortly after he left a studio with Yoko, who just remixed “Walking On Thin Ice.” When music fans heard the story behind the song, many understandably wanted to hear it.

There’s another explanation for the song’s relative success. Yoko is known for her unorthodox musicianship and singing. In contrast, “Walking On Thin Ice” is fairly conventional.

The song is very similar to the hit dance songs of the early 1980s. The beat of the song could well have been used in a song by a mainstream dance diva like Irene Cara or Laura Branigan. Remove some of Yoko’s unconventional vocal flourishes, and “Walking On Thin Ice” probably would have done even better.

Yoko Ono’s second hit song

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” Yoko Ono’s second charting single.

Decades later, Yoko hit the Billboard Hot 100 a second time. This time, it was with a song you have likely heard – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” Although “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” is often cited as one of John’s solo songs, Billboard credits it to “John & Yoko/The Plastic Ono Band With The Harlem Community Choir.”

That credit is a mouthful, but it (impressively) got Yoko on the Hot 100 in 2019, very late in her career. The song only hit #42, which is shocking considering how ubiquitous it is each December. Considering how “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” is a seasonal favorite, it could re-chart someday. Yoko might not be a hit machine like the Beatles. However, it would be quite an accomplishment for her to get a song from the 1970s to chart in the 2020s.

Also see: Why John Lennon and Yoko Ono Posed Naked For an Album Cover