The Beatles’ John Lennon and Yoko Ono are one of history’s best-known couples. They recorded music together and often advocated for peace. Not everyone was accepting of their relationship. Here’s what Lennon said about the press’s reaction to Ono in his book Skywriting by Word of Mouth.
John Lennon married his second wife, Yoko Ono, in 1969
This songwriter is best known for his work with the Beatles, performing songs “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “Twist and Shout,” “Hey Jude,” and other hits. John Lennon was married to his college sweetheart Cynthia Lennon, having his first child, Julian, with her.
While still writing and recording with the Beatles, Lennon met artist and activist Yoko Ono at an art exhibition. The two became enamored with each other shortly after. This whirlwind relationship with Ono caused Lennon’s divorce from his first wife, Cynthia. The two were officially separated in November 1968.
By March 1969, Lennon and Ono were married. They then appeared in their infamous honeymoon “bed-in for peace,” with Lennon often speaking out against racism and Britain’s anti-immigrant policies.
John Lennon said the press directed their ‘pent-up hatred of foreigners’ on Yoko Ono
Originally born in Tokyo, Ono spent much time in England and eventually moved to New York City with Lennon. Some news outlets (and fans) weren’t accepting of Ono’s relationship with the Beatles songwriter, as stated by Lennon.
According to the 2004’s John Lennon Imagined: Cultural History of a Rock Star, listeners would often surround The Beatles company headquarters and call Ono insulting names, insisting she should “get back to her own country.”
“The English press had a field day venting all their pent-up hatred of foreigners on Yoko…,” Lennon noted in Skywriting by Word of Mouth.
“It was humiliating and painful for both of us to have her described as ugly and yellow and other derogatory garbage, especially by a bunch of beer-bellied, red-necked ‘aging’ hacks; you are what you eat and think,” he continued. “We know what they eat and are told what to think: their masters’ leftovers.”
Even with the Beatles’ music, Lennon often commented on this “pent-up hatred of foreigners” — particularly with the Let It Be track “Get Back.” As noted in the Disney+ documentary series of the same title, this song functioned as a satirical look at Great Britain’s attitudes toward immigrants.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono released songs like ‘Give Peace a Chance’
Although some credit Ono with causing tension within the band, as seen in The Beatles: Get Back, some complications arose due to songwriting discussions. George Harrison even temporarily left the band before their final live performance.
In 1970, Paul McCartney confirmed the Beatles officially broke up. Still, the members continued writing and releasing songs as solo artists. Lennon and Ono even wrote music together, most notably activism-driven tracks like “Give Peace a Chance” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”