Updated: December 4, 2021 10:11:59 am
There is something eerily prescient about Cut Piece, the 1964 performance art piece by Yoko Ono, in which the artist sat silent and motionless, with a pair of scissors before her, allowing members of the audience to do what they wanted. Some were hesitant, snipping off small pieces of her clothes, while others were bolder, slashing through large chunks of fabric. It reflected the strong strain of violence and sadism that lies, barely contained, beneath the surface of even the most genteel, art show-going audience, just like, three years later, the vitriol that Ono drew for allegedly breaking up The Beatles would bare the toxic, misogynistic side of rock and roll fandom.
The myth that Ono is to blame for the demise of one of the greatest musical acts of all time was born in 1970 and it’s taken half a century for it to finally be laid to rest. In a three-part, eight-hour-long documentary, Get Back, filmmaker Peter Jackson uses footage from the three-week period when The Beatles wrote and rehearsed the songs that would eventually make it onto Let It Be to draw a portrait of a group of musicians who are clearly drifting apart, with each individual keen to pursue his own artistic vision.
Perhaps it had to do as much with her race, as with her gender, but almost from the start, Ono was singled out for the fandom’s ire for the Beatles’ breakup. The documentary shows that she was only one of the many guests — which included Linda Eastman (Paul McCartney’s wife-to-be), Maureen Starkey (Ringo Starr’s wife), Pattie Boyd (George Harrison’s wife) and Shyamsunder Das (Harrison’s friend) — at the sessions. Yet, Ono was the one described as “dragon lady”, her name passing into the cultural lexicon as the term used to describe any woman who is seen as controlling or interfering. The world owes Ono an apology.
This editorial first appeared in the print edition on December 4, 2021 under the title ‘Sorry, Yoko’
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