It was 50 years ago today (March 20th, 1969) that John Lennon and Yoko Ono married in Gibraltar — only eight days after Paul McCartney wed first wife Linda Eastman in London. Directly after the wedding, the couple opened up their hotel room to the world's press during their Amsterdam honeymoon, and launched their first “Bed In” for peace.
The couple had met in London in 1966 at one of Ono's avant garde art shows, and became romantically linked sometime between mid-1967 and mid-1968. By the spring of 1968, the pair, whom Lennon took to calling “Johnandyoko,” began a long-standing artistic partnership with the recording of their debut album, called Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins. The album included experimental sounds recorded in Lennon's home studio, and featured an album cover showing them nude.
Yoko says that throughout the years, Lennon was always easy to work with: “When I was an avant garde artist, already I was a control freak, okay? And John understood it. John was a very good person to work with, a good husband as well, y'know, in that sense. A good partner, that he would allow me to be myself kind of thing.”
George Harrison's first wife Pattie Boyd says that the days of all the Beatle wives being a close-knit group pretty much ended with Yoko entering the inner circle: “John fell in love with Yoko and that was that. She was more a man's woman than a woman's woman. She would never have girlfriends, I don't think, anyway. Y'know that was fine, so I knew I'd never get close to her. She was quite friendly toward me. I mean, she and John once stayed in our house and she was just so intent on John all the time. John was her only focus, really and truly.”
John Lennon recalled that linking with Yoko as his partner ultimately meant that his days as a Beatle were fading fast: “But I presumed that I would just be able to carry on and bring Yoko into our lives, but it seemed I had to be married to them or Yoko. And I chose Yoko. y'know? And I was right.”
Although Paul McCartney has never blamed Yoko for the Beatles' split, he explained that Lennon ultimately chose his work with her to be the outlet needed to fully liberate his creativity: “It was very difficult for me. Yeah, it was my whole life, I think the others in their minds. . . I think John was lucky 'cause he got this new direction now with Yoko. I think John, all his life had wanted to cut loose. He'd been an art student, he sort of buckled down for the Beatles — 'cause it was democratic, (and) I think he wanted to cut loose, he wanted to do all these things he'd read about artists in books doing and I think Yoko gave him that opportunity. And a lot of what they did together was very fine stuff, but I think when it came to the Beatles, it meant that he kinda had to leave the group. He couldn't do it within the group.”
During a 2012 chat with the late-David Frost, McCartney spoke about Yoko's influence on Lennon: “I think John, on particular, was ready to do something else. When Yoko came along, part of her attraction, I think, was this, sort of, avant garde side of things, which she was famous for — and still is. So, she showed him another way to be that was very attractive to him — and I could see that. Y'know, she just sort of said, 'Well, no, look — how 'bout this? Don't you like this? Are you just a rock and roller?'”
John and Yoko shared an intense and symbiotic relationship, and after five years of non-stop time together in which they recorded, performed, and worked together on various political and creative pursuits, they separated for 14 months.
Upon reconciling in January 1975, Ono became pregnant, and on October 9th, 1975, which was Lennon's 35th birthday, she gave birth to the couple's only child, Sean Taro Ono Lennon.
After Lennon's murder on December 8th, 1980, Ono inherited complete control of the Lennon estate and has commemorated most of his posthumous birthdays with numerous projects, including previously unreleased music, a radio show, an album of interviews, and a clothing and housewares line, to a mixed response from fans.
AUDIO: PATTIE BOYD ON YOKO ONO
AUDIO: PAUL MCCATRNEY ON SPLITTING WITH JOHN LENNON
AUDIO: JOHN LENNON ON CHOOSING YOKO ONO OVER THE BEATLES
AUDIO: YOKO ONO ON JOHN LENNON BEING A GOOD PARTNER
AUDIO: PAUL MCCARTNEY ON YOKO ONO’S INFLUENCE ON JOHN LENNON