Soul Out of the Box

Yoko Ono waited many years for her time in the sun. After decades fighting against the current as an artist and being used as a scapegoat in the culture wars, she’s finally getting the recognition she deserves as a thinker and an activist. As a conceptual artist, her ideas were ahead of her time; her early work dealt with women’s issues and cultural identity in a way that was too confrontational to earn respect at a time when even the “socially progressive” worlds of music and art were still, at heart, deeply racist and patriarchal. Today, as the social conventions that were still so strong in the 1960’s have weakened, generations of young artists have been influenced by Ono’s work. She’s come to be seen not only as a major cultural shaper, but she’s also become a kind of scary/cool grandmother figure who works with and supports young talent. Her music has had a resurgence alongside her artwork, and she’s released a series of acclaimed concept album. Ono’s strength has always been in her innovative ideas, but she’s – at one time notoriously – not a particularly gifted musician. She’s done her best musical work in collaboration with – quote unquote – real musicians with the skills to make her thoughts tuneful, such as her late husband and more recently, her son. Lately, she’s invited famous friends to help reimagine some of the best songs from throughout her career. Yes, I’m A Witch and Yes, I’m A Witch, Too are probably her most accessible records, thanks to collaborators like Ben Gibbard, Moby and in this case, Portugal. The Man. It makes for a great introduction to the musical side of Yoko Ono’s work.