It should come as no surprise that 85-year-old Yoko Ono, who through the years has carefully guarded the legacy of John Lennon in whatever new releases or products she has authorized, oversaw the production and creative direction of “Imagine: The Ultimate Collection.”
In a recent interview with Variety, Elliott Mintz said, “The whole box set was Yoko’s idea. She oversaw everything in this project. There’s nothing contained in any of those discs that she hasn’t heard or offered her input on. Anything having to do with John goes past her and she treats his legacy and his memory with enormous reverence and soberness that it’s got to be perfect.” There’s a cloud design on both the audio set of the “Imagine” album and the DVD/Blu-ray with the “Imagine” and ”Gimme Some Truth” film. They reflect Yoko’s artistic vision, which took form long before she met John Lennon. In 1963, she wrote “Cloud Piece,” which reads “Imagine the clouds dripping. Dig a hole in your garden to put it in.”
Earlier this year, she was briefly hospitalized for the flu, according to her son Sean Ono Lennon. When asked about her health, her longtime friend Mintz told Variety, “I saw her in February of this year at her 85th birthday party in the Dakota and she was warm and affable, interacting with all of her guests, lots of laughter. She sang along with Sean on piano. She and Cyndi Lauper did some songs together,” he said. “There was a joyous tone among the 20-30 guests that were there and she genuinely enjoyed herself.”
She’s been a little more visible lately. She has returned to her weekly Twitter/Facebook Q&A where she answers fans’ questions that range from political to philosophical. In mid-September with Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, photographer Henry Diltz and actor Jeff Bridges, she helped kick off the John Lennon Educational Bus’ month-long “Come Together” residency in New York City to provide student awareness for political and social issues.
And on Oct. 19, she’ll have a new album on Chimera Music, “Warzone,” with re-imaginings of 13 songs from her past going back to 1970 and ending in 2008. One of these is “Imagine,”for which she now shares the songwriting credit with John Lennon. On Tuesday, which would have been Lennon’s 78th birthday, a video was released of her singing a new version of “Imagine” with spare accompaniment.
Throughout her artwork and other activities, Yoko, despite the controversy in her life, has always kept a positive and uplifting attitude, as reflected in her recent answer to a fan’s question “Where must peace start?” from her weekly social media Q&A. “It has to first be in your heart, and then let your heart find a place,” she wrote. “That place will be yours.”
We recently interviewed her by email. Our first question was an inquiry about her health and how she was feeling these days. “I’m getting very well, thank you,” she answered. We then asked what memories did going through the tracks for the “Imagine” set bring back to her. “When John and I were discussing the lines, I remember that very well,” she said.
Which song or outtake on the set has the most significance for her? “There’s a line [in ‘Imagine’] that says, ‘I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.’ I love this because it makes me feel that we are really going to be one.”
Finally, we asked, “You have been a musical influence on many younger artists including, of course, Sean. How does being an influence on them reflect back on your artistry, especially given the fact you’ve been controversial?” She said, “When you listen to ‘Double Fantasy’ you see that I’m not being wild, because it was very important that the message of peace and love will get to people widely.”