Yoko Ono is an icon across the global stage, not only for her famed relationship with late Beatles great John Lennon, but also for her rich life experiences, which include everything from living in Japan during World War II to breaking artistic boundaries for the avante-garde. NY1's Budd Mishkin filed the following One On 1 profile.
With her trademark hat and sunglasses, Yoko Ono is still active and still innovating.
She's 80 years old and busier than ever.
"I hope that many people will start being like that, instead of saying, 'Oh, at this age I have to retire.' No one has to retire," Ono says.
Budd Mishkin: "So years ago, what did you think eighty would be like?"
Yoko Ono: "I never thought of it."
There's her concerts and international art shows, and there's her political activism.
She's led the fight against fracking in New York State through a star-studded coalition, called "Artists Against Fracking."
There's also her new album, called "Take Me to the Land of Hell."
One of her collaborators on the album was her son, Sean.
Her reasons for including him were not just musical.
"That way, I can talk to him. I will have a chance to talk to him. I'm sure that many parents will feel that way. They would understand that I think," Ono says.
She's known around the world, but she's truly "of" New York.
One of her favorite spots, Strawberry Fields in Central Park, is the source of cherished memories.
"John and I were walking across the park, and he said, 'I wonder if my dad walked this path?' Because his dad did come to New York when the ship stopped or something, just you know, one or two days probably, and he was always thinking about that, 'My dad, my dad,'" Ono says.
The fascination with Yoko and John seemingly knows no bounds.
There have been books and documentaries, as well as exhibits, such as "John Lennon: The New York City Years."
For many, that's where Yoko's story usually begins and ends.
But there is so much more to Yoko Ono's journey.
Yes, people think of her living in The Dakota, but she was once a child of war, growing up in Japan during World War II and occasionally going hungry.
"Most children was sent to evacuation in country, and we just didn't have anything to eat, and it was very, very difficult," Ono says.
"That's when I started to think, 'Well, that that's how life is.' Life can change like this. It's a sudden thing. And before that was okay, okay life you know. So I know how it is that suddenly you are hungry, and you don't have anything to eat. It's terrible," Ono says.
Her father was a banker, but he also played classical piano.
Her mother was an artist, and Ono says many of her aunts and uncles were writers, painters and musicians.
After the war, her family moved from Japan to Westchester, and Yoko enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College.
"I think they were hoping I would be a very talented classical artist or classical musician, but I wasn't. But you see, I had to find my own way," Ono says.
That "way" involved becoming an avant-garde artist, living in a small apartment on Chambers Street without hot water.
"I didn't even have a bed, so I put all sort of orange crates together, six of them actually, and made it a bed. And there was a skylight, and it was beautiful. I just loved it. I just felt like I was living in the world of Dostoevsky," Ono says.
She was well known in that world, so much so that in 1965, she performed at a Carnegie Hall recital room.
She took to the stage and asked audience members to come up and cut off a piece of her clothing.
The night was captured in the Albert Maysles film, "Cut Piece."
Mishkin: "Does Carnegie Hall in advance know what you're going to do on stage?"
Ono: "I don't think so. I don't think they cared. There was nothing lewd about it. They just came with an incredible feeling of art. That was art."
The story goes that John Lennon came to one of Yoko's exhibits in London in 1966 and was impressed by her positive nature when he saw a tiny message on the ceiling that simply read, "Yes."
They got together two years later, and suddenly, Yoko Ono went from being well-known in the avant-garde art world to being known throughout the entire world.
Mishkin: "Is there any night or nights of, 'Wow, this is really going to change my life?'"
Ono: "I never thought that. I thought he was very, very attractive guy, and I hope he thought that about me too, and we just got together. But I thought, you know, it could last two months or three months. I didn't know."
They recorded albums together and tried to change the world together.
There was the famed bed-in for peace in Amsterdam.
They mailed out acorns to global leaders to plant for peace, and billboards were put up in cities around the world declaring, "War is over if you want it."
Lennon's peace anthem, "Imagine," may have been inspired by Yoko's book, "Grapefruit," which includes the line, "Imagine one thousand suns in the sky."
Mishkin: "Could you kid around with your husband at that point and say, 'Hey, my friend, that song came from, that line came first?'"
Ono: He knew it. And we didn't have to talk about it.
One year after John Lennon's murder, Ono recorded the album, "Season of Glass," with Lennon's bloodied eyeglasses on the cover.
Mishkin: "Is there any way you can describe what it was like to record that album at that time?"
Ono: "Well, I just had to. Even from a very early age, making music and poetry, those were two things that stayed with me and was kind of like part of breathing. It was part of me, and if I stopped, I probably felt that I would die or something."
Mishkin: "So even in 1981, does that kind of carry you through?"
Ono: "Well, it saved me a little, yeah."
Watching her with her son Sean, there are moments when Yoko Ono comes across as a typical mom, moments that reflect some of the great beauty in her life.
But there has also been great pain.
There are, for example, the wartime memories.
For years, she was estranged from Kyoko, her daughter from her second marriage.
And then there is the loss she shares with the entire world.
"Well, a sense of loss about my husband is still sitting there," Ono says. "It's something that I can't resolve yet."
So, she keeps creating – on her terms, as always – but she says it's easier.
"The children are grown up, so I don't have to be too worried about it," Ono says. "And I am still that possessive mother who says, 'Are you alright?' Something like that, but I'm just taking care of myself and my work."