Can sing Yoko Ono

SZ: This experimental influence can also be heard in John's work.

Ono: Yes, you see, we were just lucky. We were together so much and influenced each other. He had a very beautiful voice. But extremely changeable, he could sing either way, he could sing strongly, he could sing tenderly and sweetly. I think I always understood that, and that in turn was what he liked. And I loved the way he sang. There was always a kind of mutual admiration between us.


SZ: To talk again about screaming and strange noises: You and John did primal scream therapy together with Arthur Janov in the early seventies. The psychologist Janov was the guru of a time that was on the track of the most "real" expression possible - his theory should help to free the emotions.

Ono: We did a primal scream therapy together. But I had experimented with screaming long before that, long before we read the book on Primal Scream Therapy. The book somehow came to us. People sent us books. And John said, look, this is about you. We then went to Arthur Janov in Los Angeles for primal scream therapy.

SZ: How did the primal scream therapy work exactly? In the seventies that was, well, all the rage, and now it's almost forgotten.

Ono: It was like ... let it all out, let it all out (makes exit gestures with hands). Let your self come out. But it was good. Women have always had ways and means when they couldn't scream, but at least they could cry. Crying was nothing new to her. But it was very difficult for men to cry. In primal scream therapy, men were encouraged to open up enough to cry. They can scream, but they have to learn to cry first. And that's very good. It is very difficult to get there. And that's why primal scream therapy was perhaps more interesting and helpful even for men. Because men are much more closed than women.

SZ: If you look at your personal history, did you grow up in a highly regulated society?

Ono: No. My parents were very intelligent and educated. They were free thinkers.

SZ: Then how and why did you start screaming? Was that an artistic way of breaking the rules?

Ono: I rebelled against society, not so much against my parents' home. And screaming was something else too. As a child, my mother always said to me: don't go to the other end of the house. There were the servants' rooms. You know, she didn't want me to hear the things the servants were talking about. She didn't want me to know things like that (imitating a little girl who says okay). But of course: if something is forbidden, it is particularly irritating. So I snuck down to the servants' rooms and overheard what was being said there. There was a young girl, maybe sixteen or seventeen years old, who was telling another girl something. She said: My aunt had a baby and it was an unbelievable noise. The other asked: What kind of noise? She then imitated that: ha, haa, haaa (Yoko Ono imitates screams), something like that.

And I thought, why should women just keep singing these sweet, tender songs? After all, they gave birth to mankind, all of this giving birth and having children. Only women do this, they give birth to children. You are the creator and you have the power. And the strength when they give birth to children (imitates birth screams again): HAAA! That doesn't sound like ha-ha-ha (imitates thin, reserved beeping). That's why I wanted to show the world, or rather: remind the world, let the world understand, that women are powerful creatures. You have to be strong, for the world, for society. Otherwise there would be no company at all (laughs). It is better for society to recognize this power of women; it is better for men too.

SZ: When their son Sean was born in 1975, John Lennon took four years off. Wasn't that very progressive in the seventies?

Ono: Obviously it was avant-garde. John was the first male feminist. When it comes to feminism and role issues, we've always got along well. John always said, understanding is one thing, but actually doing is another.

SZ: It was only then that society began to see it that way. And today?

Ono: I would say that we are going through a major setback today. Strong women are not very popular in society. And many men are not happy with strong, successful women.

SZ: Do you think you idealize past relationships and friendships?

Ono: No, at least not as far as John and me are concerned. Even on our album "Double Fantasy" we were very honest. We showed both what upset us about the other and how we loved each other. We wanted to show how that can work, the thing with men and women.

You can read the complete interview in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on October 9, 10