Imagine: Yoko and Macca slugging it out in the boxing ring
Oct 11 2005
IN Part 2 of an exclusive interview with Yoko Ono, ECHO chief feature writer Paddy Shennan hears how John often felt in Paul McCartney's shadow
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JOHN Lennon's standing in the world - it seems today, 25 years after his death - could hardly be higher.
This is the man, for example, who, alongside the likes of winner Winston Churchill, William Shakespeare and Isaac Newton, made it into the top 10 in the BBC's much-discussed poll of 100 Great Britons.
"He would have been very happy about that," says Yoko.. "In his life, he was an incredibly good artist, but he felt he wasn't really appreciated. He didn't realise how well-loved he was."
Really ? Yoko explains: "As a Beatle he was extremely successful - he knew that. But he also knew that was a lot to do with Paul. Paul was the one who knew how to deal with the world and John was the poet.
"But when John was doing his individual work, I know he felt that people were not so much into his songs."
Imagine. Give Peace A Chance. Working Class Hero. Mind Games. Instant Karma! Gimme Some Truth. Jealous Guy. Power To The People.
And he still had self-doubt!? Incredible.
Yoko, herself, knows exactly what he was - and is still - worth. Speaking to me on what would have been John's 65th birthday, she says: "John stood for world peace and was the first musician to really speak out about the betterment of society. Everyone is doing it now - but remember, John started it!
"And he also showed that women were suffering. Today, I see all these guys in Central Park pushing prams but, after Sean was born, John was the only man doing that! Men now have much more interest in raising their children."
Still in touch with Paul and Ringo, Yoko?
"Yes, of course. We do business together with the Apple company."
And it's friendly business, too, she confirms, adding, regarding Paul, I imagine: "I think society wants to see us boxing in a ring!"
Blimey! Yoko Ono v Sir Paul McCartney. I know who my money would be on. No offence, Macca, but I reckon Yoko is one tough cookie. Perhaps if you brought Lady Heather along, too ...
But it's not going to happen. Things are friendly. Got it?
And then I go and spoil it all by bringing up that recent, highly amusing, episode when Paul suggested reversing song-writing credits on a few Beatles songs - so they'd be by McCartney and Lennon, as opposed to the traditional Lennon and McCartney.
Yoko rolls her eyes at the memory and then looks to the ceiling: "Oh my God, yes!" she remembers, seemingly with a mix of bemusement and horror.
"I felt he should have said that to John when he was alive. I think he knew John wouldn't like it. But that's all in the past."
Yoko says she was pleased that Paul quickly dropped the idea, while she is also keen to stress the strength and depth of the much-analysed relationship between John and Paul: "I think John was always feeling some love for Paul.
"They were so close, like brothers. And brothers don't always warm to each other; they tend to be critical."
I wondered whether Yoko would be as charitable about John's first wife, Cynthia, who's just written her second book about him.
She says: "I've not read the book yet, but I really wish her well. She had a very hard time, too. I'm sure it's a good book. I might get around to reading it, but I'm so busy."
I wasn't quite expecting that answer - and I wasn't expecting another one which soon followed.
John's killer, Mark Chapman, was denied parole a year ago but will be eligible for it again in another 12 months. Is the fear of his possible release something which is always at the back of your mind, Yoko?
"I'm so busy that I totally forget about it, until someone says 'Oh, it's this year now'. You have to start thinking about it, because it's next month or something."
I asked another question on the subject - perhaps I shouldn't have.
Some people feel Chapman remains unlikely to be released in the forseeable future. Does Yoko? "I don't want to even know about it. I don't know why you are asking this question. I really think it's horrible."
Point taken. Finally, does the woman who has maintained such a strong connection with Liverpool have a message for those Merseysiders who still love and miss her late husband?
"My message would be 'I love you. And we are on the same page'."
She adds: "I'm very happy that Liverpool loves John because I feel Liverpool and I are brothers - and I hope I can keep that connection going."
Happy birthday, John. The world's still thinking about you - and we're still proud of you.