The electronica pioneer compares herself to Iggy Pop in open letter
Andy Morris

10:01 24th February 2015

Visionary artist and musical pioneer Yoko Ono has hit back at her critics in a lengthy open letter addressing the ageism of the music industry.

The letter entitled 'Don't Stop Me' marks Ono's 82nd birthday and addresses her concern about how her behaviour is seen by critics.

"So even when I am rocking on the stage, they are totally hard on me," she writes. "They demand the musical standard of a classic musician and attack me for the rhythm or some notes which are not precisely in tune."


She points out that critics looking for highly technical singing ability are perhaps looking in the wrong place. “They demand the musical standard of a classic musician and attack me for the rhythm or some notes which are not precisely in tune. I am not concerned with what my voice is doing. If I was, what you experience would not be. My voice will be dead, once I am concerned about it, in the way you are asking me to. Go to a classical concert, if you want to hear a 'trained' voice. What I escaped from when I was very, very young. I created my own niche."

She also points out the double standard of how older male musicians are feted rather than mocked. “You don’t get that way, with Iggy [Pop] for instance, a grand rocker, who is creating his own brand of Rock, just as I am.”

Ono's last release was Take Me To The Band Of Hell released in September 2013 which featured collaborations with PJ Harvey, Cornelius, Tune-Yards, Questlove, Ad-Rock and Mike D. She also performed at the 2014 Glastonbury festival, a performance the Guardian described as What "40 minutes of experimental drum drone, bluesy riff rock, spoken word “affirmations” and singing that resembles, in turn, mini orgasms, primal scream therapy and simian territorial fighting." 

Read Yoko’s full letter below

"DON’T STOP ME!

"At my age I should be in a certain way. Please don’t stop me being the way I am. I don’t want to be old and sick like many others of my age. Please don’t create another old person.

"So even when I am rocking on the stage, they are totally hard on me. They demand the musical standard of a classic musician and attack me for the rhythm or some notes which are not precisely in tune. I am not concerned with what my voice is doing. If I was, what you experience would not be. My voice will be dead, once I am concerned about it, in the way you are asking me to. Go to a classical concert, if you want to hear a “trained” voice. What I escaped from when I was very, very young. I created my own niche. If I tried to present you classic music it won’t be what I created. You don’t get that way, with Iggy for instance, a grand rocker, who is creating his own brand of Rock, just as I am.

"Let me be free. Let me be me! Don’t make me old, with your thinking and words about how I should be. You don’t have to come to my shows. I am giving tremendous energy with my voice, because that is me. Get my energy or shut up.

"A critic of my show I did on my 80th birthday. You wanted me to be coming in at the same time on the top of the bars with the tracks. Well, I like to syncopate my voice to come in before or after the music notes, not right on top of the tracks, you see. That’s done in classical music, also. Remember? Yes. I don’t mind using what I learnt from classical music.

"Just let me be free, so music will come out as my voice in the way it wants. Otherwise, it will not be beautiful. My music is unworldlily beautiful. It is a mixture of all the generations I went through on this planet: when I was born seeing the world with wonderment, when I was a wise infant, full of original ideas with not too much intimidation yet, when I was a energetic and rebellious teenager, when i was a sexy twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies and now. Plus all the folk music of the world, the Voice of people, never intimidated – and plus some music coming from another planet or planets! I respect that, cherish it, and am always thankful of note by note that comes in me and out of me.

"Another criticism: That my short pants in my video BAD DANCER was very short. Was that bad? You are not criticizing other danacers whose pants are worn short. Do you have a separate standard for a person of my age even in the way our outfits are cut?



"I am afraid of just one thing. That those ageism criticism will finally influence me, I would succumb to it and get old. So I am covering my ears not to listen to you guys! Because dancing in the middle of an ageism society is a lonely trip. Don’t stone me! Let me be! Love me plenty for what I am!"

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Photo: Wenn