Yoko Ono has gotten a bad rap over the decades from fans who blamed the avant-garde artist, John Lennon’s widow, for breaking up the Beatles. For the band that once sang “All You Need Is Love,” little love has been lost, either, between Ono and Lennon’s longtime songwriting partner, Paul McCartney. Ono once reportedly compared Lennon to Mozart and Sir Paul to Mozart’s less-talented rival, Salieri; in a 2005 media dust-up, McCartney said of Ono, “I don’t think she’s the brighest of buttons.” And then there was the music, such as McCartney’s acrimonious “Too Many People,” from the recently reissued Ram.
Well, they can work it out. McCartney, in an upcoming TV interview with British journalist David Frost, absolved Ono of blame in the Beatles’ 1970 split, according to the Observer. “She certainly didn’t break the group up, the group was breaking up,” McCartney told Frost, who first spoke with the Beatle nearly 50 years ago. Sir Paul acknowledged Ono’s presence at the Beatles’ recording sessions was tough, but he says he was angriest at Allen Klein, who stepped in after the Fab Four manager Brian Epstein died in 1967. “I was fighting against the other three guys who’d been my lifelong soul buddies,” McCartney is quoted as saying. “I said I wanted to fight Klein.”
Despite all the bile over the years directed at Ono, Sir Paul’s latest statement is in keeping with the facts at the time. When McCartney announced the band was calling it quits with the release of his debut solo album, McCartney, he reportedly said the breakup was due to “Personal differences, business differences, musical differences, but most of all because I have a better time with my family.” It certainly didn’t help that the Beatles weren’t touring anymore, they were all writing songs separately, and after Epstein’s death they were plunged into legal and business disputes with each other.
McCartney also credits Ono, whose own too-often-overlooked recording career include’s 1981’s new wave touchstone “Walking on Thin Ice,” for enabling Lennon to write “Imagine,” among other solo hits. “I don’t think he would have done that without Yoko, so I don’t think you can blame her for anything,” he’s quoted as saying. “When Yoko came along, part of her attraction was her avant garde side, her view of things, so she showed him another way to be, which was very attractive to him. So it was time for John to leave, he was definitely going to leave [one way or another].”
McCartney further noted that the Beatles’ split kept their discography from becoming too unwieldy. He’s quoted as saying the band exited with “a neat body of work” so their breakup “wasn’t that bad a thing.” Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.