Thursday, November 26, 2015

SXSW: Yoko Ono

Quick: Whose song is #1 on the Billboard dance charts this week, and has reached that spot with her last six consecutive singles? Lady Gaga? No. Lady Yoko.

SXSW: Yoko Ono


Quick: Whose song is #1 on the Billboard dance charts this week, and has reached that spot with her last six consecutive singles? Lady Gaga? No. Lady Yoko. 

That song is called "Move On Fast" - it's a remix of a 1972 recording - and the unlikely second career of the 78 year old Yoko Ono as a chart topping dance diva was one of the topics covered in a keynote at the Austin Convention Center on Friday morning in which Ono was interviewed by veteran Austin DJ Jody Denberg.

This despite John Lennon's widow's shrieking singing voice, which she described as "infamous," in attributing her ex-husband's wilder than usual guitar playing on her solo recordings: "He was trying to compete with my voice," she said.

Ono's been in charge of 1/4 of the Beatles' business for over 30 years, but when Denberg asked her about that, she offered this sound advice to the bleary-eyed crowd: "If you start to create art for money and don't get the money, you feel like a fool. But if you're not doing it for money, and you don't get it it, you won't be disappointed. You know what the value is. You're doing it for art."

Denberg also asked Ono about her background as a Fluxus artist and made a strong case for her as an innovator in making interactive art in pre-Internet days, going back to her Two Virgins collabs with Lennon in the '60s, which were labeled Unfinished Music, in an invitation for others to contribute to the work, much as the dance remixers who have turned her into a septuagenarian disco queen have done with her early experimental work.

She also rather sweetly and maternally said that her son Sean, who'll she'll be playing with at Elysium at 1 a.m. on Saturday night, was "courageous" for starting his own record label. (Somehow, I think the guy has more of a financial safety net than most of his competitors.)

Denberg also asked her about the tsunami in her native Japan, and while saying that her friends and relatives are safe and that she's been spending sleepless nights thinking about the Japanese people, she raised the question of whether the disaster happened as the earth's angry response to humankind's being mean to it and "the fact that we're not giving enough concern and care to earth planet."

Previously: The Strokes, Sam's Club and the SXSW Sellathon

Inquirer Music Critic
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