Yoko Ono On Her Rebirth As A Dance-Music Star

The 80-year-old performance artist was a fixture on the dance-track charts in 2013

  • Share
  • Read Later
Toskifumi Kitamura / AFP / Getty Images

Yoko Ono at charity campaign "Imagine There's No Hunger" in Tokyo on Dec. 5, 2013

Anyone familiar with the Billboard Dance/Club charts knows its mostly dominated by a roster of artists — Daft Punk, Avicii, Rihanna and David Guetta. However, currently sitting at the top of the list is an unlikely name: Yoko Ono.

The 80-year old’s dance alter-ego ONO ends 2013 as one of three artists with two songs in the Top 20 Dance/Club and has two consecutive NO. 1 hits on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play Charts. On the strength of her singles “Hold Me” (Featuring Dave Audé) and “Walking on Thin Ice” the artist, John Lennon collaborator and Plastic Ono Band frontwoman managed to best Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Robin Thicke and even Cher as one of the most successful dance artists of 2013.

While it may come as a surprise to many, Ono’s deep catalog of art rock has been remixed by producers for more than a decade. While Ono was originally hesitant to let producers remix her songs, especially “Walking On Thin Ice” — the song John Lennon was working on when he died — she eventually relented. And the remixes by artists like The Pet Shop Boys, The Flaming Lips, Basement Jaxx and Peaches have been dominating the dance charts ever since.

The series of remixes has resulted in two critically-acclaimed anthologies –Yes, I’m A Witch and Open Your Box —and 11 #1 dance singles including “Talking to the Universe,” “Move On Fast,” “Give Me Something” and, yes, “Walking on Thin Ice.”

We spoke to Ono about her rebirth as a dance-music icon:

TME: Did you ever imagine yourself as a chart-topping dance musician?
Yoko Ono: Never!

Is dance music a natural extension of the art you’ve created throughout your career?

I take dance music as seriously as I do other forms of music.

You’ve been making music for a long time. How did you get started making dance music?

By chance and with love.

“Hold Me” is your 11th chart-topping dance track. What do you think people are responding to in your tracks? What makes them so popular?

Because I’m being truthful about my emotion. But David Aude’s incredible track helped a lot.

You’ve worked with some incredible producers, DJs and artists to create these tracks. Do they approach you with ideas for songs they would like to remix? Or do you create the remixes together?

It depends. Usually, I like to simply observe their incredible daringness and creativity.

Have you ever considered working with Lady Gaga to record a dance track?

She doesn’t need me or anybody. She is a mountain on her own.

Who else would you like to collaborate with?

Anybody who is fresh, creative, and looks toward the future.

Dance music is usually performed for a huge crowd, does that enter your mind while you are creating? Is it different from working with John Lennon on more intimate songs?

Whenever I am inspired to create dance music, I am visualizing a huge crowd of people dancing all the way to the universe, where I come from.

Plastic Ono Band recently put out a new album with your son Sean, and you put out a book of drawings, Acorn, which is a follow-up to 1964’s Grapefruit. Do you find yourself delving into your past for inspiration?

No. I find myself delving into the future.

What’s your ideal setting for listening to your dance tracks?

Dancing, dancing, dancing!

MORE: The Celebrity Campaign Against Fracking: How Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon Rallied an Outcry
MORE: 10 Questions for Yoko Ono