Yoko Ono revisits John Lennon's archives for "Truth"

Fri Oct 1, 2010 10:39pm EDT
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By Gary Graff

DETROIT (Billboard) - Time has been good to Yoko Ono. Once derided by fans as a divisive force in the Beatles universe, Ono is now the trusted guardian and quality control overseer of John Lennon's legacy -- all while maintaining her own career as a musical and visual artist and peace activist.

Ever since she completed "Milk and Honey" in 1984, Ono has presided over a continuing series of reissues and repackagings from her husband's vaults -- including the "Lennon" boxed set in 1990, the "Acoustic" compilation album in 2004, the limited-edition set of vinyl singles released in April to mark Record Store Day and a remastered edition of VH1's "John Lennon: Behind the Music" -- as well as such ongoing projects as the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus and the John Lennon Songwriting Contest.

Her master stroke, however, comes with this month's "Gimme Some Truth" campaign to mark the 70th anniversary of Lennon's birth on October 9, involving multiple releases by EMI Music in North America on Tuesday (October 5) (and one day earlier in the rest of the world).

The campaign features eight remastered Lennon solo albums and new titles including "Power to the People: The Hits," which will be available in two versions; "Gimme Some Truth," a four-CD boxed set with songs divided thematically rather than chronologically; the "John Lennon Signature Box," with the eight remastered solo discs plus three discs of home tapes and Lennon's singles; and "Double Fantasy Stripped Down," a more raw representation of the comeback album that was released just three weeks before Lennon was shot to death on December 8, 1980, outside his home in New York.

Ono was an active force in putting together all these -- sitting in EMI's Abbey Road studios to remaster all 121 of Lennon's solo tracks, helping to group the compilations, choosing Lennon's artwork to accompany the releases, even mending an estranged relationship with "Double Fantasy" co-producer Jack Douglas to bring him into the "Stripped Down" project.

It was arduous, exacting and emotional, she says, but ultimately a satisfying endeavor that gave even Ono new insight into and respect for Lennon's music, which she's trying to pass on to fans through these additions to his catalog.

Billboard: How do you view your role with John's catalog and legacy? As a curator?

Yoko Ono: Curator doesn't sound right. Protector, maybe.   Continued...