In a new special called John and Yoko: Above Us Only Sky, A&E will examine the untold story of John Lennon’s 1971 album Imagine, recounting “a story of hope for a world divided yet still desperately in need of peace, justice, empathy, and love.” Including never-before-seen footage of Lennon and Ono from their private collection, the special will dive into the couple’s creative collaboration showing viewers how their art, politics, and music sparked a movement.
The special features interviews with those who witnessed the era first hand including Ono, Julian Lennon, photographer David Bailey, gallerist John Dunbar (who introduced the couple), Ono’s neighbor and Lennon’s former assistant Dan Richter, and studio designer Eddie Veale; some of the interview subjects have never spoken publicly on camera before, according to the network.
Ahead of the special’s premiere, here are five fast facts you need to know about Ono’s kids and family.
1. Ono Was Married Twice Before Lennon
From 1956 to 1962, Ono was married to Japanese composer Toshi Ichiyanagi. The couple moved to Manhattan in 1957 where Ono taught Japanese art and music at the Japan Society, among other sporadic jobs. The couple’s loft soon became a hot spot in the growing downtown New York art scene.
After a brief institutionalization for depression, Ono was married again to American jazz musician and film producer Anthony Cox. The marriage was ultimately annulled in 1963 because she had neglected to finalize her divorce from Ichiyanagi. After finalizing that divorce, Cox and Ono married again on June 6, 1963 but would wind up divorcing in 1969.
2. Ono and Cox Had One Child, A Daughter
On August 8, 1963, Ono gave birth to a daughter, Kyoko Chan Cox, two months after the couple’s official recoupling. Their marriage was rocky, but they stayed together for the sake of their careers.
Early on, Kyoko was raised primarily by her dad while Ono pursued art full-time. Cox managed her publicity until the duo finally divorced in February of 1969. Cox won custody of Kyoko and from 1971 to 1998, Ono didn’t see her daughter.
On her 1971 album Fly, Ono wrote a song for her daughter entitled, “Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow).” The song was inspired by the custody battle and Ono’s attempts to communicate with Kyoko.
3. Ono Had Another Child, A Son, With John Lennon
Following Lennon’s divorce from his wife Cynthia, Ono and Lennon were married in Gibraltar in March of 1969. A couple weeks after Lennon’s divorce, Ono became pregnant but sadly suffered a miscarriage in November of 1968.
Sean Lennon was born on October 9, 1975, which was also John Lennon’s 35th birthday. John’s relationship with his other son, Julian, was complicated; he didn’t help things when he described Julian as being part of the “90 percent of the people on this planet [who resulted from an unplanned pregnancy]” and that “Sean is a planned child, and therein lies the difference.” He said, “I don’t love Julian any less as a child. He’s still my son, whether he came from a bottle of whiskey or because they didn’t have pills in those days.”
Julian later retaliated by eventually telling The Daily Telegraph, “I have to say that, from my point of view, I felt he was a hypocrite…Dad could talk about peace and love out loud to the world but he could never show it to the people who supposedly meant the most to him: his wife and son. How can you talk about peace and love and have a family in bits and pieces—no communication, adultery, divorce? You can’t do it, not if you’re being true and honest with yourself.”
4. Sean Lennon Followed in His Parents’ Footsteps
Sean Lennon followed his parents’ footsteps becoming an American musician, songwriter, and actor. Over the course of his career, he’s been a member of the bands Cibo Matto, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, and The Claypool Lennon Delirium. To date, Lennon has released two solo albums: Into the Sun (1998) and Friendly Fire (2006).
Sean and Ono reformed the Plastic Ono Band with collaborators such as Yuka Honda from Cibo Matto and members of Cornelius, but that wasn’t the only time the mother-son combo collaborated together. Ono released the album Between My Head and the Sky on Sean’s Chimera label.
5. Relationship With Julian Lennon
Although Ono once had a difficult relationship with Lennon’s other son, Julian, it’s been reported that their relationship has improved. Julian struggled with the fact that his father gave up music for years to be with Sean, but didn’t do that for him. Julian was also left out of his father’s will, which he fought Ono over in court, settling in 1996 for an undisclosed amount.
Ono has stated that she has tried to be close with him, but since Julian is a self-proclaimed “mother’s boy,” it proved challenging. “Julian and I tried to be friends. Of course, if he’s too friendly with me, then I think that it hurts his other relatives. He was very loyal to his mother. That was the first thing that was in his mind,” she said.
However, in 2010, Ono and Sean attended the opening of Julian’s photo exhibition at the Morrison Hotel in New York City, appearing and taking photographs with Cynthia and Julian. Ono even promoted the exhibition on her website. Julian later seemed to regret the things he had said about Ono publicly, stating, “I think the key point to all of this for me at least has been Sean,” he said. “If I hurt Sean’s mother, then I hurt Sean.”