What’s it about rock widows that makes us dislike them so much? After all, when other ‘creative sorts’ go to the Great Gig in the Sky, their wives also make a few bits and bobs out of their husbands’ works, to spread the word about their genius. Yoko Ono, John Lennon’s widow, is being roundly condemned for letting her husband’s image be used in a car ad. In the Citroen ad, Lennon says, among other things, “Do something of your own. Start something new, you know. Live your lives now.” In our reckoning that’s an inspiring line that we didn’t much know about. So are Lennon fans upset that their hero’s words are being used to sell cars? Would they have been happier if they were part of a Greenpeace or anti-WTO publicity campaign, considering the ‘corporate connect’ may have ruffled feathers, not Yoko’s letting out a bit of Lennon heritage out of the box.
It’s interesting how rock music, even at its shiniest, well-packaged best, is automatically seen as an anti-establishment entity. In the 60s, this may have made sense but the 70s saw talented rock musicians resist this dogma, with the likes of the Sex Pistols and others reacting against rock over-the-topness and political correctness with a no-nonsense ‘let’s get rich’ approach.
There are rock widows who need genuine admonition. Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain’s widow, comes to mind — not because she let the instrumental version of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ be played as piped music in elevators, but because she went into a legal wrangle about who gets how much money for releasing Cobain’s unpublished songs, thereby keeping these songs in her locker. And it’s ironic that Lennon’s message about ‘living your own lives’ has been missed by his fans who think his words and music can only have one kind of context.