Yoko Ono

Though she hasn't toured since 1966, Yoko Ono continues to be active in the worlds of music and art.

Ono, who turns 66 today, built her reputation as an eccentric singer/songwriter of often ear-shattering rock/punk records and as a dedicated proponent of her late husband, former Beatle John Lennon.

Ono was born this day in 1933 in Tokyo, into a wealthy banking family. She showed extreme intelligence at an early age and was the first woman admitted to study philosophy at Japan's Gakushuin University.

She moved to the U.S. to attend Sarah Lawrence College in Westchester, New York, but dropped out. Ono joined the New York circle of avant-garde conceptual artists known as the Fluxus movement. In the early '60s, many of Ono's works (most were conceptual in nature and included audience interaction) were exhibited in New York galleries and performed at the famed Village Gate. The Village Voice newspaper once said she "invented" New York City's Downtown arts scene.

As the '60s wore on, Ono lectured at universities and held exhibitions of her work in Japan and London, where she met Lennon at the Indica Gallery in 1966. The next year, Lennon sponsored Ono's London "Half Wind Show." In 1968, the pair recorded Two Virgins and photographed themselves nude for its cover. This precipitated his divorce from Cynthia Twist and her divorce from Anthony Cox.

Beginning to splinter from the Beatles, Lennon spent increasing time with Ono; their public exhibitions of art and peace projects generated intense media attention. The two were married in Gibraltar in March, 1969.

They began a life of political protests with their honeymoon, which they staged as a "Bed-in for Peace" against the Vietnam War, with media present, at a suite of the Amsterdam Hilton hotel. The pair also recorded the classic peace anthem, "Give Peace a Chance," with comedian Tommy Smothers, Timothy Leary and other activists. Also that year, Ono, Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band performed in Toronto at a rock revival show; the event was released as Live Peace in Toronto, 1969. The Lennons continued their peace effort by erecting "War Is Over If You Want It" billboards in 12 cities in December.

After the Beatles disbanded in 1970, Lennon and Ono released their Plastic Ono Band solo albums. Ono's '70s albums, including 1971's Fly and 1973's Approximately Infinite Universe, were ignored by critics and the public as being strange sonic experiments but received appreciation in the '80s as harbingers of the new wave music, of groups like the B-52's.

Ono and Lennon's politics came to the fore with their joint 1972 Some Time In New York City. The couple survived a separation and reconciled in 1975. They then fought a deportation order against Lennon by the U.S. government. After gaining permanent resident status, Lennon elected to remain at home in New York for a few years and Ono gave birth to the couple's child, Sean, in October, 1975. As Lennon remained inactive professionally, Ono supervised their business matters.

The couple re-emerged in November 1980 with Double Fantasy, which featured songs written separately by the two. A single, Lennon's "(Just Like) Starting Over" backed with Ono's "Kiss Kiss Kiss," began receiving airplay when Lennon was shot to death on December 8 by a crazed fan.

Ono held a 10-minute silent vigil on December 14, in which millions of fans around the world participated. The album and single went to #1 and Double Fantasy won the 1981 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. A few months later, Ono shocked some when she released Season Of Glass, with a cover featuring the blood-stained eyeglasses Lennon was wearing when he was shot.

The album, especially the song "Walking On Thin Ice," became Ono's first solo record to be noticed by rock fans and rock radio. Ono continued to release albums of her own, such as 1995's Rising (which featured Sean Lennon on guitar), including

"The Source" (RealAudio excerpt).

Ono also continues Lennon's legacy by issuing projects covering his work. These include the 1988 documentary film "Imagine," (which featured home movie footage) and its soundtrack, and various compilations of unreleased Lennon material, seemingly culminating in last year's 4-CD box set The John Lennon Anthology.

In 1995, Ono said: "...dealing with the trauma of Hiroshima was a very good experience. I kind of got my independence and strength and I probably needed that to cope with a lot of things that happened later." She also spoke about how releasing the Beatles Anthology box set dredged up memories of how many people blamed her for the Beatles' break up.

In 1996, Ono jammed with Beastie Boy Adam Yauch and others at a show in Manhattan's Central Park and played the Tibetan Freedom Concert.

For Christmas 1998, Ono erected a new "War Is Over" billboard in New York City.

Other birthdays: Dennis DeYoung (ex-Styx), 52; Juice Newton, 47; Robbie Bachman (BTO), 46; Derek Pellicci (Little River Band), 46; Dr. Dre, 34.