What do you give Yoko Ono for her birthday? A tribute album

Yoko Ono turns 89 on Friday, and some fans are getting a birthday present: “Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono,” a 14-track album of covers from artists including David Byrne, Yo La Tengo, Sharon Van Etten, Japanese Breakfast and The Flaming Lips

NEW YORK — Ben Gibbard wasn’t necessarily looking for Yoko Ono’s music when he bought records decades ago. He was just browsing the “O” section and came across a copy of his 1973 album “Feeling the Space.”

“It wasn’t super expensive and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll give it a shot. I feel adventurous,” recalls the Death Cab for Cutie vocalist and lead guitarist.

He took it home, anticipating something experimental and challenging from the avant-garde, multimedia artist who became John Lennon’s collaborator in life and art. But Gibbard found something warm and charming.

“As I began to delve into his catalog, I found his writing incredibly captivating,” he says. “Yoko is, in my opinion, one of the most brilliant artists of the 20th century, hands down in every medium.”

This month, he hopes more music fans will hear Ono’s work with the release of “Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono,” a 14-track album of covers from artists including David Byrne, Yo La Tengo, Sharon Van Etten, Thao, Japanese Breakfast and Flaming Lips. The album’s release on Friday coincides with Ono’s 89th birthday.

“I find it hard to believe that when people hear this music, they’ll just shrug their shoulders and walk away from it. I think it’s too good to ignore,” says Gibbard. late for a reassessment or in some cases just an assessment, because it wasn’t like there had been much assessment in the first place.”

Offerings include Byrne and Yo La Tengo covering “Who Has Seen the Wind?”, Deerhoof doing “No, No, No” and Japanese Breakfast trying out “Nobody Sees Me Like You Do”. A portion of the profits from the album will be donated to WhyHunger.

“This record ended up being kind of an amalgamation of old school Yoko fans like me and David and Yo La Tengo, and then some younger artists,” says Gibbard. “What I’m most proud of is how much of a cross-generational feel it seems to have.

Singer and songwriter Thao, who is friends with Gibbard and has opened for Death Cab for Cutie on tour, chose “Yellow Girl (Stand for Life)” to cover and sees it as a thank you to an often misunderstood and mistaken artist. vilified.

“The song sometimes finds you at the right time. And that’s definitely the case for this song and the tribute album,” Thao said. Just the title of the song drew her in: “I was embarrassed not to know more about her as a songwriter.”

She noted that the recording of the album coincided with and repelled a climate of rising anti-Asian violence and rhetoric. “I experienced the racism, but it wasn’t on the pitch and with the vitriol that was going on at that time,” she said.

Gibbard said all of the artists involved — whether on their own or with his suggestions — found a song they could relate to. “There was no kind of complaint about a lack of songs. There are so many great ones,” he said. “It’s nice to be pleasantly surprised when a secret Yoko Ono fan comes out of the woodwork.”

Death Cab for Cutie naturally got first pick and took Ono’s “Waiting for the Sunrise.” Gibbard said the song seemed right to record during the first major COVID-19 lockdown. this time: we are all waiting for the sunrise.

Gibbard never met Ono but relied on her son, Sean Lennon, as a go-between for the project, saying he owes her “a debt of gratitude”. Lennon suggested the title and provided the cover image.

Gibbard’s goal is simply to introduce people to Ono’s music. “I don’t have a savior complex or anything around this record, you know?” he said laughing. “This project wasn’t meant to be invited to Thanksgiving in Dakota.”

“I just hope this takes music fans to a place where they get a little adventurous – as adventurous as possible when you can dial everything that’s ever been recorded on your phone – and open ‘Feeling the Space’ or exit ‘Approximately Infinite Universe’ and spin it around and see if they like it,” he added.

“If people do that, then we have succeeded.”


Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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