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

NEW YORK – Ben Gibbard didn’t necessarily look for Yoko Ono’s music when he went record shopping decades ago. He was just browsing the “O” part and came across a copy of her 1973 album “Feeling the Space”.

“It wasn’t too expensive and I said, ` `Yes, I’ll take a picture of this. I’m feeling adventurous,” Death Cab lead vocalist and guitarist recalls Cutie.

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

“As I started digging deeper into her portfolio, I found her writing to be incredibly eye-catching,” he says. “In my opinion, Yoko is one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, present in all media.”

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

“I have a hard time believing that when people hear this music, they will shrug their shoulders and walk away,” Gibbard said. “I think it’s long overdue for a re-evaluation or in some cases, just a review, because in the first place it didn’t seem like there were many reviews.”

Productions include Byrne and Yo La Tengo’s cover of “Who Has Seen the Wind?,” Deerhoof’s “No, No, No” and Japanese Breakfast try “Nobody Sees Me Like You Do”. A portion of the proceeds from the album will be donated to WhyHunger.

“This record ended up being a mix of Yoko fans from high school like myself, David and Yo La Tengo, and then a number of younger artists,” Gibbard said. “What I’m most proud of about this record is that it seems to have a very multi-generational feel to it.”

Singer-songwriter Thao, who is friends with Gibbard and opened Death Cab for Cutie on tour, chose “Yellow Girl (Stand for Life)” to cover as a thank you to a regular artist. misrecognized and denigrated.

“Songs sometimes find you at the right time. And that’s the case with this song and the tribute album,” Thao said. The song’s title alone drew her in: “I’m embarrassed not knowing more about her as a musician.”

She noted that the album’s recording coincided with and countered the growing atmosphere of violence and anti-Asian rhetoric. “I did experience racism, but it wasn’t on the pitch and with the important events going on at the time,” she said.

Gibbard said all the participating artists — whether on their own or at his suggestion — found a song they could relate to. “Nothing to complain about the lack of songs. Just a lot of great songs,” he said. “It’s amazing how a secret fan of Yoko Ono stepped out of the woodwork.”

Death Cab for Cutie naturally takes the first pick and takes Ono’s “Waiting for the sun to rise”. Gibbard said the song was suitable for recording during the first major COVID-19 lockdown. “It seemed like that was the state we were all living in at the time: We were all waiting for the sun to rise.”

Gibbard never met Ono but relied on her son, Sean Lennon, to mediate the project, saying it owes him “a debt of gratitude.” Lennon suggested the title and provided the cover photo.

Gibbard’s goal was just to bring Ono’s music to people. “I don’t have a savior complex or anything around this profile, you know?” he said, laughing. “This project was not conceived with the goal of being invited to Thanksgiving in Dakota.”

“My only hope is that this leads music fans to a place where they have a bit of an adventure – as adventurous as one can be when you can dial in just about anything that’s ever been recorded. on their phone – and pull up ‘Feel Space’ or pull up close to ‘Infinite Universe’ and spin it and see if they like it,” he added.

“If everyone can do it, then we’ve succeeded.”

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