Yoko Ono has quietly quit New York City life after 50 years and relocated to a rural upstate farm that she and late husband John Lennon purchased together – 42 years after the Beatle was famously shot dead outside of their Manhattan apartment building.
The singer and activist – who turned 90 last week – made the decision to leave Manhattan, and the exclusive Dakota building that she called home for five decades, during the pandemic and move out to her expansive 600-acre farm near Franklin, New York, which she and her husband bought in 1978.
Now, DailyMail.com can exclusively reveal, Yoko has decided to relocate to the rural property full-time – and is not thought to have any plans to return to the seventh floor, nine-room Upper West Side apartment she once shared with John, who was murdered on the steps of the very same star-studded building they called home.
Although there is no suggestion that Yoko plans to sell her Manhattan apartment, the move marks a major change of pace for Lennon’s widow, who was once the toast of New York City but has been forced to step back from public life as a result of her ill health in recent years.
It has been reported that she requires ’round the clock’ medical care and at an event in 2017, which she attended in a wheelchair, she remarked from the stage: ‘I have learned so much from having this illness.’
Details of any health issues have not been shared by the family.
In the past few years, Yoko has all but retired from public life, retreating behind the walls of her apartment in the famed Dakota building – which has played host to all manner of high-profile residents over the years, including Lauren Bacall, Leonard Bernstein, and Judy Garland – and making just a handful of public appearances.
Still, Yoko’s ‘new’ home holds plenty of memories from her marriage to John – whom she purchased the property with for $178,000 back in 1978, along with 100 Holstein cattle.
It sits on around 600 acres of land, affording perfect security and privacy for the increasingly reclusive widow.
However, her decision to relocate to such a rural location has not put a damper on her social life, quite the opposite in fact.
Last week, in celebration of her 90th birthday, the singer held a gathering of her closest friends and family, including her son Sean and his girlfriend Charlotte, at her farm on February 18.
One guest, Yoko’s longtime friend and publicist Elliot Mintz, revealed on Instagram that there was plenty of ‘singing and laughter’ at the lunch event, which carried on throughout the afternoon, before drawing to a close at around 9pm.
Another source close to Yoko added that she is ‘in really good spirits and looking great’, but noted that she no longer attends public function nor has involvement in any activist campaigns, which have been her key focus since the 1960s.
Last week, Yoko held a celebration at the 600-acre property in honor of her 90th birthday – and one of the guests, her publicist Elliot Mintz, shared images from in and around the estate
Elliot’s images showed a small glimpse at the property, which Yoko and John purchased together in 1978, less than two years before the Beatle was killed
Yoko’s ‘new’ home holds plenty of memories from her marriage to John – whom she purchased the property with for $178,000, along with 100 Holstein cattle.
Earlier this week, Mintz offered a glimpse into the very private celebrations on Instagram, sharing several images and videos from the exclusive gathering, while writing: ‘I had the honor of sharing Yoko Ono’s 90th birthday. I have known and loved Yoko for more than 50 years, in fact I’ve known nobody longer and never will.
‘Sean Ono Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl ([Sean’s] partner of almost twenty years) invited me to join them for an intimate family gathering.’
He added: ‘The room was filled with flowers, laughter, music, great food and loving exchanges. The first think I said to Yoko was “Happy birthday.” The first thing she said to me was that I looked younger.’
Images shared by Mintz reveal a sneak peek inside Yoko’s upstate hideaway, capturing the expanse of land surrounding the property, as well as the humble wood-paneled interior of one of the barns on the estate.
Another photo shows the famed publicist posing alongside a rusting vintage fire truck that appears to be stationed on the property.
Mintz – who turned 78 on February 16 – told the Daily Mail this week: ‘My only comment is that I truly enjoyed sharing our mutual birthdays.’
In previous years, Yoko has hired out spaces at restaurants in New York City for big birthday celebrations, and has even performed during fun-filled celebrations attended by pals like singer Cyndi Lauper.
Yoko’s son Sean created a virtual ‘wish tree’ to mark her 90th birthday and Ringo Star, Elton John and her stepson Julian are among those to have sent wishes to her website.
Peace campaigner Yoko, an avant garde artist and performer, created a wish tree installation in 1996 and has collected around two million wishes tied to the branches of trees in 35 countries since then.
The seventh-floor apartment in The Dakota was one of several units the couple (seen in their apartment with their son Sean shortly after his birth in 1975) purchased in the building
Although there is no suggestion that Yoko plans to sell her Manhattan apartment, the move marks a major change of pace for Lennon’s widow (pictured inside her New York City home)
Yoko and John lived together in a nine-room apartment in the exclusive Dakota building, which the activist (seen in her home in 1981) has continued to call home ever since his death
In recent years, Yoko (seen inside her apartment in 1981) has all but vanished from the public eye amid ongoing struggles with her health
Speaking about the touching gift for his mother, Sean said: ‘I wanted to give the whole world an opportunity to make a wish for her and plant a tree in her honor. Make a wish. Plant a tree, Wish Yoko a happy birthday. It’s that simple.’
Yoko has, in recent years, retreated more and more from public life – and in November 2020, it was revealed that she had handed over her business interests, which were centered largely on the management of Lennon’s $800 million fortune, to their son.
Sean, 47, was appointed as the director at eight companies linked to the family and The Beatles, including the multimedia Apple Corps, which reportedly had assets worth $36 million in 2019.
At the time, Sean was also understood to have taken control of Lensolo, managing John’s solo material, Maclen, which publishes John’s work in the US, and Subafilms, a music film company.
Yoko and Lennon were married in 1969 and they remained together until December 1980, when he was gunned down outside of their apartment building by Mark David Chapman.
Chapman, who remains behind bars to this day, was 25 years old when he shot Lennon dead on the doorstep of the Dakota building, as the Beatle and his wife were returning home.
On the day of the murder, he famously went to The Dakota in the afternoon and asked Lennon to sign an album for him.
The singer obliged and then got in his waiting limo to go to the recording studio.
However, when Lennon returned to the building with Yoko at around 10.30pm that night, Chapman was waiting for him.
Mintz, who served as a spokesperson and publicist for Yoko and Lennon for years, posted several images from the singer’s 90th birthday celebrations at the rural property
‘The room was filled with flowers, laughter, music, great food and loving exchanges,’ Mintz revealed in his Instagram post
Another photo shows the famed publicist posing alongside a rusting vintage fire truck that appears to be stationed on the property
The gunman shot Lennon in the back and shoulder four times in front of his wife – and the Beatle was pronounced dead in the hospital one hour later.
When police arrived to arrest Chapman, he was flicking through pages of The Catcher in the Rye.
Later, Lennon’s murderer revealed his motives for the cold-blooded killing, telling police that he was angry about the immense fame the Beatle had amassed during his career.
In 2020, after being denied parole for the 11th time, Chapman issued a public apology to Yoko, saying he thinks about the ‘despicable act’ all the time.
During a parole hearing at the time, Chapman said he killed Lennon, 40, for ‘glory’ and admitted he deserves the death penalty.
‘I just want to reiterate that I’m sorry for my crime,’ he said. ‘I have no excuse. This was for self-glory. I think it’s the worst crime that there could be to do something to someone that’s innocent.’
Ironically, Yoko and John chose their home in The Dakota because they wanted to move into a building that would afford them more privacy – and more security, photographer Bob Gruen revealed to the New York Times in 2010.
For the most part, their life inside the iconic building – which has a famously-rigid board that has rejected a host of potential celebrity residents, including Madonna and Cher – was quiet and peaceful.
However the pair did come up against some bitter resentment from their fellow residents when they began snapping up other units inside the building.
Yoko and Lennon were married in 1969 and they remained together until December 1980, when he was gunned down outside of their apartment building by Mark David Chapman
The gunman shot Lennon in the back and shoulder four times in front of his wife – and the Beatle (whose body is seen being wheeled out of the building) was pronounced dead in the hospital one hour later
In 2020, after being denied parole for the 11th time, Chapman (seen left in his 1980 mugshot and right in a 2022 mugshot) issued a public apology to Yoko, saying he thinks about the ‘despicable act’ all the time
According to Gruen, Yoko and John had two seventh-floor apartments which they used as their primary residence, however they also purchased three other units: one to use for storage, one that became a studio for Yoko, and another that they used for guests.
‘There was a little bit of resentment built up against Yoko, more because she kept trying to buy more apartments,’ fellow Dakota resident Paul Goldberger told the New York Times.
‘I think people didn’t dare get mad at John Lennon, so she bore the brunt of any resentment.’
It was inside The Dakota where John and Yoko raised their son Sean, who was born in 1975 – and it was also in the first year after their move into the building that the Beatle and his wife went through a time of serious strain.
The pair separated in the summer of 1973 – the same year that they purchased their first apartment in the building – and Lennon subsequently began a relationship with his personal assistant, Mary Pang, a union that he later insisted was coordinated by his wife.
Lennon and Pang embarked on an 18-month-long affair, during which time the singer and guitarist took up residence in another New York apartment on the Upper East Side – across the park from the home where Yoko was living.
The Beatle would later disparagingly refer to this part of his life as his ‘Lost Weekend’ (a reference to the 1945 film in which Ray Milland plays a writer struggling with alcoholism).
Yoko continued to stay in touch with her errant husband but it was not until they met backstage at an Elton John concert in November1974 that they became reconciled – and one year later, they welcomed son Sean.
Lennon announced he was retiring from the music industry while Yoko was pregnant with Sean, revealing that he was quitting work to look after his ‘beautiful boy’ – and he effectively became something of a house husband for several years during his son’s childhood.