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Did Yoko Ono Brainwash John Lennon Into Getting Back Together With Her?

Photo Credit: John Rodgers/Redferns
Photo Credit: John Rodgers/Redferns

John Lennon’s illustrious relationship with Yoko Ono inspired numerous classic Beatles songs, such as “Happiness is a Warm Gun” and “Get Back.” However, what may surprise many is that Lennon’s longest creative streak came during his separation from Ono in 1973.

Often referring to this time in his life as his “Lost Weekend,” Lennon spent the 18-month period drinking heavily, doing drugs and partying at popular clubs in Los Angeles with his mistress and personal assistant, May Pang – but did Ono orchestrate it all?

A Pang to the Heart

John Lennon and May Pang sitting together
May Pang and John Lennon sitting in a New York club, 1970. (Photo Credit: Art Zelin / Getty Images)

22-year-old May Pang was hired as John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s personal assistant in 1973. One day, Ono approached Pang and shared the couple was having marital troubles after Beatles fans had spread rumors that Ono was the reason the band broke up. Ono told Pang she needed space from Lennon and that she’d given him permission to date other women.

In a 2012 interview with The Telegraph, Ono explained that Lennon and Pang had her blessing to pursue a relationship, saying, “I started to notice that he became a little restless on top of that, so I thought it’s better to give him a rest and me a rest. May Pang was a very intelligent, attractive woman and extremely efficient. I thought they’d be OK.”

Lennon and Ono officially split and, in October 1973, his relationship with Pang went mainstream, signaling the start of the musician’s 18-month “Lost Weekend” bender.

John Lennon’s “Lost Weekend”

John Lennon and May Pang kissing while at a club
John Lennon attends a Smothers Brothers comedy performance with May Pang and Harry Nilsson at the Troubadour on March 12, 1974. (Photo Credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

Even though Lennon was heavily abusing drugs and alcohol, he created three new albums during his “Lost Weekend” period, including his most famous solo single, “Whatever Gets You thru the Night.” He also reconnected with Beatles members Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney and singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson.

Lennon and Pang split their time between LA and New York City, where they went to clubs, recorded new music and even spotted a UFO from the balcony of their Manhattan apartment. It wasn’t until Ono called Lennon to tell him about a possible new treatment to help his smoking addiction that he left Pang and never came back.

He and Ono officially reconciled a few days later.

The Ballad of John and Yoko

John Lennon and Yoko Ono in bed with a guitar, flowers and signs reading "HAIR PEACE" and "BED PEACE"
John Lennon and Yoko Ono in their bed at the Presidential Suite of the Hilton Hotel, Amsterdam during their 7-day long “bed-in for peace” protest. (Photo Credit: Keystone / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

Did John Lennon willingly reconnect with his estranged wife? May Pang’s story suggests Yoko Ono could have orchestrated their entire separation and reconciliation using hypnotism to “brainwash” him! In a 2011 interview, she shared how Ono seemingly encouraged her to start a relationship with her husband, saying:

“Yoko came to me at 9:30 in the morning… and said: ‘May, I’ve got to talk to you. John and I are not getting along… He’s going to start going out with other people. I know you don’t have a boyfriend and I know you are not after John, but you need a boyfriend and you would be good for him.'”

Once Lennon reunited with Ono, he appeared at a joint dental appointment with Pang a couple of days later. Pang claimed he seemed stupefied and confused after being given a “hypnosis” treatment to quit smoking. In her own words, she believed he had been brainwashed.

‘I may have been the happiest I’ve ever been’

John Lennon playing guitar for Yoko Ono
John Lennon plays guitar for Yoko Ono, December 1968. (Photo Credit: Susan Wood / Getty Images)

Lennon told Pang that their relationship was over, as he’d reconnected with his estranged wife. She and the musician never rekindled their romance. Once his “Lost Weekend” ended, Lennon lamented over his relationship with his young mistress.

In an interview with journalist Larry Kane, Lennon shared, “You know Larry, I may have been the happiest I’ve ever been… I loved this woman (Pang), I made some beautiful music and I got so [messed] up with booze… and whatever.”

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Lennon and Ono welcomed their son, Sean, in October 1975, and the couple stayed together until Lennon’s death in 1980. Whether he was brainwashed into returning to Ono or if it was true love that brought them back together, they remain one of the most iconic (and eccentric) couples in history.

Elisabeth Edwards

Elisabeth Edwards is a public historian and history content writer. After completing her Master’s in Public History at Western University in Ontario, Canada Elisabeth has shared her passion for history as a researcher, interpreter, and volunteer at local heritage organizations.

She also helps make history fun and accessible with her podcast The Digital Dust Podcast, which covers topics on everything from art history to grad school.

In her spare time, you can find her camping, hiking, and exploring new places. Elisabeth is especially thrilled to share a love of history with readers who enjoy learning something new every day!

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