With a demo version of the 1971 track appearing on the 2018 remixed version of ‘The White Album‘, Ono and her colleague Simon Hilton have discussed her influence on the song’s evolution.
Hilton revealed to NME that it was Ono that changed the track’s lyrical content. Originally titled ‘Child of Nature’, the song featured the lines “I’m just a child of nature / I don’t need much to set me free…”, which later became “I was feeling insecure / You might not love me anymore / I was shivering inside…I didn’t mean to hurt you / I’m just a jealous guy.”
Speaking of the shift, Hilton said: “That was her going, ‘You’re just writing words. Write about something real and something that matters.’ And then he came out with that. If you really tune into the lyrics of ‘Jealous Guy’ it’s really very heavy and profound. You can see how, in John’s search for a guru or for enlightenment of some kind, Yoko loomed so large in that landscape, because she was a philosophy major…”
Hilton went on to say that Ono’s contribution was downplayed due to her “bad press” and the public’s negative attitude towards her at the time, adding that: “she was kept out of things in order not to spoil the public’s reaction to them.”
He continued: “I think there was a sense that they were trying to protect the art from being defamed by the sort of negative halo of associations with her. And that’s why she was so reticent about acknowledging her credit for the song initially. And the lyrics of ‘Jealous Guy?’ Come on, people never bared their soul like that in those days. That was unheard of.”
Reflecting on her role in the song’s creation, Ono told NME: “Well, if it was just John, [he] would have given me the right credit, but it was a difficult time. No famous songwriter would have thought of splitting the credit with his wife.”
Speaking of her influence on the track, she added: “I think it’s a good song from a women’s point of view as well [as a man’s]…John was [initially] trying to create a fun song about going on a trip to Rishikesh. That might have been great too, but it ended up not being that.”
Ono also hinted that further details could emerge in the future regarding tracks she contributed to. “I think in maybe ten years I can tell it all,” she said. “But I don’t know if I want to.”