John Lennon ‘Imagine’ piano returns to Liverpool home in time for 80th birthday

The world-famous Steinway piano used by John Lennon to compose the song Imagine is set to go on display at the Strawberry Field exhibition this Friday.

October 9th, 2020; just in time for what would have been the singer’s 80th birthday.

With vivid links to The Beatles’s song Strawberry Fields Forever, organisers chose the location as an ode to Lennon’s childhood home along Menlove Avenue.

This is the first time the piano has been placed in Liverpool, or even so close to John Lennon’s home.

Julia Baird, the Honorary President of Strawberry Fields, told Mersey Community News she feels the move is a fitting tribute to the singer’s origins.

She said: “Bringing John’s piano to Strawberry Field for the first time to mark what would have been his 80th birthday is a wonderful gesture – one that will bring joy to the hundreds of thousands of people who visit Liverpool every year to get closer to the history of The Beatles and John’s legacy.

“Strawberry Field played a pivotal role in the John’s childhood as one of the first places that sparked his young imagination.

It’s fitting, therefore, that this piano should find a new home here where The Salvation Army continues to do such good work with young adults with learning difficulties.”

John Lennon bought the piano in December, 1970. A year later, Lennon composed and recorded Imagine in his personal home studio in Tittenhurst park, Berkshire. Once he finished penning the song, Lennon was filmed playing the song on the piano to his wife, Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono band.

He composed and recorded Imagine on it the following year, and was filmed playing the song on it for the first time to wife Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono band.

Imagine was an immediate hit, and became the best-selling single of his solo career. It is clear Lennon held the song and piano in similar esteem. Film footage from 1971 shows a relaxed Lennon at the piano composing ‘Imagine’ before he turns to his keyboard player to remark: “That’s the one I like best.”

These are just some of the many reasons why Lennon’s piano is considered to be one of the most cherished musical instruments of all time.

The piano was bought at an auction for £1.45m by George Michael in 2000, just years before his passing on Christmas Day in 2016. It was soon put to good use, with the piano being used to compose a large variety of Michael’s songs, including the title track of his 2004 album, Patience.

The iconic piano will be available for visitors and tourists at Strawberry Field in Liverpool from this Friday, in honour of what would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday (Image credit: Ant Clausen, Strawberry Field)

When George Michael purchased the piano, he told members of the press that he intended that the piano would one day be enjoyed by the people of Liverpool, as it is “not the type of thing that should be in storage somewhere or being protected, it should be seen by people”.

The spokesman for The George Michael Estate, told Mersey Community News that they “did not hesitate to agree to the loan of the iconic John Lennon Imagine piano”, as loaning it to Strawberry Field nearby Lennon’s Liverpool home was “just the type of association that George would have wanted for this unique piece”.

The spokesperson said: “We know that the piano will be a source of hope and inspiration to all who come to see it and to the young people who attend Strawberry Field not only during these difficult times but for many years to come in the same way that it inspired George since he bought it some 20 years ago.”

The decision to loan the piano to Strawberry Field is particularly poignant, as it was once a children’s home.

What’s more, Liverpool’s Strawberry Field holds a special place in Beatles fan’s hearts, as the song references Lennon’s childhood memories of visits to the Salvation Army children’s home. There, as a child himself, Lennon was known to frequent their suburban gardens to play.

Following years of uncertainty, Strawberry Field was subsequently opened in September 2019 as both a tourist attraction and youth centre.

Liverpool’s Strawberry Field holds a special place in the hearts of Beatles and John Lennon fans all over the world over for inspiring the song ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. The song is based in part on Lennon’s childhood memories of visits to the Salvation Army children’s home to play in its suburban gardens.

All funds raised by paying visitors to the exhibition will be used to help change the lives of young people with learning difficulties by providing them with the chance to succeed in realising their career aspirations.

Major Kathy Versfeld, Mission Director for Strawberry Field, told Mersey Community News: “Since The Salvation Army first acquired the property in 1934, Strawberry Field has been a place of refuge and peace for all those who, like John, sought sanctuary beyond its beautiful red gates. 

“We are absolutely delighted to be able to place on display in our exhibition this wonderful ‘instrument of peace’, sharing as we do with its owners an enduring passion for peacemaking and the transformation of communities and individual lives.

“We are grateful for this generous loan and know that it will make a huge difference to the work that we are able to do within our Visitor Centre, not just with our Steps to Work trainees but also as we offer a place of inspiration and hope to all visitors through the gates.”

April Ryan

Feature image courtesy of skeeze from Pixabay.  Article image courtesy of Ant Clausen from Strawberry Field