How George Michael came to own John Lennon's 'Imagine' piano and where it is now

7 October 2020, 14:57 | Updated: 7 October 2020, 15:00

George Michael purchased the piano John Lennon used to write 'Imagine' in 2000
George Michael purchased the piano John Lennon used to write 'Imagine' in 2000. Picture: Andrew Solt Productions/Gimme Some Truth/George Michael

By Tom Eames

John Lennon's 'Imagine' is one of the world's most celebrated songs, and still holds a powerful message and meaning to millions of people nearly 50 years after it was released.

20 years after his death, another popstar came to own the piano Lennon used to write the iconic piece of music.

George Michael was a superfan of John and the Beatles, and outbid everyone else to own the famous instrument, and it was a treasured item in his large collection until his death in 2016.

Read more: The Story of... 'Imagine' by John Lennon

With George's estate unveiling the piano to the public to mark what would have been Lennon's 80th birthday, let's take a look back at the piano's journey.

  1. When did John Lennon write 'Imagine'?

    John Lennon - Making of Imagine (song) - from Gimme Some Truth HD

    John Lennon composed 'Imagine' one morning in early 1971, on a Steinway piano.

    He wrote it in a bedroom at his Tittenhurst Park estate in Ascot, Berkshire.

    Read more: Remembering John Lennon's tragic death, 40 years on

    His wife Yoko Ono watched as he composed the song's melody, chord structure and almost all the lyrics, almost completing it in one short writing session.

    If you watch the video above, you can catch a glimpse of Lennon writing the song on the Steinway piano.

  2. When and why did George Michael buy the piano?

    George was a big fan of The Beatles. Over the years he performed covers including 'The Long and Winding Road' and 'Get Back'.

    He also collaborated with Paul McCartney on a number of occasions, including on a duet version of 'Heal the Pain'.

    QUIZ: How much of a John Lennon fan are you?

    In 2000, the 'Imagine' piano went up to auction at the Hard Rock Café in London, and when he heard about it, George decided to buy it so it remained in the UK.

    He is said to have outbid both the Gallagher brothers and Robbie Williams for the piano.

    George Michael on John Lennon's piano
    George Michael on John Lennon's piano. Picture: George Michael

    George paid £1.45 million for the piano. Before then, the piano had been owned by a private collector and had previously been on show at the Beatles Story Museum in their home town of Liverpool.

    Speaking to reporters at the time of the auction, George said that “it’s not the type of thing that should be in storage somewhere or being protected, it should be seen by people”.

  3. Where has the piano been since George bought it?

    George Michael later toured the piano around the world “as a symbol of peace”, and used it during the recording of his song ‘Patience’ in 2004.

    Read more: Watch 21-year-old George Michael sing 'Careless Whisper' with Smokey Robinson

    The piano toured America in 2007 as part of the peace tour, arranged by both George and his then-partner Kenny Goss.

  4. Where is the piano now?

    John Lennon's sister Julia with the piano at Strawberry Field
    John Lennon's sister Julia with the piano at Strawberry Field. Picture: Strawberry Field

    The piano is now owned by George Michael's estate.

    In 2020, to mark John Lennon's 80th birthday and 40 years since his tragic death, his estate allowed for the piano to go back on display at the Strawberry Field exhibition in Liverpool.

    The estate said that they were “proud to be associated with Strawberry Field and the work that the Salvation Army do at the centre [in] helping young adults with learning difficulties acquire the skills and experience they so badly need to get employment”.

    Read more: Watch George Michael sing a spine-tingling duet with Luciano Pavarotti

    “We know that the piano will be a source of hope and inspiration to all who come to see it… not only during these difficult times but for many years to come, in the same way that it inspired George [after] he bought it some 20 years ago.”

    Imagine - John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band (w The Flux Fiddlers) (Ultimate Mix 2018) - 4K REMASTER

    John Lennon’s sister Julia Baird, who is the Honorary President of Strawberry Field, said in a statement: “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 John’s childhood as one of the first places that sparked his young imagination whilst living on nearby Menlove Avenue. 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.”

    All funds raised by visitors to the exhibition will be used to help improve the lives of young people with learning difficulties.