The world-famous Steinway Model Z upright piano on which John Lennon composed “Imagine” is now on display at the Strawberry Field exhibition in Liverpool. The piano belongs to the George Michael Estate. And it has been lent to Strawberry Field to celebrate what would have been Lennon’s 80th birthday (9-Oct-2020).
George Michael was a great admirer of The Beatles and when the piano became available in 2000 was keen that the instrument remained in the UK. He felt it was part of the country’s musical heritage. And so, he purchased the piano for £1.45m ($1.75m). This made it the world’s most valuable upright. Lennon, reportedly, had bought the instrument back in 1970 for just $1300.
The piano is a standard Steinway Model Z, made in Steinway’s Hamburg factory in 1970. It is nothing special to look at—it even has a burn mark on it from one of Lennon’s cigarettes. But the Beatle looked upon it as his favourite piano, and kept it at his Berkshire studio. On a film made whilst composing “Imagine” Lennon can be heard saying [with reference to the piano], “That’s the one I like best”.
In 2007 George Michael embarked on the Imagine Piano Peace Project Tour. This involved taking Lennon’s Steinway upright to significant historic locations in the U.S.. These included: Dallas, where President John F Kennedy was assassinated (1963); Memphis, where Martin Luther King was shot (1968); Oklahoma City to the site of the 1995 bombing; and to Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where Abraham Lincoln was shot (1865). It also went to Waco (Texas), Columbine High School (Colorado), and Virginia Tech.
Today the piano takes pride of place at the Strawberry Field visitor attraction. This exhibition tells the story of the world-famous Gothic Revival mansion that inspired the writing and recording of “Strawberrry Fields Forever”.
Strangely the house and grounds were originally known as Strawberry Fields, but in 1905 officially became Strawberry Field (singular). Lennon refers to the site in the plural throughout the song…“nothing to get hung about”!
The house was gifted to the Salvation Army in 1934. They turned it into a children’s home originally for girls, but later to include boys. It was a safe place supporting Liverpool’s vulnerable young people.
Lennon grew up just around the corner, and as a child would often play in the house’s substantial gardens.
Now Strawberry Field with a visitors centre, exhibition, gardens and cafe is open to the public.
However it’s main mission is to help the young, disadvantaged, and those with learning difficulties. It does this by providing training, support and sustainable job opportunities through its Steps to Work programme.
Putting John Lennon’s piano on display at the exhibition will attract considerable public attention – especially at the time of his would-be 80th birthday. And this will hopefully increase visitor numbers and consequently revenue for the charity. These funds will further help support the more unfortunate in these exceptionally difficult times.
“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.Julia Baird (John Lennon’s sister, now Honorary President of Strawberry Field)
Liverpool is one of the UK cities worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and although Strawberry Field is currently open to visitors this may soon change. Visitors are advised, therefore, to contact the venue before travelling to the exhibition.
Address: Beaconsfield Road, Liverpool L25 6EJ
Phone: +44 (0) 151 252 6130
Entrance charge: £8.95