Marking what would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday, the estate of the late George Michael has loaned the piano that Lennon composed and recorded Imagine on to Liverpool’s Strawberry Field exhibition.
Michael, a huge fan of both The Beatles and Lennon, purchased the upright Steinway piano - viewed as one of the most valuable musical instruments in rock history - in 2000, and used it on the title track of his Patience album. He also took it on tour as a symbol of peace.
Michael’s estate says that he always wanted the piano to be enjoyed by the people of Liverpool. “It’s not the type of thing that should be in storage somewhere or being protected, it should be seen by people,” the star told journalists when he purchased it.
Strawberry Field, of course, was immortalised in the Beatles’ song that featured its name, which was in part based on John Lennon’s childhood visits to the Salvation’s Army children’s home to play in its gardens.
Still in the care of The Salvation Army, Strawberry Field is currently being redeveloped in order to give young people with learning difficulties in Liverpool the chance to succeed in their careers. All funds raised by the exhibition, which the piano will now be part of, will go towards helping this cause.
The Estate of the late George Michael says that it’s “proud to be associated with Strawberry Field and the work that the Salvation Army do at the centre to help young adults with learning difficulties acquire the skills and experience they so badly need to get employment.”
It continues: “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.”
Major Kathy Versfeld, Mission Director for Strawberry Field, says: “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.”
More information about the exhibition can be found on the Strawberry Field website.