George Michael bought John Lennon’s piano on October 18, 2000. Read some newspaper clippings from around the world on what happened to the “Imagine” piano after George purchased it.
Purchase of the John Lennon Piano (2000)
“Imagine That” from the National Post (Toronto, Canada), October 19, 2000, page 32
Pop superstar George Michael was named yesterday as the buyer of John Lennon’s piano, paying 1.45-million ($3.1-million) in order to keep the piece of entertainment folklore in Britain.
“We can confirm that George Michael has bid successfully for John Lennon’s piano,” said a spokeswoman. She said Michael, 37, did not taken part personally in Tuesday’s trans-Atlantic auction.
“He decided to do this because the piano was a part of music history, and because he wanted it to remain in Britain.”
Lennon composed Imagine on the walnut upright, which Stein-way has authenticated as the one he bought in 1970 for around 1,000 ($2,200).
The former Beatle was murdered in New York by Mark David Chapman on Dec. 8, 1980. Chapman was denied parole earlier this month.
The sale caps a month of Beatle-mania that saw the opening of a new Lennon museum in Japan and the release of the band’s first autobiography charting the Fab Four’s meteoric rise to fame.
Two solo albums were released last week to mark what would have been Lennon’s 60th birthday, shortly after Sir Paul McCartney put together a new Beatles dance record featuring outtakes from the band’s 1960s heyday.
The final price for the piano came within a whisker of auctioneer fleetwoodowen.com’s predicted 1.5-million ($3.3-million).
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.”
The piano had been owned by a private collector and had been on show for most of the year at the Beatles Story Museum in their home town of Liverpool.
Michael has yet to announce what he will do with his acquisition, but the museum has offered it a home and full insurance if the new owner will keep it on display there.
“I Want Your … Piano” from The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California, USA), October 19, 2000, page 249
The piano on which John Lennon composed “Imagine” was sold for $2.1 million Tuesday during an online auction at the Hard Rock Cafe in London. British pop singer George Michael confirmed Wednesday that he was the buyer, reportedly outbidding Robbie Williams and Liam and Noel Gallagher. “He decided to do this because the piano was a part of music history, and because he wanted it to remain in Britain,” a spokeswoman for the British singer said. The instrument has been on display since February at the Beatles Story Museum in Liverpool. “We won’t go knocking on George Michael’s door at this stage,” museum curator Shelagh Johnston said. “But we have made our desire to keep the piano clear.”
“George Michael enjoys playing John Lennon’s piano,” The Jackson Sun (Jackson, Tennessee), October 23, 2000.
George Michael promised that as soon as he records a song on the piano John Lennon used to compose “Imagine,” he’ll return the instrument to Liverpool’s Beatles museum.
“It’s not the type of thing that should be in storage somewhere or being protected, it should be seen by people,” Michael told London’s Capital Radio on Friday.
The pop singer paid $2.1 million on Tuesday to buy the Steinway Model Z upright, the centerpiece of an auction of Beatles memorabilia held at London’s Hard Rock Cafe.
“I think I’ll hold on to it for a couple of months and see if I can get it on to my new record, and then it’s going back to the museum in Liverpool where I think it rightly belongs,” he said. Michael downplayed suggestions that his composition would live up to the standard set by Lennon’s “Imagine.”
“It’ll probably be ‘Chopsticks in comparison,” he said.
Return of the Lennon Piano to the Beatles Museum (2001)
“Pop star returns Lennon piano to museum,” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), August 21, 2001, page 143.
Pop star George Michael has kept his vow to a Liverpool Beatles museum and returned the piano used by John Lennon to record “Imagine.”
The Steinway Model Z upright was back on display Thursday at the Beatles Story Museum, one year after Michael paid $2 million for the 31-year-old instrument at auction.
The piano had been on loan to the museum before its owner decided to sell. Michael remarked that the piano was not something “that should be in storage somewhere or being protected. It should be seen by people.”
But after buying the piano, he said he wanted to record a song on it for his next album. His publicist said Thursday that it was unclear whether that recording had been made.
The piano, built in Hamburg, Germany, and bought by Lennon in 1970, was delivered by police escort from Michael’s London home, museum staff said.
Film footage shows Lennon performing “Imagine” for Yoko Ono on the piano at his home in southern England in 1971.
Lennon was shot and killed on Dec. 8, 1980, in New York.
“George Michael lets Lennon’s piano tour,” Northwest Herald (Woodstock, Illinois), 01 Nov 2006, Wed • Page 32
The show will be in Dallas Dec. 5 through Jan. 13. Plans call for a tour of the exhibition throughout the United States and Europe with a schedule of venues to be announced in the future. The piano on which John Lennon composed “Imagine” in 1971 will be shipped to the United States by musician George Michael as the centerpiece of a photography exhibition celebrating peace. This is the first time the piano has left the United Kingdom. Michael bought the piano, considered the most expensive piece of pop memorabilia, at an auction in October 2000 reportedly for $2.1 million.
“Piano peace tour”, South Florida Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), 05 Apr 2007, Thu • Page 4
Lennon’s piano in Memphis to mark King anniversary MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) John Lennon’s piano, on tour as a symbol of peace, was to arrive Friday to commemorate the anniversary of the death of civil-rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Lennon composed his 1971 song “Imagine” on the Steinway upright piano, which was purchased by pop star George Michael in 2000 for $2.1 million US.
Memphis is the second stop on the tour that will include the former site of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, the bombed federal building in Oklahoma City and the Branch Davidian compound destroyed in a fiery siege in Waco, Texas.
The first tour stop was Dallas, where U.S. President John E Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963.
“This is about hopes and dreams and the world condition,” Michael’s partner, Kenny Goss, said Tuesday.
The Memphis stop coincides with the 39th anniversary of King’s death on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, now the visual centrepiece of the National Civil Rights Museum. King was assassinated April 4, 1968.
Goss said neither he nor Michael planned to attend.
“It would be completely distracting. What we’re focusing on is the message John Lennon was trying to promote,” he said.
The piano is being photographed at each site for a possible book and documentary on world peace.
“John Lennon’s piano being photographed in New Orleans,” The News-Star (Monroe, Louisiana), 01 Jun 2007, Page 8
The piano on which ex-Beatle John Lennon composed his hit song “Imagine” in 1971 has been brought to New Orleans for a photo session. The piano’s owner, musician George Michael, hopes the visit will heighten awareness of the plight of the hurricane-stricken city.
The brown Steinway upright piano will be photographed in the lobby of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and also at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop.
Lafitte’s, built in the French Quarter before 1772, is thought to have been a base of operations for the pirate and Battle of New Orleans hero Jean Lafitte.
The piano, which bears burns left by Lennon’s cigarettes, will be photographed by Kenny Goss, owner of Goss Gallery in Dallas. Its stop in New Orleans is part of a worldwide tour of sites where acts of violence have taken place and locations that capture the human spirit.
“Kenny and George want to honor those that lost their lives, those injured and those whose lives were impacted forever by Hurricane Katrina,” said Caroline True, producer of the piano project.
Katrina struck Aug. 29, 2005, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans and wiping out the Mississippi Gulf Coast. To date, photos have been taken at Dealy Plaza, site of President Kennedy’s assassination; the Memphis site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s killing; Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated; and the former Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, site of a controversial 1993 confrontation between the religious sect and federal law enforcement officers.
A documentary and a book of the photos are under development with plans to donate proceeds to charity.
Lennon, 40, was shot to death by Mark David Chapman in New York on Dec. 8, 1980.
Planned Tragedy Tour: Britain (2007)
“Michael imagines world peace: Singer takes Lennon’s piano on ‘tragedy’ tour,” Calgary Herald (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), 19 Aug 2007, Sun • Page 27
John Lennon did his part for world peace by penning anti-war ballads and indulging in public “bed-ins” with Yoko Ono.
Now George Michael plans to take the piano on which Lennon wrote Imagine on a “tragedy tour” of Britain to protest violence.
The singer wants to send a message of love and harmony by placing the piano close to four London sites where suicide bombers struck two years ago.
The Steinway upright could also appear at the spot in Eltham, southeast London, where Stephen Lawrence, a black teenager, was murdered by racists, and in the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho, central London, where a nail bomb exploded in a fatal homophobic attack in 1999.
At each site, passersby will be encouraged to play Imagine or other songs which might have a personal poignancy on the piano .
The idea for the tour came from Michael, 44, who bought the piano at auction for more than $3 million, and Kenny Goss, his long-term boyfriend.
Caroline True, a music video producer and the tour’s creative director, said: “We’d like to take it everywhere we possibly can. Our intention is to go to places in England next year where bad things have happened.”
While many applaud the tour as a powerful artistic statement, critics accuse Michael of being naive and intruding on victims’ grief.
The touring piano has already caused controversy. It appeared at Waco, Tex., where 80 members of a religious cult died in a blaze following a stand-off with police, and outside a prison on the day a convicted murderer was executed.
Administrators at Columbine High School near Denver, where two students killed 13 others in a shooting spree in 1999, refused to have it on their campus.
One of Lennon’s stunts to promote peace involved him lying in bed with Ono in front of the world’s cameras during their honeymoon at the Hilton hotel in Amsterdam in 1969. Lennon bought the Steinway upright in 1970 and wrote Imagine a year later at his Tittenhurst Park home in Berkshire. The song originally got to No. 6 in Britain, but became a No. 1 after Lennon’s death in 1980.
Last year Goss decided to take the instrument to his gallery in Dallas, Tex., where it stood alongside an exhibition of war photography.
“It seemed like the obvious thing to do to take the piano and put it in among these photographs of carnage and war and use the piano as a symbol of peace,” said True. “That’s really how the whole tour came about.”
Since then the piano has appeared outside the Ford Theatre in Washington, where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated; at the Memphis motel now a museum where Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in 1968; and at Virginia Tech, where 32 students were massacred in April.
There are plans to take the piano to New York this year and place it near Ground Zero in memory of 911, and put it outside the Dakota building in Manhattan where Lennon was killed.
At the Arizona Musical Instrument Museum (2010)
“Phoenix museum displays Lennon’s piano,” Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Arizona), 19 Mar 2010, Fri • Page 135
Almost 40 years ago, John Lennon sat down at his Steinway upright, situated in his bedroom at Tittenhurst Park, outside of London, and wrote the song “Imagine.”
Lennon knew he had written something special. In one of his last interviews, he declared “Imagine” to be as good as anything he had written with the Beatles.
The song certainly made a star of the piano, now considered perhaps the most valuable piece of musical memorabilia. Experts have estimated its value at $8 million to $12 million.
The instrument is on loan to the Musical Instrument Museum in northeast Phoenix for one year. It will be displayed in the new museum’s Artist Gallery, along with Bob Dylan’s harmonicas, guitars from Paul Simon, George Benson, and Eric Clapton, and the first Steinway piano ever built.
The museum opens on April 24. It was not the white grand piano now known from films and photos. Lennon bought the piano, a walnut-finished model Z, in December 1970. His estate sold it to a private British collector in 1992. It was put up for auction in October 2000, where it was bought by musician George Michael for a little more than $2 million.
Since then, the piano has been on display in several venues.
Notably, it has been showcased at numerous scenes of violence to send a message of peace. It has been photographed at Dealey Plaza, where President Kennedy was assassinated; at Virginia Tech, where 32 people were gunned down by a student in 2007; and at the National Civil Rights -Museum in Memphis, the city where Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.
“Kenny (Goss, a gallery owner in Dallas) and George’s deepest wish is to imagine a world of peace, a world without violence,” said Caroline True, creative director. “The selection of these sites evokes a deep sense of emotion for everyone. Capturing these images of this special piano on which a song of peace was composed is the heart of this project”
The song, “Imagine,” was released in 1971 and was Lennon’s most famous post-Beatles song, but it took on a whole new life after Lennon’s murder in December 1980, when it became a No. 1 hit.
Journey Back to Britain (2019)
- George Michael on the John Lennon Piano (People Magazine, 2000)
- George Michael’s John Lennon Piano Peace Tour
- George Michael Star 94 FM Radio Interview (2004)
- George Michael’s Oprah Winfrey Show Interview (2004)
- George Michael on ‘Listen Without Prejudice’ (1990)