John Lennon’s “Imagine” is the most famous song from his solo career. It’s an anthem for peace and antimaterialism. Interestingly, the piano on which John composed it was owned by a different artist: George Michael.
Michael made music that was pretty far removed from John’s. However, that didn’t stop him from admiring John’s work. Here’s why he saw his purchase of John’s piano as charitable.
The early history of the piano John Lennon wrote ‘Imagine’ on
The piano was built in Hamburg in 1970, according to MTV News. So it was very new when John released “Imagine” in 1971. The piano can be seen in the music video for “Imagine,” which features John and his wife, Yoko Ono. Whoever built the piano probably had no idea it would become a sought-after collector’s item.
In 1992, a private collector purchased the piano, the Independent reports. That collector loaned the piano to Liverpool’s Beatles museum. Then, the collector began to think about selling the piano to wealthy Fab Four fans in Japan or the U.S.
The Beatles are a major part of England’s musical heritage. Consequently, some English people didn’t like the idea of the piano leaving the country. One of these English people was Michael.
George Michael buys the paino
Michael purchased the piano for around $2 million, a price he said was “worth every penny.” Michael beat out smaller bids from other British celebrities, particularly Liam and Noel Gallagher of Oasis and pop star Robbie Williams. Michael wanted to buy the piano for people to see it. He wanted it to be in Liverpool. He also dreamed of writing a song on the piano before he returned it to the Liverpool museum.
“Having paid one and a half million pounds for it I’d really like to play something on it and stick it on my next record,” Michael said, according to the Independent. “So as I’m recording right now 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. It’s not the type of thing that should be in storage somewhere or being protected, it should be seen by people.”
What George Michael did with the piano
Discussing the song he’d write on the piano, Michael said it wouldn’t be “’Imagine’ part two.” He said he could never hope to write anything as good as John’s anthem. In addition, he said the song he’d write on the piano would sound like the famously simple composition “Chopsticks” compared to “Imagine.” It doesn’t appear Michael ever wrote a song on the piano.
Michael was interested in keeping the piano in England. However, he still sent it on a “symbolic road trip for peace,” according to The Guardian. The piano visited historic sites around the world, such as Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., where Abraham Lincoln was shot. “By taking the piano to all these sites, we are reminded that violence has long been a part of our history,” Michael said at the time.