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George Michael paid £1.67m for piano on which John Lennon wrote Imagine

George Michael bought the piano on which John Lennon composed the classic hit song Imagine so it would not end up in storage and could be "seen by the people".

The Wham! frontman anonymously paid £1.67 million for the upright historic Steinway formerly owned by the ex-Beatle at a pop memorabilia auction in 2000.

Purchasing it so it would stay in the country, Michael was later revealed as the owner of the instrument and announced he was going to hand it over to the Beatles Story museum in Liverpool.

Before the auction, the piano had been loaned to the museum by a private collector who bought it in 1992, but when the collector decided to sell it there were fears it would be lost to wealthy Beatles fans in Japan or the US.

In an interview around the time of the purchase Michael said it was "worth every penny" as he confirmed it would be returning to the city.

"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 added.

"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."

The piano, built in Hamburg in 1970, is a Steinway Model Z upright bought by Lennon from the manufacturer in December of that year and delivered to his Ascot Sound Studios.

Film footage of him playing Imagine for the first time to Yoko Ono revealed it was the piano the artist used to compose the peace anthem.

Speaking about any possible composition on the piano, Michael said in 2000: "I don't really think it'll be Imagine part two - I think that's a little much to hope for, really.

"It'll probably be Chopsticks in comparison but it'll definitely go on the record somewhere."

Michael originally paid £1.45 million for the piano which still bears two burns from where Lennon left a cigarette smouldering, but the cost rose to £1.67 million after buyer's premium was added by auctioneers Fleetwood Owen.

A spokeswoman for the Beatles Story said Michael loaned them the piano for a short time before he took it on tour to "spread the message of Imagine Love and Peace".

She added: "He did promise to one day bring it back to the Beatles Story and Liverpool and we would love to have it back again."

In 2006 Michael shipped the piano to the US, and it was displayed at locations including Memphis and Virginia, and made a brief appearance at the site where John F Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas, Texas to mark the 43rd anniversary of the American president's assassination.

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