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John Lennon’s 80th birthday: Star’s sister remembers the ‘proper son of Liverpool’

John Lennon’s sister is celebrating his 80th birthday with a series of special events in Liverpool.

Julia Baird is one of the stewards of the Beatles star’s legacy, which she describes as “anti-war, equality, diversity – all the things that we’ve gotten nowhere with, that we’re still talking about today”.

Like Lennon, Ms Baird is a champion of social causes, particularly in Liverpool.

She is the honorary president of Strawberry Field, the site immortalised in the hit Beatles song which is now a tourist attraction.

The piano used by John Lennon to write peace anthem Imagine is going on display there today.

Visitors to the exhibition will be supporting the Steps to Work programme, which helps young adults with learning disabilities get work experience – something Julia is passionate about.

The piano has previously been exhibited twice at The Beatles Story, another Liverpool museum Ms Baird works with as an ambassador, where a set of previously unseen photographs of Lennon are going on display.

The black and white pictures of the musician were taken in New York on 17 October 1974 by Robert Deutsch.

Lennon had been at the Beacon Theatre to pose for some images to promote Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road, a musical loosely based on the Beatles.

One of the publicity shots shows Lennon changing the sign of West 74th Street on Broadway to read “Sgt Pepper Way”. A replica of the sign will also go on show.

Lennon then went inside the theatre and started playing music on an organ.

“He was really nice and really charming, and really easy to talk to,” Mr Deutsch said, “even though I was a little nervous because he was a Beatle and I was a big Beatles fan.”

He told Sky News he couldn’t sell the images to any of the publications he was working for, including Newsweek and Time. But now, they’re priceless.

After visiting The Beatles Story in Liverpool, he got in touch with staff to tell them about the photographs he had kept in storage for 45 years.

The pictures were taken long after the dissolution of the Beatles in 1970.

Lennon’s sister told Sky News the break-up was the result of “constant screaming” by fans.

She said: “If anybody ever says, ‘Why did they stop touring in 1966?’ The fans themselves were responsible for that.”

During the band’s last live concert in San Francisco, she said their music could not be heard over the noise from the audience. Lennon is reported to have said on stage: “This is it, we’re not doing this again”.

“That’s what fame had done: no one was listening,” she added.

The stars had needed some space to “recoup their energies”.

Fans who visit the Sgt Pepper Way exhibition at The Beatles Story will also be able to see Lennon’s last piano and enjoy an immersive experience in the updated Imagine White Room, which is based on the set in the song’s music video.

“It’s an emotive room,” said Diane Glover, one of the museum’s curators. “A lot of people who go in there usually come out crying.”

She told Sky News it was their mission is to uphold the legacy of the Beatles in Liverpool, which is their birthplace.

Reflecting on the city’s relationship with Lennon, his sister said he was a “proper son of Liverpool” who didn’t want to leave when he was 23.

It was Brian Epstein, the group’s manager, who pressured them to move to London for work opportunities.

She had no idea he’d turn out to be so famous, despite him being a gifted musician and “all the rehearsals that were going on in our kitchen”.

She said: “If your brother was, say, very good at maths at 15, would you immediately think he’s going to run Goldman Sachs bank one day?” –