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The Beatles singer-songwriter died nearly 40 years ago after he was gunned down by Mark Chapman outside his New York apartment. His legacy lives on through the Fab Four’s unforgettable songs. John’s aunt Mimi, who knew the performer better than most, revealed her memories of the late legendary musician.
Mary Elizabeth Smith, who was affectionately known as ‘Mimi’, raised John after his parents split-up when he was a baby.
In later life, he smothered her with gifts and bought her a beautiful bungalow overlooking Sandbanks Bay, in Dorset.
Mimi would speak to the star once a week and “when the pressure was getting a bit much” he escaped to her quiet coastal home.
She explained: “There would be a whirlwind… he would come down and do cartwheels on the beach by himself.”
John would often “reminisce about his childhood” when they spoke on the phone and recalled “the funny things” – often when he would get into trouble.
Mimi said: “I was always chasing him, you know, I knew what he was up to but he could not make out how I knew when he was up to something.”
She recalled their fallouts over his antics in the music industry, most notably his two-week Bed-in for Peace with Yoko Ono in 1969 to protest war.
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After Mimi heard about the stunt, she called him and said: “That’s enough thank you, we’ve had enough. Keep that lark for the music hall and that was the end of it.”
When asked about whether he listened, she replied: “Well although he rebelled and said ‘I’m not going to do as you tell me’, he always did.”
Mimi told Southern Television in 1981 that he would apologise and try to butter her up with cheeky jokes, including one about her name.
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She said: “My name is Mary Elizabeth, but I’ve never been anything else but Mimi.
“But when he’d been naughty… I’d ring him up and I’d say ‘Don’t [make] me come to New York’ and he’d say, ‘Oh, you’re just being grumpy’.
“So as soon as he said that, down goes the phone and I’d wait for about half an hour.
“To get friendly with me again, he always went, ‘Hello, is that you Gertie?’, ‘Nevermind Gertie!’”
Mimi also revealed her thoughts about John’s second wife Yoko, who she met a couple of times – once in London and another at her home.
She said: “That was in the early days when he brought her, well I didn’t know what it was all about, I wondered ‘Who it was?’ and I said ‘Who’s this?’
“He pushed his head and said ‘Yoko’ – but I didn’t think anything of it.
“But I did say, ‘What do you do for a living?’ to her, she said ‘I’m an artist’ – I said, ‘That’s very funny, I’ve never heard of you!’”
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