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The Beatles legend was taken care of by Mary Elizabeth Smith, affectionately known as Aunt Mimi, as a child after his parents split-up. She fondly recalled memories of John’s cheekiness and how he “always did” what she wanted, even though he initially “rebelled” against her. The Liverpudlian-born singer’s life was tragically cut short at 40, when he was shot dead outside his New York apartment nearly four decades ago.
One-year after John was gunned down by Mark Chapman, a Beatles obsessive who had become infuriated by their anti-religious lyrics, Mimi spoke out about the legend.
She recalled the final call with her nephew, who she had nurtured from an early age, a mere “two hours” before he was murdered outside The Dakota, in Manhattan.
Previously, John had urged his ‘mother’ to move to the US to live with him and second wife Yoko Ono but she rejected the offer.
Mimi explained that she didn’t “regret” the choice because she “couldn’t live in America” and felt extremely close to him despite them being nearly 3,500 miles apart.
She said: “With him phoning for so long, certainly once a week and sometimes twice a week, the phone was so clear I didn’t feel that he’d been away at all.
“It was as good as seeing him.”
One call Mimi remembered before her death in 1991 aged 85, was the final words John spoke to her before he was shot.
She recalled: “The night before he was murdered, two hours, he was saying, ‘I’ll be seeing you soon Mimi, I can’t wait to see you’.
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“And then of course at five o’clock the next morning it came over the overseas news.”
In a heartbreaking confession, Mimi admitted that she had refused to accept that he had passed away.
In 1981, she told Southern Television: “Honestly if I thought he was dead I don’t think I could go on. I don’t think of him as dead.”
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Mimi recalled begrudgingly buying John his first guitar after she had “battled against it for quite a long time” because she feared his fame would be short-lived.
She said: “I didn’t want him wasting his college time and missing lectures by wasting his time playing the guitar.
“Whereas his training would last, these things come and go, they are playing a guitar one week, everyone’s clamouring for them then they disappear, nobody ever hears them again.”
Mimi admitted she was fearful of having a “boy of 21 thrown back” on her hands “qualified for nothing” if his music career didn’t take off.
Despite her reservations about John pursuing his dreams, she “knew The Beatles had something special”.
Mimi added: “But nobody expected this, it was a shock to them too!”
She struggled to name her favourite Beatles track from their impressive catalogue of more than 200 songs – but eventually settled for a 1964 hit.
Mimi added: “Well I don’t know, I think A Hard Day’s Night is not so bad at the present time.”
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