George Harrison Dies At 58
George Harrison Dies At 58
George Harrison, the Beatles' quiet lead guitarist and
spiritual explorer who added both rock 'n' roll flash and a
touch of the mystic to the band's timeless magic, has died.
He was 58. Harrison died at 1:30 p.m. yesterday (Nov. 29)
at a friend's Los Angeles home following a battle with
cancer, longtime friend Gavin De Becker said late
yesterday. Harrison's wife, Olivia Harrison, and son Dhani,
24, were with him.
"He left this world as he lived in it, conscious of God,
fearless of death, and at peace, surrounded by family and
friends," the Harrison family said in a statement. "He
often said, `Everything else can wait but the search for
God cannot wait, and love one another.'"
With Harrison's death, there remain two surviving
Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. John Lennon was
shot to death by a deranged fan in 1980. "I am devastated
and very, very sad," McCartney told reporters outside his
London home today. "He was a lovely guy and a very brave
man and had a wonderful sense of humor."
"George has given so much to us in his lifetime and
continues to do so even after his passing, with his music,
his wit and his wisdom," Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, said
today. In a statement issued from Vancouver, Starr said,
"we will miss George for his sense of love, his sense of
music, and his sense of laughter."
It wasn't immediately known if there would be a public
funeral for Harrison. A private ceremony had already taken
place, De Becker said. He wouldn't release details about
the ceremony or say at whose home Harrison died.
In 1998, Harrison disclosed that he had been treated for
throat cancer. "It reminds you that anything can happen,"
he said at the time. The following year, Harrison survived
an attack by an intruder who stabbed him several times. In
July 2001, he released a statement asking fans not to worry
about reports that he was still battling cancer.
The Beatles were four distinct personalities joined as a
singular force in the rebellious 1960s, influencing
everything from hair styles to music. Whether dropping
acid, exploring Eastern mysticism, proclaiming "All You
Need Is Love," or sending up the squares in the film "A
Hard Day's Night," the Beatles inspired millions.
Harrison's guitar work, modeled on Chuck Berry and Carl
Perkins among others, was essential. He often blended with
the band's joyous sound, but also rocked out wildly on
"Long Tall Sally" and turned slow and dreamy on
"Something." His jangly 12-string Rickenbacker was featured
in "A Hard Day's Night."
Although his songwriting was overshadowed by the great
Lennon-McCartney team, Harrison did contribute such
classics as "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something." Harrison
also taught the young Lennon how to play the guitar.
He was known as the "quiet" Beatle and his public image
was summed up in the first song he wrote for them, "Don't
Bother Me," which appeared on the group's second album. But
Harrison also had a wry sense of humor that helped shape
the Beatles' irreverent charm. At their first recording
session under George Martin, the producer reportedly asked
the young musicians to tell him if they didn't like
anything. Harrison's response: "Well, first of all, I don't
like your tie."
He was even funny about his own mortality. As reports of
his failing health proliferated, Harrison recorded a new
song -- "Horse to the Water" -- and credited it to "RIP
Ltd. 2001." As previously reported, the song was released
earlier this month in the U.K. on "Small World Big Band,"
the new album by British musician and broadcaster Jools
Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.
After the Beatles broke up in 1970, Harrison had sporadic
success. He organized the concert for Bangladesh in New
York, produced films that included Monty Python's "Life of
Brian," and teamed with old friends, including Bob Dylan
and Roy Orbison, as "The Traveling Wilburys."
Harrison was born Feb. 25, 1943, in Liverpool, one of
four children of Harold and Louise Harrison. His father, a
former ship's steward, became a bus conductor soon after
Harrison was 13 when he bought his first guitar and
befriended Paul McCartney at their school. McCartney
introduced him to Lennon, who had founded a band called the
Quarry Men -- Harrison was allowed to play if one of the
regulars didn't show up.
Harrison evolved as both musician and songwriter. He
became interested in the sitar while making the 1965 film
"Help!" and introduced it to a generation of Western
listeners on "Norwegian Wood," a song by Lennon from the
"Rubber Soul" album. He also began contributing more of his
Among his compositions were "I Need You" for the
soundtrack of "Help"; "If I Needed Someone" on "Rubber
Soul"; "Taxman" and "Love You To" on "Revolver"; "Within
You, Without You" on "Sgt. Pepper"; and "While My Guitar
Gently Weeps" on the White Album.
In 1966, he married model Patti Boyd, who had a bit part in
"A Hard Day's Night." (They divorced in 1977, and she
married Harrison's friend, the guitarist Eric Clapton, who
wrote the anguished song "Layla" about her. Harrison
attended the wedding.)
As the Beatles grew apart, Harrison collaborated with
Clapton on the song "Badge," performed with Lennon's
Plastic Ono Band and produced his most acclaimed solo work,
the triple album "All Things Must Pass." The sheer volume
of material on that 1970 release confirmed the feelings of
Harrison fans that he was being stifled in the Beatles.
Moved by the starvation caused by the war between
Bangladesh and Pakistan, Harrison in 1971 staged two
benefit concerts at New York and recruited such performers
as Starr, Shankar, Clapton and Dylan. In 1992, Harrison was
the first recipient of Billboard's Century Award, the
publication's highest honor for distinguished creative
Harrison married Olivia Arias in 1978, a month after,
Dhani was born. The family had a brush with death in 1999,
when Harrison was stabbed several times by a man who broke
into his home west of London. The man, who thought the
Beatles were witches and believed himself on a divine
mission to kill Harrison, was acquitted by reason of
In 2000, Harrison saw a compilation of Beatles No. 1
singles, "1," sell millions of copies around the world.
"It's funny, isn't it?," he told Billboard editor-in-chief
Timothy White in January. "It's interesting, and it's
amazing, 'cause I've been out a couple of nights lately
where there's been a lot of people, and there's lot of
young people who are just so into it. It's great, it's
really good, because you see kids who are 5, 6, and 17 --
that whole span -- and they genuinely like it."
At Harrison's mansion near London, fans left bunches of
roses and lilies. Fans in New York began gathering before
dawn today at Strawberry Fields, a section of Central Park
created in memory of Lennon, who was shot outside his