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
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 his marriage.
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 own material.
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 achievement.
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 insanity.
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 apartment nearby.
Copyright 2001 Billboard.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.