As an ex-Beatle, George Harrison’s place in history is assured. Add to that a post-Beatles career that saw him further develop his songwriting skills with classic solo albums such as All Things Must Pass and the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys, and it becomes clear that George Harrison was one of the greatest musical talents to have ever walked the earth.
It’s been said of him that, “George was a great believer in this fantastic language called music – the universality of this language,” and so it was fitting that, on 29 November 2002, a year to the day after George Harrison passed away, a musical family – led by Eric Clapton and including life-long friends and collaborators, among them Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne, Ravi Shankar, Tom Petty and Billy Preston – gathered to pay tribute to their beloved friend and inspiration. The Concert For George, staged at London’s Royal Albert Hall, and now being reissued on DVD, CD and LP formats, allowed for a universal outpouring of love for a man who’s work – and outlook on life – touched so many.
Indeed, Harrison was far more than a musical inspiration; he was, to many, a spiritual guide as well. “It was like I’d been sent the person I needed,” fellow-Wilbury Tom Petty said of their friendship. “He healed a lot of wounds.”
In a statement following Harrison’s death, his family revealed, “He often said, ‘Everything else can wait but the search of God cannot wait, and love one another.’” His many fans and friends, however, made sure to send a lot of love towards George Harrison himself.
What follows are tributes and memories of the great man, from those who knew him the most. As Ringo Starr once put it: “Let’s have peace and love for George.”
“He was a lovely guy and a very brave man and had a wonderful sense of humour. He is really just my baby brother.”
“I always thought of George as being a little like the elder brother that I never had. So I respect his judgement and his values and I think he’s a wonderful man. And I like the way he bends the strings too.”
“George was like a son to me, and my Indian name for him was ‘Jáyaraj.’… He gave the whole world so many beautiful songs.”
“He was a wonderful songwriter. The song ‘Something’ is still one of the prettiest songs of all time.”
“I think that [‘Within You Without You’] is one of George’s best songs, one of my favourites of his. I like the arrangement, the sound and the words. He is clear on that song. You can hear his mind is clear and his music is clear. It’s his innate talent that comes through on that song, that brought that song together.”
“My favorite George Harrison song? ‘[While] My Guitar Gently Weeps’. I’ve discovered it takes courage to be gentle. He was an inspiration.”
“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. His life was magical and we all felt we had shared a little bit of it by knowing him.”
“We had some screaming laughing times. He could get you laughing really hard, you know, and I held my sides and tried not to hurt with him. Some people have this image of him as a kind of reverent guy, which he was, but he was also rip-you-apart funny.”
“George was a huge [Monty] Python fan. He was always convinced that the spirit of The Beatles went into the Pythons because we started the year they quit. I want to believe that as well.”
“George was a reluctant rock star, but he loved to play rock’n’roll. At the end of a session, around two in the morning, we’d have a few drinks, listen back to the stuff we’d been doing and then start playing other songs together, some of his old favourites. He didn’t like the bulls__t that goes with being famous. But he loved to make music and he loved recording.”
“Jeff and my dad had a great way of working together. They were very good friends, and Jeff was meticulous, and he’d have a lot of ideas and bounce stuff of my dad. They just worked very well together.”
“George was a true friend, intensely loyal, caring deeply for those he loved and he inspired much love in return… George loved his garden in England, and creating beauty among his trees and plants was almost as important to him as his music.”
Sir George Martin
“He found something worth more than fame, more than fortune, more than anything.”
“I felt strongly that there was a beautiful soul in him, and recognised one quality which I always have valued enormously and which is considered the principal one in our culture – humility. Considering that he was so famous… he was nevertheless quite humble…”
“George was the kind of guy who wasn’t going to leave until he hugged you for five minutes and told you how much he loved you.”
“To me – George was, always will be, above all, a real gentleman, in the full meaning of the word. We both felt we held similar positions in our respective bands, which formed a special, knowing bond between us. Let’s hope he’s jamming with John.”
“I’ve always liked the way George Harrison plays guitar – restrained and good.”
“As a guitarist – well, the trademark of a great guitarist is that you can always identify their sound, and with George you can always tell it’s George Harrison playing. All his solos are very melodic – you can almost sing his solos.”
“Anytime I see anything to do with George it brings back more memories than you can believe.”
Concert For George is released on 23 February 2018. Order it here.