by HB Auld, Jr.
Remembering “the quiet Beetle,” George Harrison who died 20 years ago today, November 29, 2001, of non-small cell lung cancer which spread to his brain. George Harrison was 58 years old.
George Harrison was born in Liverpool, England, on February 25, 1943. He met Paul McCartney on a bus on the way to school and bonded over music. Later, he auditioned for John Lennon with Paul who played as “The Quarrymen,” a skiffle group. John turned George down as being too young at 15. Later, he re-auditioned for John on the top of a double-decker bus. He wound up playing for The Quarrymen as a guitar fill-in when needed.
When The Beatles broke up in 1970, George Harrison released his “All Things Must Pass” album, which included his hit single, “My Sweet Lord.” George was sued by The Chifons in 1971, claiming his My Sweet Lord was plagiarized from their “He’s So Fine.” George denied consciously plagiarizing their hit, but lost in US court when the judge judge ruled that he had done so subconsciously.
In 1971, George joined Ravi Shankar in the live The Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden to raise money and awareness for the starving refugees of the Bangladesh Liberation War.
In 1988, George formed The Traveling Wilburys with Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty and recorded “Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.” After Roy Orbison’s death in 1988, the group recorded their second album as a quartet. George came up with the prank idea to name it “Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3.” just “…to confuse the buggers.”
George and his wife, Olivia, were attacked in their home in Friar Park on December 30, 1999, by Michael Abram, a 34-year old suffering from mental illness. George was stabbed 40 times, including once which punctured his lung. Abrams later expressed remorse for the attack.
In May, 2001, George underwent lung surgery to remove a cancerous growth from one of his lungs. In November 2001, he began radiotherapy at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City for non-small cell lung cancer that had spread to his brain. When the news was made public, Harrison lamented his physician’s breach of his privacy, and his estate later claimed damages.
George Harrison died on private property belonging to Paul McCartney on Heather Road in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, CA. At his death, he was surrounded by his wife, Olivia; his son, Dhani; his friend, Ravi Shankar; and others. After George died, his ashes were scattered, according to Hindu tradition, by his close family in a private ceremony in the Ganges and Yamuna rivers near Varanasi, India.
His final words before he died were to Olivia and Dhani: “Everything else can wait, but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another.”