30 NOVEMBER 2001
Legendary Beatle George Harrison has died after a hard-fought battle with cancer. The beloved musician passed away at a friend's house in Los Angeles on Thursday at 1:30pm, local time. He had undergone “last chance” radiotherapy at Staten Island University Hospital in November and then further experimental care in Los Angeles, but the treatments proved ineffective. He was 58 years old.
"He died with one thought in mind – love one another," said George's longtime friend, Gavin De Becker.
Insiders feared the worse as former members of the Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr visited George’s bedside in early November. Macca was said to have broken down in tears during the sad reunion. “George’s passing would be a major blow to all of them,” a friend said. “There are very few people who shared what these men shared while they were making music together.”
George Harrison was born on February 23, 1943, the fourth child of Harold, a bus driver, and Louise. The family lived in a council house in a Liverpool suburb for the future star’s first 18 years.
The "Quiet" Beatle was an entertainer from an early age. His father gave him a set of glove puppets one Christmas and as Louise recalls, “from that day on, whenever we had visitors, George always insisted on giving them a little show, kneeling behind the sofa.”
In 1954 George began studying at the Liverpool Institute For Boys where he met a young Paul McCartney and the two quickly bonded over their mutual love of guitars. George would later join Paul in the Quarrymen, an early John Lennon band - the young musician had the added advantage of a living room with ample rehearsal space. And his skill as an electrician gained him further acceptance – Lennon hoped George could keep their low-budget amplification system from malfunctioning. That group, of course, eventually became the Beatles.
As their fame soared, George became something of a lothario on the road. However, he soon courted Pattie Boyd, a model and aspiring actress whom he met on the set of A Hard Day’s Night. The two wed on January 21, 1966, with Macca as the best man. “I got married because I changed,” he said. “Marriage didn’t bring this about; I’d already changed.”
An introspective period followed, and he was soon off to India to study the sitar under Ravi Shankar. (The two would later play together in an ill-fated, poorly-received Harrison solo tour.) Fame, it seemed, had taken its toll on the musician and performing lost nearly all its appeal for him. “Going to India was a fantastic time,” George said. “I would go out and look at temples and go shopping, it was incredible. It was the first feeling I’d ever had of being liberated from being a Beatle or a number.”
His solo music, while inventive, never caught on with the general public who longed to hear more of the same from the former Beatle. His marriage floundered as well, and after a string of infidelities by both partners, the two divorced. Pattie went on to marry Eric Clapton – one of her husband’s confidantes – however Patti and George remained friends.
George married Olivia Arias in 1978, one month after she gave birth to their son, Dhani. Together they traveled India, studying yoga and meditation. But in 1985 George returned to the music scene with Cloud Nine, a comeback album which launched two hit singles and introduced him to a whole new audience.
The past few years, however, have been painful ones for the former Beatle. In 1997 George was treated for throat cancer after finding a lump on his neck. “Luckily for me the doctors found that this nodule was more of a warning than anything else,” he said at the time. “There are many different types of cancerous cells and this was a very basic type.” George quit smoking in 1997 and blames cigarettes for the throat cancer.
In 1999, a crazed fan, Michael Abram, broke into George’s Henley-on-Thames home, stabbing him ten times and puncturing one his lungs. Abram was acquitted on grounds of insanity before being confined to a mental hospital. That injury wouldn’t be the end of his medical worries, unfortunately.
George underwent surgery for lung cancer in May of 2001 at the famed Mayo Clinic in New York and doctors felt he would make a complete recovery. Sadly, specialists found a brain tumor in early summer and George went in for treatment at a Swiss centre. He later retreated to his Hawaiian home to rest alongside his wife, Olivia. He continued receiving experimental treatment, though none could ultimately save him.
He is survived by his wife Olivia and their son, Dhani.