George Harrison, died 18 years ago today. George is best remembered for his contribution to music as one quarter of legendary rock band The Beatles. His incredible legacy also includes a weighty back catalogue of solo material, with hits like My Sweet Lord and What Is Life. On the anniversary of his death, here’s a look at some of the touching tributes paid by his Beatles bandmates and his wife Olivia Harrison.
In an interview with The Telegraph several years after his death, George’s beloved wife Olivia revealed the sweet words he shared with her towards the end, when he knew he was dying.
She told the publication he would comfort her by saying: “Olivia, you’ll be fine, you’ll be fine.”
“Fine is okay, but it is not really good enough, is it?” she mused. “But George was right, I am fine and I am okay, although I will miss him until my dying day. But he walked his road and now I have to walk mine.”
Olivia also said her relationship with George was ongoing, even after his death, saying: “But it is just not a physical relationship any more. And the sooner one comes to terms with that, the easier it is, rather than feeling George has gone and he is never coming back.”
Olivia, explained how she still felt “in communication” with him, saying: “Because you feel so deeply in your heart that if you say a prayer, it goes straight to them.”
George died of lung cancer on November 29, 2001, at the age of 58, having first been diagnosed in 1997.
In May 2001, he underwent surgery to remove a cancerous growth from one of his lungs and, in July, received radiotherapy for a brain tumour.
When he was told treatments could no longer help, George opted not to die in hospital, travelling to Los Angeles, where he passed away at the home rented, at the time, by his Beatles bandmate Paul McCartney.
At the time, his family released a statement saying: “He left this world as he lived in it, conscious of God, fearless of death, and at peace, surrounded by family and friends.
“He often said, ‘Everything else can wait but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another’.”
Soon after George’s death, Paul paid tribute to his friend in a touching interview, saying he was “devastated” by his death.
“We’ve known he’s been ill for a long time,” he said. “I’m very sad to hear that he’s passed on.”
Asked how Olivia and George’s son Dhani were coping with the grief of his passing, Paul replied: “They’re devastated, like we all are. But they’re very strong.
“Olivia has her son Dhani. who’s a really great guy and is being very strong and very supportive in this situation.”
“In a way it’s probably a blessed release. George has been through a lot of problems recently,” he added.
“I understand the end was very peaceful, so that’s a blessing.”
Praising The Beatles guitarist’s talents, Paul went on to speak about the legacy he would leave behind, saying George was “like a baby brother” to him.
“His music will live on forever. He’s a very strong, loving man but he didn’t suffer fools gladly.
“He’s a great man and I think he’ll be remembered as a great man in his own right,” he said.
Paul also recalled the last time he saw George, calling him a “very brave man” and saying: “He was quite ill. But we were laughing and joking just like nothing was going on.
“I was very impressed by his strength but I kind of knew he’d be like that because that’s how he always was.
“He would’ve wanted us to get on and be loving and remember him as the great man he was.”
The only other surviving member of The Beatles, Ringo Starr, also paid tribute to George following his death.
“We will miss George for his sense of love, his sense of music and his sense of laughter,” he said.
The drummer later remembered his last conversation with George, sharing an insight into the George´s sense of humour.
Ringo recalled visiting his friend, who was, at this point, too ill even to stand, but having to leave to see his own daughter, who was suffering from a brain tumour, in Boston.
“I said, ‘Well, you know, I’ve got to go. I’ve got to go to Boston,” he said.
“And he was—” the musician broke off, choking back tears. “It’s the last words I heard him say, actually…
“And he said, ‘Do you want me to come with you?’ So, you know, that’s the incredible side of George,” he added.