You don’t have to be an avid follower of The Beatles to know that George Harrison was a man of peace. In fact, calling him a man of peace is quite an understatement. His Indian odyssey throughout the mid-1960s saw him find his true calling in life beyond music. He became affiliated with the Hare Krishna movement in a quest for inner peace and spiritual enlightenment. The gentle, so-called ‘quiet Beatle’ was the epitome of hippie culture, and his life seemed to revolve around communicating that love and peace should make way for war and violence. Therefore, when he wrote the song ‘Cheer Down’ for Lethal Weapon 2 in 1989, it came as a bit of a surprise.
The late Beatle had always been a fan of film and was even the critical philanthropist behind the Monty Python film Life of Brian in 1979, which he financed because he would never have seen the film without the seed money. His only criticism of film, in general, was that he thought the medium was often too derivative, and in a 1989 interview, he explained that he had never seen a film that completely blew him away. Despite this, Harrison had great things to say about the Lethal Weapon franchise. He once explained how he loved Mel Gibson’s performance in the films and enjoyed them even if they were “so amazingly violent.”
In a 1989 interview, George highlighted why he wrote ‘Cheer Down’ for Lethal Weapon 2. “I did see it before I wrote the song, and I think because my friend was doing the score to it and he was, I think, trying to get me involved because Eric [Clapton] was going to do some music with David Sanborn, and he showed me the rough cut of it with no sound on it at all — just the live sound, no dubs,” he said. “The reason I did that, I think basically was because Michael Kamen was doing music to it, and he wanted me.”
George also seemed to have become close with Richard Donner, the director of Lethal Weapon 2. “And then I met Dick Donner, who is very nice; I liked him a lot,” he said. “And then when he heard the song, how we’d done it — we started to do it with Eric for his album. Dick heard Eric’s rough version of it, and he wanted the song badly, and so he asked me if I’d do it because Eric wasn’t interested in doing it for the film.”
Harrison wrote ‘Cheer Down’ with Tom Petty and co-produced it with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra. The song was released as a single two months after the film’s release. Its initial reception wasn’t particularly momentous, and it didn’t chart on the Billboard Hot 100. However, it did make the cut for Harrison’s hits compilation Let It Roll: Songs by George Harrison, which peaked at 24 on the US album chart. While the track wasn’t one of Harrison’s most memorable songs, it did make for a great contribution to Lethal Weapon 2.
Listen to George Harrison’s ‘Cheer Down’ below.