George Harrison was having a pretty damn good week on January 20th, 1988. That day, his former band The Beatles were being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but Harrison himself was a newly-revive mainstream pop star, having the number one song in America at the time with ‘I Got My Mind Set On You’. His comeback record Cloud Nine had achieved platinum status, and Harrison was once again one of the world’s most popular and visible rock stars.
Leave it to him, then, to subvert all this hype and well-earned adulation by playing into his previous Beatle persona. After Ringo Starr’s gregarious speech, Harrison walks up to the mic and leads off with, “I don’t have to say much because I’m the quiet Beatle”. With a good sense of humour, Harrison turns the early part of his speech into a dry and hilarious stand up routine, clarifying that: “It’s unfortunate that Paul’s not here because he was the one who had the speech in his pocket”.
Harrison gets sincere while discussing the absences of Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Despite McCartney refusing to show up to the “fake reunion” due to the ongoing legal battles that involved all of the surviving members, Harrison took the moment to point out how much he and Starr loved Lennon and McCartney before explaining why The Beatles first came together in the first place.
“I supposed the reason we became a band was all the other people who are in the Hall of Fame already,” Harrison explains. “Including Lead Belly, because they stole his tunes, turned it into skiffle, and we all became skifflers when we were 13. All of ’em in there, and all the people inducted tonight too, they all had great influence on us. And it was for that reason alone we wanted to get guitars, get in a band. Because we didn’t really have proper jobs at the time.”
Harrison gives a quick shout out to Little Richard before abdicating the lectern to Yoko Ono. Harrison’s indelible sense of humour and genuine appreciation for the honour made him the best representative of The Beatles legacy that night.
Check out Harrison’s speech down below.