It’s easy to think of The Beatles as a giant phenomenon in music. In fact, it’s almost impossible to separate the mystique and the years of consistent mythologising from the four lads from Liverpool that the band was comprised of. However, if you needed a reminder of the beautiful friendship they shared behind the music then you need only watch the video below.
In the clip, the band’s drummer Ringo Starr remembers the final words he and George Harrison, the late great lead guitarist of the band and esteemed songwriter, shared together and it is a poignant reminder of their cherished relationship. Though The Beatles may have ended on a sour note, thankfully the band patched up most of their differences before both John Lennon and Harrison lost their lives.
George Harrison sadly died in 2001, succumbing to cancer after a long battle. It was a sad time for fans of the band, of course, Harrison’s family, including his son Dhani, and the bandmates with which he shared some of his most incredible experiences. His death was remembered as part of the ‘Concert for George’ the following year which saw Dhani and an all-star band pay tribute to one of the 20th century’s best songwriters.
That performance has gone down as one of the most integral celebrations of the man with the guitar. Harrison’s songwriting touched many people and through his work with the Travelling Wilbury‘s he again excelled. It meant at the show there were star performances from friends Ringo Starr and Tom Petty.
It speaks highly of an esteemed performer and an integral songwriter. The kind of songwriter who gathered acclaim and intrigue for his unusual use of Eastern spirituality within his work. Largely inspired by his time with Ravi Shankar, Harrison didn’t just bring the sitar to the sixties but a whole new way of thinking.
Naturally, being such a figure of music (despite being rendered the Quiet Beatle), Harrison’s death was met with countless tributes and documentaries on his life. In one said documentary, Ringo Starr was asked to remember his bandmate and friend and in the clip, he shares the last words George ever spoke to him—it’s an insight into the kind of man Harrison really was.
“The last weeks of George’s life he was living in Switzerland,” remembers Ringo with a quivering lip. “And I went to see him. He was very ill. He could only lay down. And while he was being ill and I had come to see him, I was going to Boston ‘cos my daughter had a brain tumour.”
“I said, ‘I got to go to Boston’ and he goes,” says Ringo pausing for breath as the memory takes over him, “It was the last words I heard him say actually. He said ‘D’ya want me to come with ya?’ [laughs]” The idea that Harrison could even leave his bed was preposterous but it was clear he was willing to do anything for his friend, Ringo.
“So, that’s the incredible side of George.”
Perhaps it was because he is just a working-class lad from Liverpool or perhaps some archaic masculinity, but it’s clear Ringo isn’t comfortable with the exposed emotion. Never one to open up so honestly, Ringo soon uses his humour to deflect away. “God, it’s like Barbara fucking Walters in here.”
See the touching video below and enjoy the friendship Ringo Starr and George Harrison shared both in and out of The Beatles.
For a long time Ringo Starr has carried the weight of Harrison’s premature death around with him, often recalling the exact moment he found out about his bandmates passing: “I’m emotional now thinking of him forty years ago talking about me on his tape and thinking of me. The four of us were great friends with a couple of side issues. And it was far out. So anyway, I didn’t know how to act,” the drummer once said.
Recalling the immediate days after Harrison died, Starr continued: “And then I got back to L.A., and I grieved, and then, of course, you always go through the grief. And George, the same. [He tears up; his voice starts shaking.] I’m such an old crybaby. He’s laying there very ill — not long.
“And I’ve got to go to Boston, ’cause my daughter’s having an operation. And so I said, ‘Well, you know, I’ve got to go, George,’ and he says, ‘Do you want me to come with you?” You know, he’s dying in a bit: “Do you want me to come with you?’. How many people say great things like that to you, really give themselves?”
Shortly after Harrison’s death in 2001, Ringo Star was compelled to pay tribute to him in another, perhaps more fitting way—through his songwriting. The track, which Starr co-wrote with Gary Nicholson and Marl Hudson, is a tribute to his friend and featured on Ringo’s 2003 LP Ringo Rama.
Starr commented on the song: “Gary Nicholson started that song, and Mark brought it over and we realised we could tailor it. George was really on my mind then.” In a 2003 interview, Starr said that following The Beatles breaking up, he had remained closest friends with George and that for him the song perfectly summed up “how I miss him in my heart and in music”.
The tribute song’s recording also includes another special note with the lead guitar part performed by Harrison’s friend Eric Clapton. Starr said of Clapton’s contribution to the track: “Eric’s on two tracks on the album, but I really wanted him on this song because George loved Eric and Eric loved George.” Clapton uses Harrison’s favourite technique, the slide guitar, to perfectly encapsulate the song and George.
Listen to ‘Never Without You’, Ringo Starr’s tribute to George Harrison below.