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Music

When George Harrison met John Lennon for the final time

They spent much of the 1960s enjoying tremendous success, and together, guitarists George Harrison and John Lennon collaborated closely on anthems such as ‘Taxman’ and ‘She Said She Said’. Harrison helped Lennon launch a solo career with ‘Instant Karma’ and ‘Gimme Some Truth’, which stood among some of the most impressive tunes in the singer’s canon. But they drifted in the mid-1970s, creating an impasse between the two of them that was hard to stitch up.

As many of you know, Lennon was murdered outside of his apartment in New York in 1980. When Harrison heard the news for the first time, he misunderstood the impact. “Well, at first I thought he maybe just got wounded,” he replied. “It’s hard to accept or to believe at first. But it’s no different really to anybody having news about anybody they know. The shock I’m sure a lot of people were just as shocked as I was about John Lennon or about your prime minister for that matter. It is all nasty business when people get shot.”

The guitarist was uncomfortable around violence, sensing that there was too much of it in the air. He admitted to actor Bob Hoskins that he would not have distributed The Long Good Friday if he had known what a violent venture it was (considering his Liverpool Irish background, Harrison was likely upset by the presence of the Irish Republic Army in Handmade Cinema). But he was heartbroken by the actions of a gunner, who shot his friend down in a series of bullets.

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On that sombre note, Harrison continued to discuss the final time that he saw Lennon: “I was in New York at his house, at the Dakota’s (building). He was nice, just sort of running around the house making dinner. He was actually playing a lot of Indian music, which surprised me, because he always used to be like a little bit (annoyed) when I was playing it. So he had hundreds of cassettes of all kinds of stuff. He grew into it.”

What’s missing from the interview is a year, but Harrison was never brilliant on his own chronology, as is evident from some of the interviews given during The Anthology series. Judging by the information, it would seem that the two met in the mid-1970s because, in 1979, Harrison admitted he wasn’t in touch with Lennon anymore and hadn’t spoken to him in some time. He applauded the Beatle during his retirement but said he didn’t know if Lennon played for pleasure.

Harrison’s memoir, I Me Mine, upset Lennon, largely because he felt he should have received more due. Harrison defended his book in the late 1980s, stating that there were as many tunes he helped Lennon finish as it was the other way around. Sadly, Harrison never got to explain that to his former bandmate, because a fan carrying Double Fantasy shot Lennon dead. We won’t be giving the coward any attention, and he will remain nameless in this piece.

The action was devastating, and Harrison was still heartbroken as late as 1990. “Now you need the big cosmic telephone to speak to him,” he sighed. “I believe that life goes on. So to me, I can’t get sad. I’m sad by I can’t go and play guitar with John. But then I did that anyway. I did that for a long time. We will all meet again somewhere down the line.”

Harrison’s faith supported him throughout his life, whether it was burying his two parents, or surviving a stabbing during a home invasion. Indeed, the guitarist endured great turmoil in his life, including the breakdown of his marriage to Pattie Boyd, which culminated in a spectacle of booze and barrelling riffs in 1974. His Dark Horse album showcased his demons, presenting the work in a dense manner, exhibiting the musician as the depraved master he had turned into.

But there was also great joy in his life, whether it was the son he formed a strong relationship with, or the glories of The Beatles, riding a tremendous wave of creativity that resulted in a collection of riveting hooks. Indeed, the singer-songwriter had as many good memories as he had bad with Lennon, and Harrison made sure to focus on those.

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