3 July, 2002, Hollywood Bowl, LA, USA
When they told me they were going to induct my friend George Harrison into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame posthumously: my first thought was – I bet he won’t show up.
Because, unlike some others one might mention – but won’t – he really wasn’t in to honors.
He was one of those odd people who believe that life is somehow more important than show business.
Which I know is a heresy here in Hollywood, and I’m sorry to bring it up here in the very Bowel of Hollywood but I can hear his voice saying “oh very nice, very useful, a posthumous award – where am I supposed to put it? What’s next for me then? A posthumous Grammy? An ex-Knighthood? An After-Lifetime Achievement Award?
He’s going to need a whole new shelf up there.
So: posthumously inducted – sounds rather unpleasant: sounds like some kind of after-life enema.
But Induct – in case you are wondering – comes from the word induce – meaning to bring on labor by the use of drugs.
And Posthumous is actually from the Latin post meaning after and hummus meaning Greek food.
So I like to think that George is still out there somewhere – pregnant and breaking plates at a Greek restaurant.
I think he would prefer to be inducted posthumorously because he loved comedians – poor sick sad deranged lovable puppies that we are – because they – like him – had the ability to say the wrong thing at the right time – which is what we call humor.
He put Monty Python on here at The Hollywood Bowl, and he paid for the movie The Life of Brian, because he wanted to see it.
Still the most anybody has ever paid for a Cinema ticket.
His life was filled with laughter and even his death was filled with laughter… In the hospital he asked the nurses to put fish and chips in his IV.
The doctor – thinking he was delusional – said to his son “don’t worry, we have a medical name for this condition.”
Yes said Dahni “humor.”
And I’m particularly sorry Dahni isn’t here tonight – because I wanted to introduce him by saying “Here comes the son” – but sadly that opportunity for a truly bad joke has gone, as has Dahni’s Christmas present from me.
George once said to me “if we’d known we were going to be The Beatles we’d have tried harder.”
What made George special – apart from his being the best guitarist in the Beatles – was what he did with his life after they achieved everything.
He realized that this fame business was – and I’ll use the technical philosophical term here – complete bullshit.
And he turned to find beauty and truth and meaning in life – and more extraordinarily – found it.
This is from his book I Me Mine:
“The things that most people are struggling for is fame or fortune or wealth or position – and really none of that is important because in the end death will take it all away. So you spend your life struggling for something, which is in effect a waste of time… I mean I don’t want to be lying there as I’m dying thinking ‘oh shit I forgot to put the cat out.'”
And he wasn’t. He passed away – here in LA – with beauty and dignity surrounded by people he loved.
Because he had an extraordinary capacity for friendship.
People loved him all over the planet.
George was in fact a moral philosopher: his life was all about a search for truth, and preparing himself for death.
Which is a bit weird for someone in rock and roll. They’re not supposed to be that smart. They’re supposed to be out there looking for Sharon. Not the meaning of life.
Michael Palin said George’s passing was really sad but it does make the afterlife seem much more attractive.
He was a gardener – he grew beauty in everything he did – in his life, in his music, in his marriage and as a father.
I was on an island somewhere when a man came up to him and said “George Harrison, oh my god, what are you doing here?” – and he said “Well everyone’s got to be somewhere.”
Well alas he isn’t here. But we are. And that’s the point. This isn’t for him. This is for us, because we want to honor him. We want to remember him, we want to say Thanks George for being. And we really miss you. So lets take a look at some of the places he got to in his life.
Video montage is shown of George Harrison’s life, from youthful Beatle to mature solo artist.
Well he’s still not here. But we do have someone very special who was very dear to him – who is here. The first man to perform with the Beatles. The one and only Billy Preston.
Billy Preston and a chorus of vocalists sing Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.”
Thank you Billy Preston.
So this is the big drag about posthumous awards: there’s no one to give ’em to.
So I’m gonna keep this and put it next to the one I got last year. No, I’m going to give it to the love of his life, his dark sweet lady, dear wonderful Olivia Harrison, who is with us here tonight. Liv, you truly know what it is to be without him.
Thank you Hollywood Bowl you do good to honor him. Goodnight.
We would like to thank Eric Idle for generously promoting this speech.
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