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Eric Clapton had to do something after his long-time friend, George Harrison, died from cancer in 2001. He went straight to George’s widow to tell her he wanted to organize something special for George. The result was Concert for George.

George Harrison and Eric Clapton performing together in the 1980s.
George Harrison and Eric Clapton | Dave Hogan/Getty Images

Eric Clapton found it hard to communicate his feelings to George Harrison

Clapton was with The Yardbirds and George with The Beatles when they first met in the early 1960s. The pair officially met during a Lovin’ Spoonful concert. George thought the guitarist looked lonely.

They became friends shortly after. The Beatle asked Clapton to play on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” wrote “Here Comes The Sun” in Clapton’s garden and dedicated “Savoy Truffle” to him.

George might’ve thought Clapton was lonely, but he couldn’t overlook that Clapton was also a free agent who could do what he liked. He envied that.

However, Clapton began envying George too. He fell in love with George’s wife, Pattie Boyd. Clapton confessed his love to Boyd by playing her “Layla,” and then he told George. In the end, Boyd left George for Clapton, but it didn’t destroy the musician’s relationship.

In 1987, George told Timothy White at Musician Magazine, “Through the thick and the thin, Eric and I have always preserved and protected our friendship.”

However, Clapton couldn’t express his feelings for his long-time friend as easily as the former Beatle could for him. He told Rolling Stone, “A lot of times during our relationship, I found it very difficult to communicate my feelings toward George — my love for him as a musician and a brother and a friend — because we skated around stuff.”

Clapton eventually got to show George how much he loved him.

Clapton felt compelled to organize Concert for George

Despite not being able to tell his friend how he felt about him, Clapton wasn’t going to waste an opportunity to show George following his death. He had to have some hand in giving the world a celebration of George.

The result was Concert for George. “It was [Clapton’s] idea,” Goerge’s widow, Olivia, told Rolling Stone. “He phoned me not long after George died and said, ‘I’d like to do something.’ Eric was a very deep friend of George’s, so I felt confident and relieved that it was Eric coming to me.”

“Olivia had given me this job of being musical director,” Clapton explained, “to single out people for certain songs, and I found that really hard. We were all quite protective of our relationships with George.”

Clapton said he was dealing with having not told George his feelings for him during the organization of Concert for George. He was “making amends.”


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Clapton realized he wasn’t the only one who loved the Beatle

While organizing Concert for George, Clapton realized he wasn’t the only one who loved George.

In Martin Scorsese’s documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Clapton said, “George had a huge circle of friends, and I think I was kind of-I was just one of them really.

“I mean, I like to think there was something special about our relationship, in many ways there was, but after George died and we all got together, ‘My God,’ I thought, ‘He’s got-how do these guys all fit together?'”

Concert for George turned out to be a great success filled with love. George’s musical mentor, Ravi Shankar, opened the show and told the crowd that he believed George’s spirit was with them.

George’s friends came out to show their love for him: George’s fellow Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr; all the guys in Monty Python; George’s fellow Traveling Wilburys, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne. There were so many stars.

The most important thing that happened during the tribute concert was that Clapton got to show how much he loved George. It was palpable.