Eric Clapton Said George Harrison Wouldn’t Have Wanted Concert for George, but Clapton Wouldn’t Have Cared

Eric Clapton and George Harrison were life-long friends. They shared the same love for music, and although they also shared the same love for a woman, nothing came between them.

So when George died of cancer in 2001, Clapton was beside himself. He had to do something to honor his friend, even if that meant doing something George would never have wanted.

George Harrison and Eric Clapton recording a TV special in 1985.
George Harrison and Eric Clapton | Dave Hogan/Getty Images

Eric Clapton organized Concert for George in 2002

After George died, Clapton wanted to do something to pay tribute to his life-long friend. So, he came up with Concert for George, a star-studded tribute concert.

“It was [Clapton’s] idea,” George’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 added, “to single out people for certain songs, and I found that really hard. We were all quite protective of our relationships with George.”

Fans and a vast group of George’s closest friends gathered on Nov. 29, 2002, exactly a year after George died, at London’s Royal Albert Hall for Concert for George. They filmed it and released it in theaters and on DVD a year later.

Among the performers were Clapton, Ravi Shankar, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Billy Preston, and Paul McCartney. George’s only son, Dhani, played acoustic guitar through most of the performance.

Shankar told the crowd that he believed George’s spirit was with them. However, George would have been uncomfortable with the tribute concert.

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Eric Clapton said George Harrison wouldn’t have liked Concert for George

Clapton thought of what his friend would have said about the tribute concert during rehearsals. He realized George wouldn’t have wanted Concert for George. However, Clapton said he didn’t care what George would have thought. He needed to grieve.

“I thought that if he were here he’d probably say, ‘Thanks very much Eric, but I don’t really want this,'” Clapton told the LA Times. “I thought, ‘What would I say if he said that?’

“And I then thought, ‘Well I’m doing this for me, actually.’ And that’s more the truth of it; I needed to do it for him, but it was for me most of all because I needed to be able to express my grief in that kind of way.”

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The guitarist found it hard to communicate his feelings to the ex-Beatle

After everything George and Clapton went through together, Clapton was never entirely able to show his friend his feelings.

“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. I was probably dealing with that, too, making amends.”

It was a little late, but Concert for George allowed Clapton to tell George how he felt about him finally. Clapton needed to show George he loved him by celebrating George’s life. Hopefully, Concert for George allowed Clapton to mourn George properly and to say all the things he never got to say to him.

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