Comedian Eric Idle revealed that Paul McCartney comforted him with hugs whenever he cried at Concert for George, George Harrison‘s tribute concert. It was an emotional night for all of George’s friends and fans.
Eric Clapton organized Concert for George
Following George’s 2001 death, his friend and long-time collaborator, Eric Clapton, felt he had to do something. He wanted to celebrate the musician.
He quickly organized Concert for George. “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 explained, “to single out people for certain songs, and I found that really hard. We were all quite protective of our relationships with George.”
Organizing the tribute concert allowed Clapton to make amends for not telling George his feelings for him. It was an emotional night.
Clapton performed alongside George’s other friends; Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Billy Preston, Ringo Starr, and Paul. George’s musical guru, Ravi Shankar, also made an appearance, and Idle and the other guys in Monty Python performed as well.
Eric Idle said Paul McCartney comforted him at Concert for George
Idle told Yahoo! that Olivia personally asked him and the rest of Monty Python to perform at Concert for George. They couldn’t say no. It would’ve been impossible not to support their friend and bring a light-hearted moment to the somber event.
Monty Python’s performance might’ve brought some laughs, but Idle said laughter wasn’t far from crying that night.
Idle explained, “Olivia asked me if Python would come on. … She said, ‘Everybody’s doing a George song. Would you do ‘Piggies’?’ And I said, ‘We don’t really do songs. We’re not a singing group. You know, we do idiotic and rude things! So, why don’t we sing ‘Sit on My Face and Tell Me That You Love Me’?’ And she let us do it, so we did it!
“And I thought, ‘He would’ve been so happy that we did this. This would’ve made him so proud.’ We insisted on doing something rude, and it lightened the mood. Laughter is close to tears, and if you can laugh at those times, it’s really helpful.
“Because the rest of it was kind of very sad — like that the end with Joe Brown singing “I’ll See You in My Dreams” with the petals falling, which is the most moving thing I think I’ve ever been part of. I’d have to go and cry a bit.”
Idle said it was Paul who comforted him in those moments. He continued, “And then Paul was great; he said, ‘Come here, you need a hug.’ Every time he’d find me crying somewhere at the back, it was: ‘You need a hug.’ And it was very lovely, very nice.”
Clapton said Paul ate ‘humble pie’ during the tribute concert
Paul was one of George’s first closest friends. However, George became closer with many other musicians and entertainers over the years. According to Clapton, being on stage with George’s other friends was a humbling experience for Paul.
Rolling Stone wrote, “Clapton was impressed with McCartney’s demeanor: ‘Those guys’ inability to express love for one another was classic,’ he says of the Beatles. ‘The exception is Ringo, who says [in the film], ‘I love George, and George loved me.’ That wouldn’t have been so easy for Paul.'”
Paul played ukulele, sang with Clapton on “Something,” and later sang lead on “All Things Must Pass.” Paul surprisingly had trouble on the latter.
In rehearsals, Clapton said, “Paul had to admit that he didn’t know ‘All Things Must Pass,’ and that was an awful thing to confront. It was huge humble-pie stuff for Paul to be among these people who he may have thought had a better relationship with George than he did.
“But I believe Paul missed George as much as — if not more than — anybody.”
Maybe Paul comforted Idle because he needed to comfort himself. Concert for George inspired a lot of emotions. George would’ve been honored.