George Harrison Hated Receiving Awards: ‘Get Some Other Monkey’

George Harrison couldn’t stand receiving awards for his work. He didn’t need them to make his career worth anything. George didn’t even see what he did as a career. Out of everything in the material world, the former Beatle only needed verification from God, not critics and fans.

George Harrison at The Beatles' Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1988.
George Harrison | Ebet Roberts/Getty Images

George Harrison received many awards in his career

During his career, George received many awards. In 1965, Queen Elizabeth II awarded him and The Beatles MBEs (The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire). Although, according to the Liverpool Echo, George was confused by the queen’s decision. He told the press he “didn’t think you got that sort of thing, just for playing rock ‘n’ roll music.”

By 1965, The Beatles had done much more than play rock ‘n’ roll. Even royalty couldn’t ignore the effect the band had on society. George said he’d hang his MBE on his wall.

However, by 1965, George had already become disenchanted with his career, fame, and everything else. He also grew bored of meeting the world’s dignitaries. Only spirituality impressed him. George was more concerned with pleasing God than making music that pleased fans.

In 1969, George received an Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically for “Something.” Of course, George earned many Grammy awards with The Beatles. However, George earned his first solo Grammy for Album of the Year for Concert for Bangladesh in 1973. In 1990, he and his bandmates in The Traveling Wilburys earned a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for their debut album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.

George attended The Beatles’ Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1988. Then, in 1992, George received a Billboard Century Award. Again, George’s appearance was surprising. When Tom Petty welcomed him on stage, the crowd cheered, but after a time, he told them to sit down because he “couldn’t take it.”

In his acceptance speech, George joked that he felt 100 years old, but then he got serious. “All this flattery is difficult for me to take without saying that I’ve been very fortunate to have such good friends and influences on my career, if you would call it a career, because I haven’t really dealt with it as some people deal with their careers. It’s been quite haphazard in many ways.”

Beneath it all, though, George felt awkward with flattery.

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George became sick of accepting awards

George kept earning awards and nominations. However, he rejected the best one, an OBE, from the queen.

According to Smooth Radio, journalist Ray Connolly, who knew The Beatles well, claimed George rejected the OBE because he was insulted by not receiving a knighthood as Paul got in 1997.

Connolly told the Mail on Sunday, “Whoever it was who decided to offer him the OBE and not the knighthood was extraordinarily insensitive. George would have felt insulted – and with very good reason.”

However, it’s undeniable that George rejected the award because he was sick of all the flattery. George had been sick of it and any other form of adulation once he became spiritual.

It was all fake to him. If he were going to get any appreciation from anyone, it would be from God. He only played music to be closer to his maker. George didn’t like when fans treated him like a deity, giving him offerings.

In Martin Scorsese’s 2011 documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, George’s widow, Olivia, explained that George gave awards and honors little thought.

“George had maximum amount of diversion in life,” she said. “Towards the end of his life, I’d say, ‘Oh, they want to give you this award thing.’ He said, ‘I don’t want it. Tell them to get another monkey.’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, but you know, it’s a really nice one. You should have this.’

“And he’d say, ‘Well, if you want it so bad, you go and get it. I’m not going. I’m not doing that anymore.’ Because it’s just a big diversion… He really did draw the line, and I really admired him for that.”

George didn’t live in the material world where awards were important anyway. He wanted most in life to ascend to the next plane of existence.

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Olivia Harrison said her husband would’ve gotten a kick out of her and their son’s Grammy win

At the 2022 Grammy Awards, Olivia, the couple’s son, Dhani, and Darren Evans took home a Grammy for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package for their work on All Things Must Pass: 50th Anniversary Edition.

Olivia said George would have gotten a kick out of his family receiving the honor.

“I think music is all out there in the great Akasha,” Olivia said. “We can tap into it, and I think his is enduring. He liked the album, you know. He never talked about his music too much, but once in a while, would say I like that song, or I think this was a good album.

“I think he’d be really chuckling that this is happening. For us, really. It’s for us because it’s an expression of our love and our respect and what we think about his legacy and his music. Really, that’s what we poured into it. It’s always bittersweet when George is recognized, but it’s all wonderful. It’s always emotional.”

George has received many posthumous awards, but his reaction to them would’ve been the same whether he was in the material world or not. He only needed the love of God; everything else was secondary.

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