When George Harrison met his wife, Olivia, he’d recently split with his first wife, Pattie Boyd. Before that, George had spent 10 exhausting years with The Beatles, released his mega triple album, All Things Must Pass, planned the first benefit concert, the Concert for Bangladesh, and started his record label. That’s how George met Olivia.
She worked at George’s record label, A&M Records, and often spoke with him over the phone. When George started Dark Horse Records, Olivia transferred over. They met in person and started seeing each other. He invited her to come on his 1974 American tour.
However, George was still dealing with a lot when he met his future wife. He had “the mark of the beast.”
George went through a lot before meeting his wife, Olivia
In 1979, George told Rolling Stone that after he split up with Boyd, he went “on a bit of a bender to make up for all the years I’d been married. If you listen to ‘Simply Shady,’ on Dark Horse, it’s all in there – my whole life at that time was a bit like [laughing] Mrs. Dale’s Diary [a now defunct British radio soap opera].”
Rolling Stone asked if he was “going down fast.” George replied, “Well, I wasn’t ready to join Alcoholics Anonymous or anything – I don’t think I was that far gone – but I could put back a bottle of brandy occasionally, plus all the other naughty things that fly around. I just went on a binge, went on the road… all that sort of thing, until it got to the point where I had no voice and almost no body at times.”
That is until George met Olivia in 1974. The song he wrote about her, “Dark Sweet Lady,” sums it up. George sings, “You came and helped me through. When I’d let go. You came from out the blue. Never have known what I’d done without you.”
Initially, Olivia was cautious about dating George. When they met, he was still in the process of splitting with Boyd. Olivia told Yahoo Entertainment that George was “having a bit of a little bit too much fun,” referring to George’s “bender.”
She admitted that she “definitely had some trepidations” about getting romantically involved with a Beatle. Even Eric Clapton (George’s friend who stole Boyd from him) warned her about what type of person George was at the time.
“I thought, ‘Hang on, hang on. Do I really want to get into this?’ Eric said, ‘If you’re going to be with George, you better pull your socks up.’ Which meant, get ready for the ride. I don’t think he meant it in a negative way. He just meant that there’s a lot goes on in this world, you know? And he was right about that. … But George was just a real person.”
When George met Olivia, he had a ‘furrowed brow’ that they called ‘the mark of the beast’
Recently, Olivia promoted her new poetry book, Came the Lightening, a collection of 20 poems for George. Discussing her early relationship with her husband, Olivia said there was a “bit of dusting to do, a bit of clearance.”
“I was, like: ‘Look, if we’re going to have a family, we’re going to have a relationship,'” Olivia explained to AARP. “He had a bit of a cloud over his head. He had a furrowed brow we used to call ‘the mark of the beast.’ Getting completely outside of the music business was refreshing for him. It allowed him to do normal things, go to normal places. And having a child shifts your life’s view.”
She became his shelter from the storm
Eventually, George realized that Olivia was his shelter from the storm. In 2005, Olivia told the LA Times, “I was from outside of his world. I was shelter from the storm. I was simple, and he needed some simplicity at that point.”
Later, in Martin Scorsese’s documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Olivia said her husband had a lot of karma to work out when she met him. “When I first met him, he said, ‘I don’t want you to think you’ve discovered something about me I don’t know. I’m not claiming to be this or that or anything. People think they found you out, when I’m not hiding anything.’
“I thought he was really somebody who was saying something that I connected with. He was really a very captivating person… I liked the music, I liked what he was doing. We just seemed like partners from the very beginning.”
George and Olivia were together for 30 years. The former Beatle died in 2001, but they’re still in communication.