George Harrison is most famous for his time with The Beatles. He wrote some of his most classic songs like “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something.” So, you’d think his time in The Beatles would’ve been the first thing he showed his son Dhani. Paul McCartney’s kids were practically born on tour and got to see their father’s music, both in The Beatles and beyond, from an early age.
However, George never did what people expected of him. He didn’t show Dhani The Beatles until he was nine years old.
George Harrison’s son Dhani grew up around music
When Dhani was a kid, he used to tell his friends that his dad “pushed buttons” for a living. He had no idea that those buttons were making hit albums.
“I hung out with my parents. I was always trying to be with the big kids, and the big kids at my house were like (ELO frontman) Jeff Lynne,” Dhani told Daily Mail. “You’d come home and it was like, ‘Bob Dylan’s here.’ It’s hard to get a bit of perspective on, like, ‘How did your school test go today?'”
Dhani only felt like one of the big kids because his father treated him like one. “My dad treated me like an adult – I got involved, he taught me how to make records from an early age. I grew up in a recording studio,” he said.
Dhani might have grown up with music all around him, but that doesn’t mean George pressured him into music. George was a pretty cool parent. Besides raising his son in a recording studio, where all manner of legends came in and out, George had some pretty unorthodox views of school. He tried convincing Dhani to stay home and hang out with him most of the time.
In Martin Scorsese’s documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Dhani said, “He used to say to me every day, ‘You don’t have to go to school today, do you just wanna go on a yacht in the South Pacific and run away forever?’
“People would probably say, ‘You’re an idiot for not doing that,’ and maybe in a way, I am,” Dhani explained. “But to rebel in my family it was to go to school, I went to like a semi-military school. We did CCF one day a week and he, that used to piss him off, me walking around in an Air Force uniform.”
George did not push The Beatles on his son Dhani
Whether Dhani liked it or not, he grew up around great music. There was nothing he could do about it. His father worked in his home, Friar Park. Dhani played Nintendo with Bob Dylan’s son Jakob while their fathers recorded with The Traveling Wilburys.
However, George did not sit Dhani down to show him his days with The Beatles. The first time Dhani saw his father perform some of his most famous Beatles songs was in 1987 when Dhani was nine years old.
“Like my boy’s nine, and he just loves Chuck Berry,” George told Rolling Stone. “When I did that Prince’s Trust concert last June — that was the first time he ever saw me hold a guitar onstage in front of people.
“He’s got to know a bit about the Beatles, but I’ve never pushed that on him, or tried to say, ‘Look who I used to be.’ I did my two cute songs: ‘Here Comes the Sun’ and ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps.’
“He came back after the show, and I said, ‘What did you think?’ He said, ‘You were good, Dad, you were good [slight pause]. Why didn’t you do ‘Roll Over Beethoven,’ ‘Johnny B. Goode’ and ‘Rock & Roll Music’?’ I said, ‘Dhani, that’s Chuck Berry’s show you’re talking about!'”
Dhani tried hard not to become a musician like his dad
Eventually, Dhani rebelled against his father one last time by going to Brown University, where he studied industrial design and physics, not music. He even joined an Olympic rowing team in school.
Then, Dhani got a job as an aerodynamicist for the British sports car company McLaren. He did everything to not join the family business.
“I did everything I could to not be a musician,” Dhani told Billboard. “I went to university (Brown), I worked as a designer, I competed in Olympic sport (rowing)… and I ended up being a musician. It’s in the DNA, I guess.”
Barely a year into working at McLaren, though, Dhani started helping his father finish his last album, Brainwashed. With his father dying and then Sept. 11 happening, it gave Dhani a little perspective.
“I was in Staten Island in September, about five days after September 11, and the world looked like a pretty awful place back then,” Dhani told the Daily Mail. “We could smell the burning bodies, for God’s sake, being dumped in Staten Island, and my dad was being treated there for cancer.
“I was alone, I’d just finished university and it was really, truly awful. On top of the cancer, it had been September 11. It was just like the world – and my world – was falling apart. It was then I thought, ‘Well now I’m going to do what I want to do – music, something positive and strong. And it won’t be like a band; it will be like an organisation, a family, and it will carry on and on.'”