Through thick and thin, George Harrison and Eric Clapton remained life-long friends. Nothing and no one came between them, not even the woman they both loved, Pattie Boyd. However, Clapton had one grievance against the former Beatle.
Clapton never forgave George for not taking him to meet reggae star, Bob Marley.
George Harrison said he and Eric Clapton ‘preserved and protected’ their friendship
Clapton was with The Yardbirds and George with The Beatles when they first met in the early 1960s. In 1977, George told Mitchell Glazer (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters) that he didn’t get to know Clapton during their initial meeting. They later met again during a Lovin’ Spoonful concert. George recognized Clapton, but the guitarist looked lonely.
George said, “We were going down to their hotel, I can remember just seeing Eric: ‘I know him, I’m sure I know this guy and he seems like, you know, really lonely.’ I remember we went out and got in the car and went off to Sebastian’s hotel and I remembered thinking, ‘We should’ve invited that guy ’cause I’m sure we know him from somewhere and he just seemed, like, lonely.’
“And then a couple of years, maybe a year or so later, the Bee Gees, the Cream, were involved with Brian Epstein originally, so I started meeting Eric and hanging out with him then at Brian Epstein’s house. We sort of went out quite a bit with Brian for dinner and stuff, and then the whole Cream thing started happening.”
George and Clapton formed a strong friendship. The Beatle asked Clapton to play on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” wrote “Here Comes The Sun” in Clapton’s garden, and dedicated “Savoy Truffle” to his friend.
George might’ve thought Clapton was lonely, but he couldn’t overlook that Clapton was also a free agent who could do what he liked. He envied that.
However, in the early 1970s, Clapton began to envy George. He fell in love with George’s wife, Pattie Boyd. After Clapton confessed his love to Boyd by playing her “Layla,” he told George. In the end, Boyd left George for Clapton, but it didn’t destroy the musician’s relationship.
In 1987, George told Timothy White at Musician Magazine, “Eric’s such a sweet cat. I caught one of his own shows in the Los Angeles Forum just before Easter of this year. I stood at the side of the stage, holding up my cigarette lighter for the encore.
“Really! I love him that much! Through the thick and the thin, Eric and I have always preserved and protected our friendship.”
George said Clapton never forgave him for not bringing him to meet Bob Marley
George and Clapton managed to keep their friendship over the years. However, one thing did come between them; Bob Marley.
George told White, “One of the only things that Eric’s ever held against me is that I met Bob Marley while I was out here on the West Coast in the late 1970s, and Eric’s always wished he’d been the one.
“He’s never forgiven me for not taking him along to meet Bob Marley.”
During a 1979 interview for BBC Radio 1 (per George Harrison on George Harrison), George told David Jensen that he was “hypnotized” by Marley during a performance.
“I like reggae,” George said. “In fact, the first time I saw Bob Marley I was so impressed with his band and the show, I went back… I mean I stayed for the second show, and I went back the next night and saw him again, so…
“Bob Marley in particular, because, apart from the musical thing–I mean, it’s sort of hypnotical–apart from that, I just liked the way he looked and the way he moved, sort of like he was in a dream. I don’t know why.”
So, Clapton was understandably annoyed he didn’t get to meet the reggae star like his friend.
Clapton honored his friend after he died in 2001
Sadly, George and Clapton’s friendship ended when George died of cancer in 2001. Clapton felt compelled to do something. He wanted 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.
Clapton said he often found it hard to communicate his feelings for George. However, Concert for George allowed him to say everything he couldn’t while his friend was alive.