George Harrison Said He Felt Sorry for Elton John for Being One of the Only Rock Stars Who Reached Beatle-Level Stardom

George Harrison and Elton John were very different rock stars. The former Beatle realized there was more to life than money and fame, but the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” singer enjoyed those things. George said he felt sorry for his fellow singer because he was one of the only rock stars to have come close to Beatle-level fame but wasn’t God-conscious.

Ringo Starr, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne, and George Harrison performing at the Prince's Trust Concert in 1987.
Ringo Starr, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne, and George Harrison | Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

George Harrison said he felt bad for Elton John

In a 1976 interview with India Today, George explained that after having success with The Beatles, he realized there had to be something more important in life. He’d reached a wall where nothing surprised or wowed him. Thankfully, he met Ravi Shankar, his future musical guru.

Shankar taught George sitar and gave him religious texts. Then, in the mid-1960s, George found what he’d been looking for during a trip to India. There were God-conscious people there who knew how to help him find the answers he was seeking. He read a lot about Hinduism and started meditating and chanting to be closer to God.

“It was such a strain having to live up to people’s conceptions of the Beatles and not be able to do what I really wanted to do,” George said. “I’m not knocking it, man, I’ve done it all: got drunk, fooled around, done crazy things and had a great time.

“But that’s not where it’s at. It’s OK for a while, but finally you want something deeper. I think that we all ought to increase our God-consciousness and try and find a purpose in life.”

That’s why George felt bad for Elton John. He was the only rock star to experience Beatle-level stardom but had nothing to show for it besides all his money and fame.

“Now that the initial ‘love generation’ fad is over there is a more genuine recognition of the need for a spiritual fulfilment. Look at Elton John: he’s the only one who’s come near to the Beatles and I feel so sorry for him. All that fame and all that money, and ultimately it means so little.”

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George also didn’t like that Elton John used drugs

In the special edition of Rolling Stone, “Remembering George,” Elton John talked about his experiences with George over the years. He also explained that George gave him a couple of talks about his drug use.

“It’s very hard to put into words,” Elton John said. “He was very forthright, and he actually administered quite a few tellings-off to me about my drug problem.

“There was this one night in Los Angeles when he said, ‘Listen, for God’s sake, go easy on the marching powder, because it’s not going to do you any good.’ That was the evening I tried to change Bob Dylan’s wardrobe. I was saying, ‘You can’t keep going round in clothes like that, you’ve got to come upstairs, I’ll give you a few clothes.’

“And the abject look of horror on Bob Dylan’s face was unbelievable. Because, can you imagine? I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ve got a couple of Versace numbers upstairs that’ll really suit you, Bob.’ And George was present for this. So he administered a little talk to me.”

Besides being completely different, George and Elton got along as musicians.

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The ‘Rocket Man’ singer understood that the former Beatle liked his privacy

At least George and Elton John understood each other. The “Rocket Man” singer knew the former Beatle didn’t enjoy fame.

“George was happiest with his close friends, who were mostly British musicians like Joe Brown and Alvin Lee,” Elton John continued to Rolling Stone. “He didn’t like celebrity. I think he’d had enough by 1970 to last three lifetimes. George just relished his gardening and his motor racing, and he loved his privacy.”

The pair worked together on George’s 1987 album, Cloud Nine. George often said he liked Elton John. However, he was critical of Elton John’s work. “Well, Elton John’s music is something I’ve never thought much of,” George told India Today. “It all sounds the same, though I think he’s written a good song once (many years ago, of course). His music is made to a formula: throw in lyrics, throw in four chords, shake well, and there it is, the new Elton John super-hit!”

George and Elton John didn’t have a perfect relationship, but they were friends for the most part, with or without common interests.

How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357.

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