George Harrison Said He Would’ve Been in Competition With Eric Clapton if He’d Stayed on the Road Throughout His Career

George Harrison and Eric Clapton had an interesting relationship. In the early 1970s, Clapton fell in love with George’s first wife, Pattie Boyd. She eventually left the former Beatle and married Clapton. However, this drama did nothing to the pair’s friendship.

While in The Beatles, George envied Clapton’s autonomy, but there was never any competition between them. There might have been if George toured more throughout his career, though.

George Harrison and Eric Clapton performing during TV special in 1985.
George Harrison and Eric Clapton | Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

George Harrison said there might’ve been competition between him and Eric Clapton had he toured more throughout his career

In 1991, George announced that he was going on a tour of Japan with Clapton. It was his first tour since his first solo tour of the U.S. in 1974. George had played various gigs over the years, but nothing like this. He didn’t like touring very much. He once said he’d rather jam with his friends at a remote Holiday Inn somewhere. However, touring with Clapton made him feel better about it.

George told the Chicago Tribune, “The only regret I have about not touring more is that it’s fun playing with a band, that’s all. After three or four nights of doing the concerts, my ego was satisfied.

“The adulation or the superstardom is something I could leave out quite happily. Playing in the band in a live situation, you really become a better musician. I’m torn because part of me doesn’t want to tour for months on end, which seems to be the only way people do it because of the expenses involved. I’m just toying with the best way to do it so I won’t overdo it.”

George also discussed whether there’d ever been competition between him and Clapton. He guessed there might’ve been if he toured more throughout his career.

“He’s kind of like a brother,” George said. “I think we’ve both had our own success so that I don’t ever feel competition with Eric. He’s a great guitar player and maybe I’d be in competition with him if I’d have stayed on the road all those years, but my life went a different way.

“So if I want some guitar playing in that style, I can get my friend Eric to play. If I played the exact same style of guitar as him then maybe we wouldn’t be as friendly.”

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George was Clapton’s brother too

Clapton felt a similar brotherly love for George. “I love him very much,” Clapton said in a 1989 interview. “He’s a great guy. Kind of a bit like an older brother, you know?”

“I find I have more in common with people who have survived the ’60s and the ’70s. We’ve got the same sort of attitude.”

Although, sometimes, Clapton found it hard to communicate his feelings for George. “A lot of times during our relationship, I found it very difficult to communicate my feelings toward George — my love for him as a musician and a brother and a friend — because we skated around stuff. I was probably dealing with that, too, making amends,” Clapton told the LA Times.

In a 1987 interview, George said, “We share the same wife. I’ve been friends with Eric for years and I think I always will be. He’s a lovely fella and I love him very dearly.”

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The ‘Layla’ singer organized Concert for George in his friend’s honor but didn’t think the former Beatle would’ve liked it

Following George’s 2001 death, Clapton suggested to his widow, Olivia, that they organize a tribute concert. They called it Concert for George. Olivia asked Clapton to be the event’s director.

“It was [Clapton’s] idea,” 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.”

However, Clapton knew that George wouldn’t have wanted a tribute concert. Clapton would’ve done it anyway.

“I thought that if he were here he’d probably say, ‘Thanks very much Eric, but I don’t really want this,'” Clapton told the LA Times. “I thought, ‘What would I say if he said that?’

“And I then thought, ‘Well I’m doing this for me, actually.’ And that’s more the truth of it; I needed to do it for him, but it was for me most of all because I needed to be able to express my grief in that kind of way.”

Concert for George turned out lovely, as did George and Clapton’s 1991 Japan tour.

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