George Harrison Thought Ringo Starr Had Died When He Got the Call About John Lennon’s Death

Initially, George Harrison thought Ringo Starr had died when he got the late-night phone call about John Lennon‘s death in December 1980. No call that late at night could bring anything good.

John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison on the set of 'A Hard Day's Night' in 1964.
John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison | Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redferns

George Harrison was sleeping when he got the call about John Lennon’s death

In a 1988 interview on Aspel and Co., George explained that he’d been sleeping at his home, Friar Park, when he got the call about John’s death.

“The call came through sometime in the morning, four or five in the morning,” George said. “I didn’t take the call. Olivia took the call, and she said, ‘John’s been shot.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, how bad is it?’ I just thought maybe a flesh wound or something like that, but she said, ‘No, that’s it, he’s dead.’

“I just went back to sleep, actually. Maybe it was just a way of getting away from it. I just went to sleep and waited to see what it said the next morning, and he was still dead the next morning, unfortunately.”

However, George initially thought another fellow Beatle had died before finding out about John.

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George initially thought Ringo died when he got the call about John’s death

Getting a call in the middle of the night can never be good. There could be anyone on the other end of the line. They could need help or have bad news to tell.

In a recent interview with BBC’s Women’s Hour, George’s wife, Olivia Harrison, revealed that her husband initially thought Ringo had died when they got the call about John’s death.

“All I can say about that moment was… You know, that phone call in the night, and you know it’s not good,” Olivia said. “And you don’t want to answer the phone, but you don’t have a choice. I happened to be the one [who] answered that call, that monumental call in the night to say… Someone said, ‘John’s dead.’

“And I thought you have 10 seconds to try and figure out how you’re going to break this news. I said… George actually said, ‘Who is it?’ And he thought it was Ringo. That was so sad, really, it was sad. We just didn’t know what to do. We just put the blankets over our heads and held on for a while.

“He said, ‘What happened?’ I said, ‘It’s one of your mates, one of your mates.’ He said, ‘Ringo?’ I said, ‘No, John.’ Nobody could imagine that happening.”

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After the shock settled down, George was upset about how his friend died

When his shock passed, George became angry about John’s death. His friend didn’t leave his body the way he should’ve.

In Martin Scorsese’s documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Olivia explained, “George put so much emphasis and importance on the moment of death, of leaving your body. That’s really what he was practicing for.”

George said losing John was like “losing your parents or anybody you love.” In a 1987 interview, he said, “All things must pass. But when it’s taken in a violent way like that, by somebody else, it makes it very strange.”

However, George did come to terms with John’s death. On Aspel & Co., George said, “I feel not so bad about it… The soul is in these three bodies, and one body falls off. I feel like that; I can feel him around here.”

After that, George was briefly afraid for his and his family’s safety but didn’t think anyone would want to murder him. Unfortunately, George was very wrong. In 1999, 19 years after John’s murder, George and Olivia almost died during a home invasion. Fortunately, George wasn’t cheated out of a peaceful death like John. When George’s cancer battle ended, he left his body the way he’d always prepared.

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