George Harrison Understood Why His Son, Dhani, Wanted Him to Play Chuck Berry Songs During His Prince’s Trust Performance

George Harrison wasn’t offended that his son, Dhani, wanted him to play Chuck Berry songs during his Prince’s Trust performance in 1987. The former Beatle had fallen in love with the rock ‘n’ roll legend years before Dhani, so he understood. Who could beat Berry’s songs?

George Harrison performing at the Prince's Trust Concert in black and white in 1987.
George Harrison at the Prince’s Trust Concert | Dave Hogan/Getty Images

George Harrison didn’t perform any Chuck Berry songs during his Prince’s Trust performance, and Dhani wasn’t pleased

Dhani became obsessed with Chuck Berry’s music through The Beach Boys and after watching 1985’s Teen Wolf. The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ U.S.A.” plays in the film, and Dhani loved the tune. However, George couldn’t let his son like the song without schooling him on who really wrote it.

George told Rolling Stone, “I said, ‘That’s really good, but you want to hear where that came from,’ and I played him ‘Sweet Little Sixteen.’ I made him a Chuck Berry tape, and he takes it to school with his Walkman.”

By the time he was nine years old, Dhani’s love for Berry was bigger than his love for George’s music. However, that was because George hardly showed him The Beatles. So, instead of being amazed at seeing George perform at the Prince’s Trust Concert, Dhani was upset George didn’t play any Berry.

“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,” George told Rolling Stone. “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!'”

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George understood why Dhani wanted him to play Chuck Berry during his Prince’s Trust performance

During an interview with The Journal in 1988, George explained he wasn’t offended that his son wanted him to play Chuck Berry songs during his Prince’s Trust performance.

“I know how he feels because, in a way, I wish I had written those tunes instead of the ones I’d written,” George said. “Yeah, in a way, you know. It’s like Paul [McCartney] once said years ago, ‘It’s easier to write ‘Yesterday’ than it is to write ‘Wop bop a loo bop a wop bam boom.'”

However, George had enough to worry about during his Prince’s Trust performance. Hearing his son’s opinions of his show probably didn’t help George’s nerves.

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The former Beatle said performing at the concert felt like he was going to the electric chair

George was concerned before agreeing to perform at the Prince’s Trust Concert. He felt the organization running the concert was trying to trick him into a Beatles reunion because they’d also asked Ringo Starr. Since that wasn’t the case, George agreed to perform.

However, this was George’s first time on stage in a while, and he was nervous. During a 1988 interview on Aspel & Co., George admitted performing at the charity event felt like going to the electric chair.

“It felt like I was going to the electric chair,” George said. “Sat there for hours waiting to go on. Very very nervous.” Fortunately, George was around friends. “There was a lot of support from the gang,” he added.

George’s nervousness isn’t surprising. After his 1974 American tour, George stopped performing live for the most part. He played various shows here and there but never a tour (He eventually did a 12-show Japanese tour with Eric Clapton in 1991).

Tom Petty said George dreaded being the guy up front. He also disliked catering to fans who only wanted to hear old Beatles tunes. George would have rather played a show at the Holiday Inn in Minnesota or somewhere quiet.

Since the Prince’s Trust was only one concert, George thought he’d be fine. However, he didn’t consider his long absence from the stage. He was a bit rusty, but George must have extinguished his nerves because his performance at the Prince’s Trust was perfect, despite Dhani’s annoyance. George’s son eventually grew to love his music anyway.

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