George Harrison’s Son Dhani Said His Mother Was ‘Scared’ When She First Heard His Solo Debut

George Harrison‘s son, Dhani Harrison, didn’t initially want to follow in his father’s footsteps, but somehow he did. However, he’s mostly put his music career on the back burner since George died in 2001. Dhani’s first project was finishing his father’s last album, Brainwashed, for which he earned a Grammy.

In between gigging with his band thenewno2 and making movie scores, Dhani’s full-time career for the past 17 or so years has been remastering George’s impressive catalog and safeguarding his legacy.

Dhani is finally focusing on his own career, though, and it’s not disappointing.

George Harrison's son, Dhani Harrison, and his wife, Olivia Harrison during George's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
George Harrison’s son, Dhani Harrison and his wife, Olivia Harrison | Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

Initially, George Harrison’s son, Dhani, didn’t want to be a musician

For most of Dhani’s young adult life, he didn’t want to become a musician like his father. He attended military school and later Brown University, where he studied industrial design and physics. Dhani even joined an Olympic rowing team in school.

After graduating college, Dhani got a job as an aerodynamicist for the British sports car company McLaren.

“I did everything I could to not be a musician,” Dhani told Billboard. “I went to university (Brown), I worked as a designer, I competed in Olympic sport (rowing)… and I ended up being a musician. It’s in the DNA, I guess.”

Barely a year into working at McLaren, though, Dhani started helping his father finish his last album, Brainwashed. With his father dying and then Sept. 11 happening, it gave Dhani a little bit of perspective.

“I was in Staten Island in September, about five days after September 11, and the world looked like a pretty awful place back then,” Dhani told the Daily Mail. “We could smell the burning bodies, for God’s sake, being dumped in Staten Island, and my dad was being treated there for cancer.

“I was alone, I’d just finished university and it was really, truly awful. On top of the cancer, it had been September 11. It was just like the world – and my world – was falling apart. It was then I thought, ‘Well now I’m going to do what I want to do – music, something positive and strong. And it won’t be like a band; it will be like an organisation, a family, and it will carry on and on.'”

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Olivia Harrison was ‘scared’ when she heard Dhani’s solo debut

During a 2017 interview with iNews, Dhani talked about remastering his father’s work. Dhani had to put his own music career on pause for most of that time.

“I’ve just spent 17 years remastering everything for vinyl and CD and getting it all in one box set,” Dhani explained. “So I’m taking a little break. That’s taken up a lot of my bandwidth for most of the past 20 years. I even played on Travelling Wilburys stuff and worked on the remaster of All Things Must Pass – an album that was made before I was born.

After Dhani remastered All Things Must Pass, he had to set his father’s immense catalog aside. Otherwise, he’d grow to resent it. “So I told my mum and everyone that once this box set is done, I have to carve out a big portion of time for myself. Because otherwise I’m going to start resenting it – and if you’re the person in charge of George Harrison’s archive and you resent it, then you’re a terrible person.”

When Dhani was finally a free agent, he released his 2017 solo debut, In///Parallel. However, his mother, Olivia Harrison, had an unexpected reaction.

“I think it scared her when she first heard it,” Dhani said. “She said [concerned voice]: ‘Is this how you feel?’ ‘Yeah, mum, this is what’s going on inside my head.’ ‘Oh, I’m so sorry …’ Hey, it’s cathartic! Keeps me off the streets! Keeps me busy.”

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Dhani writes about similar things as George

When people listen to Dhani sing, they hear his father’s voice, but their music is completely different. Although, they do get their inspiration for songs from similar places.

During his career, George found inspiration in the things he loved, including cars. He wrote “Faster” for his Formula One buddies. Dhani also wrote a car-related song. Although, it came from a resentful place. The car journey to London from his countryside home inspired Dhani to write his 2019 single, “Motorways (Erase It).” He told Rolling Stone, “It’s become almost inaccessible to me. It took me three hours to get in and three hours to get out, when it should take 20 minutes.”

George also took inspiration from problems going on around him. His song “Blood From a Clone” is about the issues the music industry faced in the 1970s. Dhani also writes about pressing issues.

On In///Parallel, is Dhani’s song, “London Water,” which he wrote after reading a story in a British newspaper about the harmful elements commonly found in London’s drinking water.

“I spent a lot of time rowing on the Thames as a kid because I grew up in Henley,” Dhani told iNews. “I thought how beautiful that was, and how the river is washing away all this filth. There are also lyrical references to Isis, which obviously now makes everyone think about Islamic State. But Isis was an Egyptian goddess, and it’s the name of the [upper] Thames near Oxford.”

So, it seems that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Even though his mom was surprised by the turmoil she heard in her son’s lyrics, Dhani’s songs aren’t far off from George’s. George is singing through him.

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