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Keith Richards and George Harrison knew a thing or two about being a lead guitarist in a world-famous rock band.

As The Rolling Stones’ lead guitarist, Richards was the mastermind behind famous guitar riffs in songs like “Brown Sugar” and “Honky Tonk Women.” Meanwhile, George always knew how to fill out Beatles’ songs like “Day Tripper” and “If I Needed Someone.”

Knowing what it took to make each other their bands dominate the charts bonded them in a way. Without them, there wouldn’t be The Beatles or The Rolling Stones.

Keith Richards playing guitar in 1965 and George Harrison performing with The Beatles in 1966.
(L-R) Keith Richards and George Harrison | Mirrorpix/ullstein bild/Getty Images

Keith Richards said he and George Harrison had a ‘bond’

In the special edition of Rolling Stone, “Remembering George,” published months after George died in 2001, Richards spoke about his relationship with his guitar-playing counterpart. He said that he thought he and George had a “bond.”

“George and I kind of formed-without talking too much about it, although we did have a laugh here and there-a bond, in that we felt we were kind of fulfilling the same role within our respective bands,” Richards said. “It was a nod and a wink to say, ‘Well, they’d be nowhere without us.’

“So George and I always used to have that thing of, ‘Well, how’s your end holding up?’ He was a very quiet and enigmatic guy in many ways. He had a very sly sense of humor, very quiet. But there was always this unspoken bond between us.”

Richards said George’s playing spoke for itself

In 1988, Mick Jagger inducted The Beatles into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He explained in his speech that there was some rivalry between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in the early days. However, they ended up friends.

No matter how tense it got, they inspired each other. Keith loved George’s guitar playing and said it spoke for itself. “George was an artist who was, because he didn’t write that many songs but the ones he did write were very meaningful, very well worked out, and well thought about, an incredibly meticulous man with respect to his work and to what he wanted to do,” Richards continued to Rolling Stone.

“The record speaks for itself-“[While My] Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Something,” “My Sweet Lord.” When he did put something out, he worked on it a long time and got it right the way he wanted it, which is a very difficult thing to do, especially when you’re part of something else.”

Richards said he couldn’t talk about George’s spirituality because he didn’t “know anything about it.” However, he could talk about George’s exceptional guitar playing.

“What I know is that he was a lovely lead guitarist,” Richards continued, “beautifully understated. The thing is, you’ve got your Jimi Hendrix, you’ve got your Eric Clapton, and then you’ve got guys who can play with bands. And George was a band and a team player.

“To me, that’s way above being some virtuoso flash artist… George was an artist, but he was also a f****** craftsman.

“When you listen to his songs, you’re aware of how much went into it. He didn’t flip anything off. George crafted his stuff very, very carefully, and it all had its own feel. This was a guy who could come out with a great song or a great record anytime.”


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George reminded Richards of Charlie Watts

Looking back, Richards understood why George liked to live in privacy because one of his fellow Stones, Charlie Watts, was similar. There was no one to tell The Beatles or The Rolling Stones how to operate under the constant watch of the world. Initially, they all struggled with fame.

“I think the other thing, that strain that runs between George and the Beatles and ourselves, the Stones, is just that we’re basically the same age and happened to find ourselves in this unique position without any training. You can’t go to star school. And George was never interested in that.

“George reminds me very much of Charlie Watts, in that way and in many ways-the understatedness, the modesty, and just being a gentleman, really. There’s very few I’d give that word to, and I wouldn’t give it to myself. But he was a gent.”

Now, Richards probably misses hearing George’s new tunes. We all do.