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In 1999, George Harrison survived a brutal attack, but Keith Richards believed the night’s events accelerated his death. Harrison died of cancer two years after the attack. Richards believed it was difficult for such a kind person to go through that type of violence. He shared his take on how the 1999 home invasion impacted the rest of Harrison’s life.

George Harrison stands with his hands in his pockets in front of the ocean.
George Harrison | Michael Putland/Getty Images

George Harrison once survived a near-fatal stabbing

At the end of 1999, an armed man broke into the home Harrison shared with his wife, Olivia. Olivia awoke to the sound of breaking glass and realized someone had broken into their home. When he saw the intruder, he tried in vain to distract him.

“I made the decision to shout back at him to distract him,” Harrison said, per The Guardian. “I looked down and shouted Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna.”

A black and white picture of George Harrison wearing a sweater vest and patterned coat.
George Harrison | Michael Putland/Getty Images

Harrison fought back when the intruder began to climb the stairs. They fell to the floor, and Harrison attempted to fend off the knife.

“I felt exhausted and could feel the strength draining from me,” he said. “I vividly remember a deliberate thrust to my chest. I could hear my lung exhaling and had blood in my mouth. I believed I had been fatally stabbed.”

Harrison went to the hospital for a collapsed lung and several knife wounds.

Keith Richards believed that the attack was highly detrimental to George Harrison’s health

Prior to the attack, Harrison had undergone treatment for lung cancer. In 2001, he died of the disease. Richards once asserted his belief that the violent home invasion accelerated his death.

“He was really a lovely guy. What he didn’t need, and to me what’s unbelievable, is that, basically, the knifing, the attack two years ago at his house, is what did in George,” Richards told Rolling Stone in 2002. “Because I think he probably would have beaten the cancer if it wasn’t for the blade.”

Richards believed that the attack was too much for the kind, peaceful Harrison to endure.

“That’s still puzzling to me in a way, although he didn’t die literally from it. It’s just that for such a pleasant guy, who made such beautiful music and never did harm to anybody to have to go through that kind of violence — I mean, I’m used to it, I’ve been stabbed several times, and the bullet wounds are healing. But with George, it was like, ‘Oh, I can’t believe it, really.’ You know, he was a guy who only looked out for the best in people. Of all people, it shouldn’t have happened to George.”

Richards shared that Harrison was one of the nicest people he’d ever met.

“He was one of the warmest-hearted gentlemen I’d ever met,” he said. “I mean, without rubbing it in, in glowing obituary terms, he really was one of the sweetest, lovable guys, and the idea that he would have been attacked — I mean, we know that he didn’t die from that, but I’m sure that it sort of broke down his resistance to what he had to deal with.”

Keith Richards remembered the final time he saw George Harrison

Richards shared that the last time he saw Harrison, he was in disguise.

A black and white photo of Keith Richards wearing a ring on his middle finger and smoking a cigarette.
Keith Richards | Robert Altman/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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“He came to a Stones gig in London, and he came disguised as Farmer George,” he explained. “He was a great horticulturist. George loved his garden, another sign of a real gent. He came backstage, and he was full of beans then. I just said, ‘How are you doing, healing and s***,’ and he said, ‘OK,’ you know. And he seemed all right.”