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Even as he was dying, George Harrison couldn’t escape the press. Since The Beatles first became famous in the early 1960s, they watched his every move, just like all the other Beatles. George hated that part of fame. He called the media a bunch of “dummies.” They didn’t know the real George because they were too stuck on the craze that surrounded the band. Unfortunately, they didn’t give George much peace during the last year of his life either. According to George’s good friend, Tom Petty, they hounded George.

However, Petty said that George still died with dignity and left his body the way he wanted. Some things just needed to be kept private to accomplish that.

George Harrison performing at The Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Celebration in 1992.
George Harrison | KMazur/WireImage

Tom Petty said George Harrison was hounded by the press the last year of his life

During an interview with Rolling Stone in 2002, Petty looked back at George’s last year. He said the press absolutely hounded George in the last year of his life. He could barely get any peace.

“I’ll tell you, the media wasn’t very sweet in the last year of his life,” Petty said. “He was probably the most hounded of his whole life when he was trying to deal with that. Especially in Europe, he never got a moment’s peace. He would have helicopters follow him when he left the house. I guess that comes with the territory. That’s part of the price you pay. He paid that price so many times — well, overpaid.”

No matter how much the press hounded him, Petty said George still had a positive outlook. “But he’d be the first to say there’s nothing to be gained by bitterness or anger, hatred. I don’t know how many times he would remind me that bitterness or pessimism is only going to slow you down finding the solution. And he lived that way. George was the kind of guy who wasn’t going to leave until he hugged you for five minutes and told you how much he loved you. We knew where we stood with each other.”

Petty said George managed to die with dignity regardless

Looking back, Petty thought George’s spirituality helped him remain positive during those frustrating moments, running from the watchful eye of the press the last year of his life. Being as spiritual as George was, he gradually stepped farther and farther away from the material world, leaving all the nonsense behind. He was more concerned about staying around to be with his family and preparing for when he left his body. In the end, Petty said George was able to die with dignity.

“I would think it helped him immensely,” Petty explained George’s spirituality to Rolling Stone. “He is just a really brave guy, and he died with a great deal of dignity.”

Petty continued to explain that he was glad George didn’t die during the house invasion that nearly claimed the lives of George and his wife, Olivia, in 1999. “It’s so much easier for me than if he had died that night in the attack. I don’t think I could have dealt with that. I told him so. When I put on my TV the morning he was stabbed, it looked like he had died, there were so many biographical things coming up on the TV.

“After that, I told him, ‘I already kind of went through your death.’ And I said, ‘Just do me a favor and don’t die that way, because I just can’t handle it.’ He said he promised me he wasn’t going out that way.”


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George was able to leave his body the way he wanted thanks to his wife Olivia

The most essential person in George’s life, his wife, Olivia, was there for her husband in their last couple of years together. Petty said, “Olivia had the hardest job in the world, because she loved George more than all of us, and she really took care of him and cleared the path in front of him, behind him, and inherited that crazy life, you know.”

He was right; Olivia did clear a path in front of George and behind him. She knew she needed to help make the path to death as painless as possible and had to make sure George was able to leave his body the way he wanted. However, she also made sure the path behind them was clear as well. The path that George was leaving behind.

While George was dying, Olivia had to protect George from prying eyes and doctors who wanted one last autograph. She had to protect George by giving the wrong address of the house he was dying in so that no press disturbed him as he left this world and went to the next.