Former Beatle George Harrison dies of cancer, aged 58

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The Independent Culture

George Harrison, the Beatles' quiet lead guitarist and spiritual explorer, died last night. He was 58

Harrison died at a friend's home in Los Angeles following a long battle with cancer. His wife, Olivia Harrison, and son Dhani, 24, were with him, long-time friend Gavin De Becker told The Associated Press

"He left this world as he lived in it, conscious of God, fearless of death, and at peace, surrounded by family and friends," the Harrison family said in a statement. "He often said, 'Everything else can wait but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another."'

With Harrison's death, there remain two Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. John Lennon was shot by a deranged fan in 1980.

It wasn't immediately known if there would be a public funeral for Harrison. A private ceremony had already taken place, Mr De Becker said.

In 1998, Harrison disclosed that he had been treated for throat cancer. "It reminds you that anything can happen," he said at the time. The following year, Harrison survived an attack by an intruder who stabbed him several times. In July 2001, he released a statement asking fans not to worry about reports that he was still battling cancer.

Harrison's guitar work, modeled on Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins among others, was essential to The Beatles' sound.

Although his songwriting was overshadowed by the great Lennon–McCartney team, Harrison did contribute such classics as "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something," which Frank Sinatra covered. Harrison also taught the young Lennon how to play the guitar.

"As he said himself, how do you compare with the genius of John and Paul? But he did, very well," rock star Bob Geldof told BBC radio.

"All the way back, he measured up," Geldof said. "Maybe because of the necessary competition between the other two, his standard of songwriting was incomparably better than most other contemporaries anyway."

He was known as the "quiet" Beatle and his public image was summed up in the first song he wrote for them, "Don't Bother Me," which appeared on the group's second album.

But Harrison also had a wry sense of humor that helped shape the Beatles' irreverent charm, memorably fitting in alongside Lennon's cutting wit and Starr's cartoonish appeal.

At their first recording session under George Martin, the producer reportedly asked the young musicians to tell him if they didn't like anything. Harrison's response: "Well, first of all, I don't like your tie." Asked by a reporter what he called the Beatles' famous moptop hairstyle, he quipped, "Arthur."

He was even funny about his own mortality. As reports of his failing health proliferated, Harrison recorded a new song – "Horse to the Water" – and credited it to "RIP Ltd. 2001."

He always preferred being a musician to being a star, and he soon grew tired of Beatlemania – the screaming girls, the hair–tearing mobs, the wild chases from limos to gigs and back to limos. Like Lennon, his memories of the Beatles were often tempered by what he felt was lost in all the madness.

"There was never anything, in any of the Beatle experiences really, that good: even the best thrill soon got tiring," Harrison wrote in his 1979 book, "I, Me, Mine." "There was never any doubt. The Beatles were doomed. Your own space, man, it's so important. That's why we were doomed, because we didn't have any. We were like monkeys in a zoo."

Still, in a 1992 interview with The Daily Telegraph, Harrison confided: "We had the time of our lives: We laughed for years."