George Harrison Inducted
into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame


19th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York City - March 15, 2004

Report by Tom Frangione
It was no surprise that The Beatles were a "first ballot" entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1988, they were in an elite class that included The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan and The Supremes. The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger did the honors of delivering the induction speech, with George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s two sons on hand to accept the award.

 


Paul McCartney, conspicuous in his absence at the group’s moment in the sun, gave the induction speech when John was inducted as a solo artist in 1994. Five years later, it was Paul’s turn to get the nod, and now five years later, George has been elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame "Class of 2004". He is joined by rock legends Bob Seger, Jackson Browne, Prince, ZZ Top, Traffic and The Dells. Of this elite class, George’s induction was saved till last, capping off an emotional and memorable evening.

On this night, it was Traveling Wilbury band mates Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty who presented George for induction. As was the case with the tribute Concert for George, this raised more than a few mumbles concerning the whereabouts of one Bob Dylan. Nonetheless, the occasion was graciously handled, with George’s wife Olivia and son Dhani on hand to accept on George’s behalf. Also spotted in the crowd were Yoko and Sean Lennon, as well as Beatle and Apple confidant Neil Aspinall.

As George’s induction was planned to occur around midnight (some four hours into the proceedings), the original announcement had Olivia and Dhani scheduled for a press room appearance (a photo op and question & answer session) at 7:45 p.m., shortly before the event kicked off. Regretfully, this appearance never did materialize. The pair’s only appearance was at the podium to accept the induction award. Prior to Tom Petty’s and Jeff Lynne’s speech, a brief career highlight film was shown, as is customary for all inductees. Taking the podium, Petty continued:

"He was first inducted into this great hall as a member of The Beatles, and tonight he receives a second nomination as a solo artist. Having stood on stage – and off – between Lennon & McCartney is a really tough spot for an aspiring songwriter. Yet, learning his craft, he grew into an excellent writer, coming up with classics like "Something", "Here Comes The Sun" and many more. He became so prolific that he began to stockpile large amounts of unreleased songs, and this would become the basis for his first album All Things Must Pass, which was the first #1 album by an ex-Beatle. And many more hits would come. He often said he wasn’t pursuing a solo career at all. He never hired a manager or had an agent. He just loved playing music with his friends. And he loved guitars, and he loved rock and roll and he loved Carl Perkins, and he loved Little Richard, and he loved Dhani & Olivia. And he loved to stay up all night long and play the ukulele till dawn, till the kids were all in bed and tucked away.

Throughout the eighties he hit #1 again with his Cloud Nine LP, and then he formed what he called ‘his other band’, The Traveling Wilburys. And that was with Jeff Lynne and myself and some other guys… (causing some uneasy laughter). But George was a man who lived every single minute of his life. He really filled a room; he was a very upbeat person. He had a very keen sense of humor, a very keen sense of spirit. He was never preachy; he led by example. Years before Live Aid, George invented the idea of rock and roll giving back to the people. And I know as I look around the room, that many of you knew him. He was my dear friend and yours, and the worlds. He achieved much more than being a successful artist. He was a truly great man. And so we’re going to put him in the Hall of Fame; we’re going to induct him – gonna just push him right in there. But I need you all to say "Hare Krishna" (audience complies…). He’s in there"!

After a brief round of applause, Jeff Lynne took to the podium. "George was a great friend of mine. And we used to hang out a lot, and make lots of records. Knowing George as well as I did, he’s probably watching tonight and saying ‘get on with it’! So I’d just like to say ‘welcome, mate’, you’re in the Hall of Fame, where you belong, and it’s about time. Thanks". Following Lynne’s speech, Olivia and Dhani took to the stage to the strains of George’s song "This Is Love" ("helping us all to remember what we came here for… This Is Love").

Dhani spoke first: "Dad actually came back in 1987 (sic - it was 1988 – ed.) from when he got the last one of these, (turning towards Olivia, he continued) and I never told you this, but I broke it. I like glued the bit back in, but no one knows this. He made a great speech – actually Mick made a great speech – in ‘87 (sic - it was 1988 – ed.) where he referred to The Beatles as ‘the four-headed monster’ when they were all inducted, and he told me lots of great stories about dad that night. And I’d just like to say thanks to all of his mates who he loved to see; all the guys for coming and playing and to the hall of fame for having him in – again. And to everyone who’s ever liked his music…’good on ya’ … cheers".


Olivia continued: "Here I go again. I could talk about George forever, but I won’t. There was a quote by the Indian poet Tagor that George read to me one day. It said ‘blessed is he whose fame does not outshine his truth’. Here we are in the hall of fame. But the inductees are not chosen because of their fame, but because they express their truth through their music. George said that he tried to write songs that would still mean something years from now. And I think it’s safe to say that in spite his immense fame, his truth will never be out-shined or forgotten. If he were here, he’d get a kick out of tonight. He’d be wanting to see everybody and party. But there probably would be a lot of people that he would thank. If you think of the span of his entire career, there would be so many people who are in this room tonight that he may want to mention, but I’m going to mention one that I’m sure of. And it’s the person in this room that George knew the longest in his life. That he met behind the air raid shelter when he was sneaking off to have a ciggie in school. Someone who looked after him, and all of them, from the time they were thirteen till – for George – the end of his life. And that is the mysterious Neil Aspinall. Thank you Neil for holding it together for all these years, because really, the whole phenomenon might not have happened or stayed together as long as it did without him. He’s helped us, he’s helped his family and George loved him dearly and many of you as well, so thank you very much. Now let’s let George’s music speak for itself".

Following the acceptance speech, Dhani stuck around to jam with Petty & Lynne (with Traffic’s Steve Winwood on keyboards) on one song each from George’s two bands, The Traveling Wilburys ("Handle With Care") and The Beatles ("While My Guitar Gently Weeps"). The latter featured a blinding guitar solo by Prince that brought the house down.


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Wrapping up the evening’s formal program, the now customary all-star jam featured many of the evening’s inductees and presenters taking the stage for loose, but spirited versions of "Sweet Little Rock and Roller" and "Feeling’ Alright".

As in years past, all attendees at the ceremony received a lavish program and accompanying sampler CD featuring the evening’s honorees. George is represented on the disc with two of his three #1 singles, "My Sweet Lord" and "Got My Mind Set On You". Perhaps not coincidentally, these stand as the very first and very last #1 singles by any former Beatle.

And so the Class of 2004 joins rock and roll immortality in Cleveland. The question remains; given the "5 year" pattern, can we look forward to Ringo’s induction in 2009?

 

 

 



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