George Harrison's widow, Olivia, recalls "the quiet Beatle", who often had a lot to say. In one of his last
songs, "Pieces Fish", George wrote: "I'm a living proof of all life's contradictions." Was he? He was really like that. He was funny,
loving, and fun. [But] he could also be really up or really down, really spiritual or really naughty. You just never knew.
But all of it was within the same circle. He didn't want to be perceived as being one thing either. For a so-called
quiet guy, George had his chatty moments. He would have an interview scheduled, and on the way there, he would be grumbling. And
then, two hours later, we'd be still waiting for him to finish. He'd think, "This is going to be terrible," and then you couldn't
stop him from talking because he'd be enthused. What would George most want to be remembered for? Many people have gone
on the spiritual path because of George, whether it's yoga or meditation or whatever. The most important thing you can do
for anyone is to give them a spiritual spark. If there is anything he would want to be remembered for, it is just that.
It’s All in the Music
Newsweek, June 23, 2006
by Steve Friess
new Beatles collaboration with Cirque du Soleil prepares to open in Las
Vegas, George Harrison's widow, Olivia, talks about the music, the
spats and the 'Love.'
may seize upon the June 30 opening of the Cirque du Soleil-Beatles collaboration “Love” in Las Vegas as a chance to re-examine the Beatles
legacy in all its glory and gossip, but for George Harrison’s widow, it will be a much more personal event. The $150
million surrealist spectacle, scored with an extensive remix of newly digitized Fab Four recordings, was Harrison’s
last great idea, so seeing it through has been a bittersweet mission for Olivia since his death in 2001.
is due to attend the gala opening at the Mirage Hotel-Casino along with the two surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo
Starr, as well as John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, in a rare reassemblage of the extended, and sometimes dissonant, Beatles
family. Harrison, 58, spoke to
Steve Friess this week via phone from London about the show and her husband’s legacy.
“Love” came about because your husband befriended Cirque founder Guy Laliberte. How did
it all come to pass?
and Guy met in the 1990s on the Formula One circuit. Guy hosts a party after the Montreal Grand Prix, so George went. George
came home and said, “You know, there was a man and a woman sitting in a lake. She had a tuxedo on and he had a ball
gown on and they sat at a table all night long having a candlelit dinner with water up to their waist. There were people in
feather costumes swinging in the trees like birds.” This really was right up George’s alley. Guy was the visionary
and so was George. They had a lot of excited conversations. George instigated a meeting with Paul, George, Yoko, Ringo and
Guy. Everyone wanted to have fun, be creative and have someone else be the vehicle for that.
Have you seen the show yet?
I saw one
of the first run-throughs and I’m really excited about the whole thing. It’s a big sensory overload. I think it’s
a lot to take in. I’d like to see it several more times.
Well, I’m sure there’s always a seat for you.
Well, it’s funny, because I haven’t even been able to sit with the music yet. I want to listen to the music over
and over again quietly, and I haven’t had a chance to do that. They were very careful not letting the music out of Abbey Road [Studios], so we haven’t
even had our own copies to listen to.
What parts of the show moved you?
not sure I can be that specific. I tried not to be so personal about it. All of us are so emotionally involved. I tend to
look at George’s music, see what they’re doing with that; somebody else might look at some of their songs. I wanted
to just see how I felt about the whole thing and I came away feeling that it feels good. You can dissect any show and there
will be parts of it you may have had a different vision. That’s the case with this. I might have had a different vision
of certain characters that you have in your mind. Everyone has a different concept of what they think something is. That’s
how it is with music. [But] I always love to see [George’s] face. I thought it was beautiful.
Was it hard to watch?
I often think, “Would he like it? Is it what he thought it was going to be?” I don’t know. The music is
great, and for me, the minute I hear those harmonies at the beginning, it’s so pure right there. It has fantastic moments,
it has moments that will probably be improved. Overall, it’s meant to uplift. It’s meant to make people happy,
and it does that.
Along with Yoko, Paul and Ringo, you had to approve what producers George and Giles Martin were doing
with the music. [Sir George Martin produced most of the Beatles' albums; Giles, his son, is also a noted producer.] The other
three were veteran musicians. What guided you?
ultimate respect for Ringo and Paul, and I would obviously trust their judgment. I just felt what was up to me was making
sure [George] was well represented. From the very first sampling that they did, the one that we all heard in the studio, we
loved it. I found it amazing that each one of those elements of the music—the harmony, the guitar part, the drum part—you
can pull them apart and put it on something else and each part carried as much character as the whole song.
Since your husband’s death, you’ve become tasked with handling an important legacy. Is
it awkward to find yourself his proxy to the world now?
no. "The Concert for Bangladesh" [album rerelease in 2005], the Cirque thing, some of George’s albums that we’re remastering
now for rerelease, are all things he started. So I don’t feel like I’ve yet created anything that doesn’t
have his approval. I just feel very privileged. It would be hard for me to see anyone else doing it.
Which song of George’s is your favorite? He must have written songs for you, right?
not going to go down that road. I love a song called “Be Here Now.” He wrote songs while he was in the Beatles
that didn’t come out until “All Things Must Pass.” I was just listening to one actually today, one line
I was saying to Giles, "Why couldn’t you use this," and it was from a song called “It’s All Too Much.”
The line is, “Floating down the stream of time from life to life with me.” I find that very comforting.
You’re scheduled to appear at the premiere with Paul, Ringo and Yoko. Do you all get along these
do. Well, I do. I see all of them. They’ve all been really supportive and I consider them all good friends.
Yoko and Paul. Is it true?
have issues? They never, ever talk about each other in a way that’s negative to me.
Las Vegas wasn’t the first choice to host this show, was it?
George was alive, there was a plan to create it here in London. That didn’t happen, and then it was going to be in New York, and of course September 11 happened, and that was
a very difficult time. So it wasn’t always the idea, but I think it’s a good place and it’ll be fun.
Did you and George like Las Vegas? Did you go on vacations there?
It’s not really our sort of place, to be honest. George and Paul and Heather [McCartney’s now-estranged wife]
and I flew in to see [Cirque du Soleil’s] “O” [early in the development of “Love”]. That was
the first time I was ever in Vegas.
Has your impression of the city changed since you’ve visited?
rather be in my garden, let’s put it that way.
Why do you think the world is still so fascinated by the Beatles all these years later?
know the answer to that; they don’t know the answer to that. We all keep asking that question. Maybe it’s just
the obvious thing that there’s something in the music that’s very pure that somehow, it is communicating something.
It must be. Why else would people still be feeling it like that?
Since this show brings a lot of attention back to the Beatles and their legacy, what was George Harrison
like and what do you want people to know about him?
want them to know anything. And he didn’t really want them to know anything. Everything he was or had to say was in
his music. That was it, really. People used to ask him how he wanted to be remembered, and he said he didn’t really
care. If they remembered him, fine. If they don’t, that’s fine. But I think they will when they listen to his
Olivia Harrison about The Beatles: Rock
Band Game Informer,
September 2009 What
guidelines do you use to make licensing decisions for your husband's work? They're pretty well defined. George had them pretty well defined in his mind. He, like the others,
never really wanted their music to be licensed for anything that was negative, or just gratuitous licensing. Your son Dhani was involved
in getting the game started in the first place. Has he continued working on the project throughout its creation? Yeah,
he did the motion capture for George, for instance. He tested every milestone, like every new build he would go through it.
He would say, 'I was up until in the morning playing Rock Band'. But
not playing, really seeing how it worked. What do you think of George's visual representation in the game? I found it very difficult
to see a sort of characterization of him. I think it's the right mix. You don't want to go over the line and make it like-
what do you call it when they do like in Polar Express, or something like Tomb
Raider- where it's almost like a human but it's an animated human. It's almost like, should it be a person or should it be
a complete cartoon? I think it's a really good balance in the way they're represented. Some of the songs to me are better
than others in the way they look- I mean, not better, but some of them to me appear more like him than others. What do you
hope people would take from the experience of playing this game? I
just hope they would be uplifted by the music, enjoy the music, and that's it, really. Rather than sitting for an hour playing
a game that's going into darkness. I think that's what I love about this game and that's why I know George would be okay with
it, because it's nothing but uplifting. If there's some contribution to be made to the game world I'm glad that could do that.