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Old May 15, 2006, 08:19 PM   #1
FPSHOT
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Default Here Comes The Son

We probably had this one before, but it's always nice to read it back..

Here Comes The Son - Nigel Williamson

George Harrison's son Dhani has always been his own man, but after the former Beatle's death he decided his priority was to ensure his father's musical legacy.

"It's horrible to lose your dad. But day by day I miss him more as a mate," Dhani Harrison says. "He was my best friend in the whole world."

He's sitting in an elegant mews house in Knightsbridge, which serves as the offices of George Harrison's musical estate, of which he is now the sole beneficiary. The walls are decorated with gold and platinum discs for multimillion-selling records by the Beatles and from Harrison's solo career. "He left me everything," Dhani explains. Which makes him a very wealthy young man indeed.

He's sharp, engaging, self-possessed and courteously polite with the definite look of his father around the eyes. At 24 he's acutely aware of the privileges and drawbacks of being the son of a celebrity and seems to have an unusually level-headed approach to it all although he admits that having a Beatle as a father was in many ways not easy. "We stuck together because my dad realised the s*** that he'd dropped me in by my being born. It has never helped me being George Harrison's son and in school and university it was twice as hard. You tend to get persecuted in some way or misconstrued."

He isn't whingeing; merely expressing frustration at the difficulties of establishing his own way in the world when he has such a famous name. He works as part of a design collective but subsumes his identity in the team. When he got a design job with MacLaren, everybody thought it was because his dad, a noted Formula One fan, had put in a word. "But I got it because I went and showed them my portfolio and they hired me not knowing who I was."

Dhani's fierce determination not to trade on the family connection is admirable. "I've never once used my name to get in anywhere," he claims. "I hate that." Then he reddens as he remembers a sold-out Friday night at the Reading Festival when he was desperate to see the Foo Fighters. "Well, perhaps once," he laughs.

He's clearly keen to get on with his life and make his own way, whether it's ultimately as a designer or a musician. Yet before he does, there's a little piece of his father's unfinished business. The first anniversary of George Harrison's death this month sees the release of Brainwashed, his final album and first solo studio recording since 1987's Cloud Nine. Dhani worked on the songs with his father before he died and has spent the past year assembling and co-producing the record with Jeff Lynne, a long-time Harrison collaborator who played in the Traveling Wilburys. Dhani's design company produced the artwork.

Given the circumstances, you might not have expected much from the record. Harrison's long absence from recording suggested he had lost interest and posthumous collections scraped together from the odds-and-sods on the cutting room floor are almost invariably disappointing.

Yet Brainwashed is surprisingly impressive. There are 11 original Harrison songs plus a cover of The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Strongly melodic and with frequently poignant lyrics, it's a record that deserves to stand alongside his best solo work.

Several songs had been hanging around for years as demos, some dating back to the late 1980s. "My dad never had any interest in releasing them," Dhani admits. "He worked very slowly and he spent most of his time gardening. To get him in the studio was very hard. He wasn't doing it for anybody else. He didn't care about the music industry."

Then two years before he died Harrison started to think about making an album again with Dhani's encouragement. Father and son began working on the songs, recording in a number of different locations, including LA, Australia and Switzerland. "We'd be by ourselves a lot of the time and it was like a cottage industry. I'd be pressing the play and stop buttons. I did it because he needed a buddy and we were friends. He was just playing around. But when my dad played around he was very serious."

They continued to work on the record "right up until the end" when the family left Switzerland for America, where Harrison died. Until now, he has refused to discuss his father's last days. But, he says, he wants people to understand the context of Harrison's final recordings. His spiritual beliefs and study of Indian philosophies held him in good stead during the final difficult months, Dhani says. "He was happy and doing his singing. He never felt sorry for himself or went into depression. He was working and doing what he could."

And, as his son points out, this was the man who more than 30 years ago wrote All Things Must Pass. "That meant he knew and was ready for it. We took the view 'be here now' and made the most of our time."

After Harrison died, Dhani felt he had to complete the record. "I don't think my dad cared if he released it. But I cared because in my opinion the record was so good. He never said I should finish it but I always knew I'd have to eventually." He describes the songs his father left as "posh demos". But they had discussed what still needed doing and in addition Harrison left notes that contained instructions such as 'put little plinky bit here' or 'wobble on guitar on track four'.

Dhani then took the songs to Jeff Lynne in LA, where they spent several months in the studio producing the final record. "We worked through it methodically and filled in where needed. But we never committed fraud on the recordings. It was all my dad and we worked according to his rules and values. It just took us a bit longer because he wasn't there to ask if it was right or not."

He may not have been there in the flesh but Dhani is convinced that in some sense his father was present in the studio. "Little things happened every day that were weird. You can hear a crow cawing at the end of Rising Sun. There was this bird sitting on the window outside trying to get in." The spirit of his father? "Well little things like that happened every day and his spirit was very much there. How could it not be? We were evoking him by thinking about him and playing his music all day every day for months. There must be some vibration or presence through that. I'm sure he had an input to the record after he died."

Dhani was moved by the outpouring of emotion on his father's death but disturbed by the behaviour of the media when news of his father's sickness became public. "There was a 250,000 bounty for a picture of my dad dying of cancer. There were people hovering over our house in helicopters. People pretending to be your friend one day and outside your house the next day with a zoom lens. That desire to be in someone else's life when it's none of your business is wrong," he says.

He is his father's son in so many ways. He shares George's passion for motor racing and hangs out with many of his dad's friends. The evening before we met, he had spent with Harrison's Monty Python mates, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin.

"I can't even begin to describe how I miss him. He always supported me in everything I did. He was a very wise man and I realised at an early age I could learn a lot from him. He always gave me the right answer."

Dhani pauses to regain his composure. "But above all he was a very easy-going guy and all he wanted was to be my best friend. I'm an only child and so he shared everything with me. Of course he was very young to die and I was very young to lose a father. But there was nothing left unsaid between us."
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Old May 16, 2006, 08:18 AM   #2
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That is so sweet!
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Old May 16, 2006, 12:33 PM   #3
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Great Article on George's son.
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Old May 16, 2006, 03:22 PM   #4
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Awww, how sweet!
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Old May 16, 2006, 05:44 PM   #5
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Maybe I'm being soppy (I often am) but I read that article with a tear in my eye!
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Old May 16, 2006, 07:19 PM   #6
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That is a lovely article, FPSHOT. Thank you for posting it.
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Old May 17, 2006, 04:42 AM   #7
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They seem to have had a very special relationship, and Dhani seems to be a lot like his dad. Thanks for posting the article Rob
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Old May 18, 2006, 04:27 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Weeping Guitar
Maybe I'm being soppy (I often am) but I read that article with a tear in my eye!
I just read it again, and maybe it's being in an emotional mood right now, but it just about made me tear up too ...
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Old May 18, 2006, 05:12 AM   #9
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Yeah. But he seems such a grounded and well adjusted young man, so that's good!
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Old May 18, 2006, 05:34 AM   #10
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I think he is well grounded. No doubt that came from Olivia and George's influence...George always impressed me as being realistic and well gronded. Olivia, for whom I have nothing but the deepest respect impressed me as being natural; unaffected; gracious and very well grounded indeed.
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Old May 18, 2006, 05:48 AM   #11
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Awww, what a nice article!
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Old May 19, 2006, 06:16 AM   #12
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Agreed! Nice to see it again!
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