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Old Nov 13, 2008, 02:20 AM   #1
Sun King
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Join Date: Aug 04, 2000
Location: The Netherlands
Posts: 31,563

Default Sir Jackie Stewart and George

Here are some stories I have put together from various interviews with Sir Jackie Stewart

WHAT'S it like to be buddies with a Beatle? A string of famous Scots can boast they were friends of the Fab Four - from comedian Billy Connolly to former motor racing champ Sir Jackie Stewart and SFA boss Gordon Smith. They all have great memories of John, Paul, George or Ringo.

JACKIE sat by his pool with 12-year-old son Paul at home in Lake Geneva, Switzerland.

The sounds of their favourite music wafted into the night sky.

The tunes were Beatle songs.

The only difference was the songs weren't coming from a stereo or radio. They were being strummed on guitar by close friend George Harrison.

It remains Jackie's most cherished memory of a friendship which began at the 1969 Monaco Grand Prix.

Sir Jackie recalled: "Paul brought out his guitar. George started to play all the Beatle hits...explaining the lyrics.

"I remember thinking this had to be one of the greatest privileges anybody could have - to enjoy a perfect evening with such a remarkable man."

George's friendship with Jackie grew into a two-way street of enduring affection.

When his career slipped into a creative funk in the mid-70s, the Beatle credited him with inspiring him to return to the studio. The result - 1979's eponymously titled George Harrison album - featured the song Faster, written as tribute to the Grand Prix racers.

When he filmed a video for the track, Jackie pulled off a masterstroke by suggesting he act as George's chauffeur as they hurtled round Silverstone in a Daimler.

Sir Jackie was in Scotland when he learned George had died of cancer in 2001. He said: "I saw him a month before he died. It was such a sad loss."
Though his friend Prince Charles did not knight him until 2001, Sir Stewart has always kept company with royalty and celebrities, who adore him. He has rubbed elbows with Sean Connery, Prince Edward, Steven Spielberg, and Jordan's King Hussein, to name a few. Beatle George Harrison taught his sons to play guitar. Helen Stewart is godmother to Princess Anne's daughter Zara

The day I played George Harrison's chauffeur in my tartan cap

I first met George Harrison when the Beatles turned up at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1969.

George enjoyed motor racing and, in 1979, he released a single called Faster which, the cover explained, was "inspired by Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda and dedicated to the entire F1 circus".

The chorus ended:

No one knows quite how he does it but it's true they say

He's the master of going faster.

I can just see George sitting somewhere getting an idea in his head, then scribbling the words on the back of a cigarette packet. That was his genius.

We had fun shooting the music video for Faster, in which I made a cameo appearance as George's chauffeur, wearing a white hat with a tartan band, similar to my old racing helmet.

I drove the Daimler while, on the other side of a glass partition, George sat strumming on his guitar, singing.

Our closeness seemed to confirm the old saying that opposites attract. While I like to organise my life with military precision, George took a more laid-back approach.

I remember one time, at an airport, I was starting to worry whether we would get to the gate on time but George just smiled and said he wanted a cup of tea.

"OK," I fretted, "but I don't think we have time."

"There's always time for a cup of tea," he said.

If we had been dropped from the same height, George would have been a feather, drifting this way and that on the breeze; I would have been a lead weight plunging straight down.

There were times when we could have been living on different planets, when George was procrastinating and I would be all action, when he was wearing way-out clothes and I was traditionally dressed. But we were alike in paying fanatical attention to detail.

He could be amazingly fastidious, keeping his cars immaculately clean, working on a song until it was so precisely right that it would sound as if it had evolved out of nothing, dreamily and effortlessly.

We shared many wonderful times. On one occasion, when he was staying with us in Switzerland, we went to the French Grand Prix in Dijon. It was a clear, warm evening when we arrived home. Helen had prepared a barbecue, and Paul, who was 12 at the time, brought out his guitar.

George started to play, running through all the great Beatles hits, singing parts of the songs, explaining what the lyrics meant to various members of the band. I remember sitting there, thinking this had to be one of the greatest privileges anybody could have.

George had a great soul. His instinct was to forgive rather than to condemn and, when people behaved badly, he would make excuses for them. I learnt so much from him.

In the late 1990s, when we started to spend more time in England, we saw more of George, his wife Livy and their son Dhani.

We always enjoyed our visits to their home at Friar Park which George took great pride in restoring: reviving the underground canals and the 60-foot mountain modelled on the Matterhorn in Switzerland, complete with Alpine flowers and streams.

He spent endless hours contentedly tending to the plants. "I'm a gardener," he would say.

George was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2001. He spent some time in Lugano, in Switzerland, and there he was visited by Ringo Starr. Ringo told me that even though George was, by then, very weak and confined to bed, he listened intently as his old friend told him about some problem.

"Anyway, I'll have to go and sort it out," Ringo said. "That's a trip I'm not going to enjoy."

"Well, look," said George, trying to sit up in bed, "would you like me to come with you?"

That was typical.


It's enough to induce dizziness as Eric the butler silently opens the door to Stewart's home in Buckinghamshire. In the midst of this museum dedicated to his life, stands Sir Jackie himself, a chatty man of (as he puts it) "average height" whose bumpy nose is the only reminder of the bad old days when, as an adolescent, he allied himself with losers, not winners.

We start with a tour of his home - an eye-popping experience. Framed photographs of George Harrison, the Queen, David Niven, Sir Sean Connery, the Princess Royal and King Hussein of Jordan represent just the tip of his social iceberg.

"Everyone should have themselves regularly overwhelmed by Nature"
- George Harrison

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