George Harrison’s widow speaks of life, of death through poetry

NEW YORK – The first line of Olivia Harrison’s book of poetry captures a universal feeling for all who have lost a loved one. “All I wanted was another spring,” he writes. “Was it so much to ask?”

Through the verses that follow that question, former Beatle widow George Harrison talks about her husband and grief over lung cancer at the age of 58 on November 29, 2001.

Twenty poems for 20 years, a number that is no coincidence.

“Came the Lightening,” a collection released Tuesday, is a first for 74-year-old Harrison, and a surprise. She meticulously collaborated on George’s work with the help of her son, Dhani, but on the other hand maintained the privacy that the couple maintained throughout their marriage.

She was inspired to write by reading the work of Edna St. Vincent Millay on a “wound that never heals,” and his own phrase about wanting another spring was a turning point. She changed her mind after initially deciding not to post.


“It was because he was a good guy,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press. “A good guy. And I thought, ‘I want people to know … these things.’ A lot of people think they know who George is. “.

She writes about the mundane moments of a wedding that become more special when they can’t be repeated: the nightly dances with a jukebox in her living room, how her cold feet sought the warmth of her under the blankets on a winter night. .

George Harrison met former Olivia Arias in the 1970s while working for his Los Angeles record company. A poem recalls his nervousness at first welcoming him to the humble home of his Mexican immigrant parents. “He said, ‘It’s a mansion compared to my youth,'” he wrote.

He remembers being greeted at her property in Friar Park, west London, for the first time with the soft words, “Olivia, welcome home.”


They got in John and Yoko’s “long white car.” It was another indication that she was not only marrying anyone, along with her description of the day “the legendary Slowhand came in with the ex-Mrs.”.

That would be Eric Clapton, with George’s ex-wife, Patti.


“It seemed like this legend of the love triangle,” Harrison said. “I thought I’d try to finish it in three verses.”

Her husband has never spoken publicly about the loss of his first wife to Clapton, and Harrison’s poem indicates that he was not well. “Predictable exchanges and yes, they ended badly,” he wrote.

Harrison also writes, at length, about the harrowing night of December 30, 1999, when a man disturbed with a knife entered Friar Park. She recalled begging George to stay hidden in the room, but instead he went downstairs to face him and was stabbed in the ensuing fight. Olivia attacked the intruder with a fire poker, and against all odds, they both survived.


“I wouldn’t say it was a turning point, but it was such a profound experience that I still can’t believe it,” he said. “George almost dies and you think, no, he’s not going to die like that. He was a very defiant person in that sense: I’m not going to die like that. He was thinking that at the time, actually. After everything I’ve been through, am I going to die like that?”

Nineteen years earlier, she had taken the phone call at midnight after John Lennon had died, and they had huddled under their blankets for hours.

Although George died less than two years after the Friar Park attack, she considered it “a victory, not a loss.

“It was a win because it came out on its own terms the way it wanted to,” he said. “It was something he regretted that John Lennon didn’t have a chance to do.”

Harrison writes tenderly about the day her husband died: “I wanted you to leave without any hindrance, to float as you always imagined and prepared. I couldn’t help but caress your ear and murmur the last words to leave you with mine. son.


His son was 23 when George died. Harrison said she was constantly surprised to hear him talk about things he didn’t know his father had told him.

“If it was something for history, or a mantra or some lesson, I thought, he wouldn’t wait until (Dhani) was 30 or 40,” he said. “That’s a real lesson, too. Why do we stop? Why are we so limited in time? George didn’t live that way. Maybe he was foresighted. Maybe he knew.”

In the book, he also writes about Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr’s recent visits to say goodbye to his former Beatles partner.

Now she and Dhani are sitting at the boardroom table with McCartney, Starr, and Yoko Ono when it comes to Beatles affairs. In many ways, it’s an ongoing venture, as with the “Get Back” project produced by Peter Jackson last year.

“Dhani and I are really there to take care of George’s legacy,” he said. “In some things, we’re more opinionated. But in other things, I say, ‘it’s their music, it’s their pictures … they know what they want to hear and see. that we can ”.


Plus, he said, it’s a lot of fun.

It wasn’t until the anthology project in the 1990s that George became more comfortable with the Beatles’ legacy, he said.

“He said,‘ I guess it’s not going to go away. I said no. It was a lot of fun. I said, no, it’s not, and he said, ‘All right, maybe I have some respect around here,’ “he said with a laugh.

Harrison still lives on the Friar Park estate. She’s too old to move, she said, and too many things pile up. She and her husband were avid gardeners, and a clue as to why she stays appears in a poem about the trees there: “My constant source of comfort, my oldest and tallest friends,” she writes.

She also writes about “one more meeting, I wrote the scene, in which one last thing comes out of my chest.”

How can that meeting be?

“It would probably be in the garden,” he said. “Just sitting in the garden, (where he said) ‘Aren’t you glad to raise that tree there?'”

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George Harrison’s widow speaks of life, of death through poetry

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