George Harrison dies

George Harrison died on 29 November 2001 at the age of 58.

Death is just where your suit falls off and now you’re in your other suit. You can’t see it on this level, but it’s all right. Don’t worry.
George Harrison

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Harrison was first diagnosed with throat cancer in 1997 after a lump on his neck was discovered. Although the prognosis initially looked positive, in early May 2001 he underwent an operation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota to remove a cancerous growth from one of his lungs.

In July 2001 he received radiotherapy in Switzerland for a brain tumour, and in November 2001 began a further radiotherapy course at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City. When it became clear he would not recover, Harrison determined that he would not die in hospital, and with security consultant Gavin de Becker planned a secret funeral.

Harrison travelled to Los Angeles, and after collecting pain relieving drugs from UCLA Medical Center was taken to a house rented – and later owned – by Paul McCartney. He spent 36 hours drifting in and out of consciousness, with his wife Olivia and son Dhani by his side. At one point they were joined by Ravi Shankar, who played sitar music as they waited.

George Harrison died on 29 November 2001 at 1.20pm. The cause of death was listed on his Los Angeles County death certificate as “metastatic non-small cell lung cancer”. His body was wrapped in a shawl and covered with holy oils.

George Harrison, 2001

Twenty minutes after he passed away, staff from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery arrived to collect Harrison’s body. They briefly joined hands with Harrison’s family and friends, and prayers were said.

The body was taken in an unmarked white van to Dr Lee S Rosen, chief oncologist at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, who signed the death certificate. Harrison was cremated in a cardboard casket within 10 hours of his death.

The death certificate initially stated he had died at 1971 Coldwater Canyon Road in Beverly Hills, although it later came to light that no such location exists. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office launched an investigation, and the true location was revealed to be 9536 Heather Road, a Los Angeles house once rented and now owned by McCartney. A replacement death certificate was later issued.

Harrison’s ashes were taken to the family’s home in Hawaii, before being scattered in the River Ganges in a private ceremony. His family issued a statement, saying:

He left this world as he lived in it, conscious of God, fearless of death, and at peace, surrounded by family and friends. He often said, ‘Everything else can wait but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another’.

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Last updated: 9 February 2023
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