Famous Eulogies: Eric Idle on George Harrison

Some eulogies provide a profoundly meaningful, lasting tribute to the deceased

George Harrison in concert
George Harrison, one of the original members of the Beatles, died from cancer in 2001. Photo © Lester Cohen/WireImage/Getty Images

Ideally, a well-crafted and -delivered eulogy illuminates and elucidates special qualities about the deceased that enhance the existing emotional and spiritual connections between the person who died and the living, thereby focusing and increasing a listener's appreciation of the life lost. In some cases, the eulogy itself proves a memorable and meaningful embodiment of both the unique nature of the departed and the depth of feeling that endures in the hearts and minds of those who remain.

This article presents the (partial*) text of just such an enduring remembrance speech: the eulogy delivered by Eric Idle, member of the highly irreverent British comedy troupe, Monty Python, for his friend George Harrison. One of the "Fab Four," Harrison and the other Beatles took America (and the rest of the world) by storm in the early 1960s. When the group broke up in 1970, Harrison continued his career as a solo artist with great success. Unfortunately, Harrison battled various forms of cancer later in life and, despite numerous surgeries and other treatments, he died on November 29, 2001, at age 58.

Several months later, Eric Idle posthumously accepted the honor of his friend's induction into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame on behalf of Harrison, and delivered the following eulogy.

* Author's note: The text below offers excerpts from Idle's moving-but-lengthy eulogy. In addition, Idle's eulogy continues the same irreverent tone and sense of humor that made Monty Python famous, which troupe cohort John Cleese used when he eulogized fellow Monty Python member Graham Chapman in 1989.

The Eulogy of George Harrison by Eric Idle

June 28, 2002

When they told me they were going to induct my friend George Harrison into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame posthumously, my first thought was, "I bet he won't show up." Because, unlike some others one might mention (but won't), he really wasn't into honors.

He was one of those odd people who believe that life is somehow more important than show business.

Which I know is a heresy here in Hollywood, and I'm sorry to bring it up here in the very Bowel of Hollywood, but I can hear his voice saying, "Oh, very nice, very useful, a posthumous award... Where am I supposed to put it? What's next for me then? A posthumous Grammy? An ex-knighthood? An 'After-Lifetime Achievement Award'?"

He's going to need a whole new shelf up there.

***************

I think he would prefer to be inducted "posthumorously" because he loved comedians – poor, sick, sad, deranged, lovable puppies that we are – because they, like him, had the ability to say the wrong thing at the right time, which is what we call humor.

He put Monty Python on here at the Hollywood Bowl, and he paid for the movie, The Life of Brian, because he wanted to see it. Still the most anybody has ever paid for a cinema ticket.

His life was filled with laughter, and even his death was filled with laughter.

In the hospital, he asked the nurses to put fish and chips in his I.V. The doctor, thinking he was delusional, said to his [Harrison's] son: "Don't worry, we have a medical name for this condition."

Yes, said Dahni, "Humor."

And I'm particularly sorry Dahni isn't here tonight, because I wanted to introduce him by saying "Here comes the son," but, sadly, that opportunity for a truly bad joke has gone, as has Dahni's Christmas present from me.

***************

I was on an island somewhere when a man came up to him and said, "George Harrison. Oh, my god, what are you doing here?"

And he said, "Well, everyone's got to be somewhere."

Well, alas, he isn't here. But we are. And that's the point. This isn't for him. This is for us, because we want to honor him. We want to remember him. We want to say "Thanks, George, for being" and "We really miss you."

***************

So, this is the big drag about posthumous awards: there's no one to give 'em to.

So, I'm gonna keep this and put it next to the one I got last year... No, I'm going to give it to the love of his life -- his dark, sweet lady -- dear wonderful Olivia Harrison, who is with us here tonight. 'Liv, you truly know what it is to be without him.

Thank you, Hollywood Bowl. You do good to honor him. Goodnight.

Related Articles of Interest:
George Harrison's Dying Words
5 Tips for Writing a Successful Eulogy
How to Write a Eulogy or Remembrance Speech

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