LOS ANGELES -- George Harrison, the "quiet Beatle" who added both rock 'n' roll flash and a touch of the mystic to the band's timeless magic, has died. He was 58.
Harrison died at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at a friend's Los Angeles home following a battle with cancer, longtime friend Gavin De Becker told The Associated Press late Thursday. Harrison's wife, Olivia Harrison, and son, Dhani, 24, were with him.
"He left this world as he lived in it, conscious of God, fearless of death, and at peace, surrounded by family and friends," the Harrison family said in a statement. "He often said, 'Everything else can wait but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another."'
With the death of Harrison, the band's lead guitarist, there remain two surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. John Lennon was shot to death by a deranged fan in 1980.
"I am devastated and very, very sad," McCartney told reporters outside his London home Friday. "He was a lovely guy and a very brave man and had a wonderful sense of humor. He is really just my baby brother."
In a statement, Starr said: "George was a best friend of mine. I loved him very much and I will miss him greatly. Both (wife) Barbara and I send our love and light to Olivia and Dhani. We will miss George for his sense of love, his sense of music and his sense of laughter." It wasn't immediately known if there would be a public funeral for Harrison. A private ceremony had already taken place, De Becker said. He wouldn't release details.
In 1998, Harrison, who was once a heavy smoker, disclosed that he had been treated for throat cancer. "It reminds you that anything can happen," he said at the time. The following year, Harrison survived an attack by an intruder who stabbed him several times. In July 2001, he released a statement asking fans not to worry about reports that he was still battling cancer.
The Beatles were four distinct personalities joined as a singular force in the rebellious 1960s, influencing everything from hair styles to music. Whether dropping acid, exploring Eastern mysticism, proclaiming "All You Need is Love," or sending up the squares in the film "A Hard Day's Night," the Beatles inspired millions.
Harrison's guitar work, modeled on Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins among others, was essential.
He often blended with the band's joyous sound, but also rocked out wildly on "Long Tall Sally" and turned slow and dreamy on "Something." His jangly 12-string Rickenbacker was featured in "A Hard Day's Night."
They had their first No. 1 hit single in England, "Please Please Me," in 1963 and conquered the United States the following year through their appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show." In 1999, a survey of American journalists and scholars to find the century's top news stories ranked the 1964 U.S. visit at No. 58.
Originally considered a teen fad in the U.S. press, they eventually became the first rock group to get serious critical attention. In 1965, Life magazine said musical embellishments in their songs "are so adroitly done that musicologists openly wonder if the British lads know what on earth they are doing."
Although his songwriting was overshadowed by the great Lennon-McCartney team, Harrison did contribute such classics as "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something." Harrison also taught the young Lennon how to play the guitar.
"As he said himself, how do you compare with the genius of John and Paul? But he did, very well," rock star and activist Bob Geldof told BBC radio.
His image as the "quiet Beatle" was summed up in the first song he wrote for the band, "Don't Bother Me," which appeared on the group's second album.
But Harrison also had a wry sense of humor that helped shape the Beatles' irreverent charm, memorably fitting in alongside Lennon's cutting wit and Starr's cartoonish appeal.
At their first recording session under George Martin, the producer reportedly asked the young musicians to tell him if they didn't like anything. Harrison's response: "Well, first of all, I don't like your tie." Asked by a reporter what he called the Beatles' famous moptop hairstyle, he quipped, "Arthur."
He always preferred being a musician to being a star, and he soon soured on Beatlemania -- the screaming girls, the wild chases from limos to gigs and back to limos. Like Lennon, his memories of the Beatles were often tempered by what he felt was lost in all the madness.
"There was never anything, in any of the Beatle experiences really, that good: even the best thrill soon got tiring ...," Harrison wrote in his 1979 book, "I, Me, Mine." "Your own space, man, it's so important. That's why we were doomed, because we didn't have any. We were like monkeys in a zoo."
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