George Harrison never shied away from praising his idols and influences, especially Bob Dylan. The former Beatle loved the singer-songwriter and often quoted him like he was some kind of all-knowing deity. George loved everything about Dylan and shuddered to think what the world would've looked like without him. It was one of his biggest nightmares.
George Harrison became friends with Bob Dylan in the late 1960s
George met Dylan with the rest of The Beatles in the early 1960s. He turned the band on to marijuana and inspired some of their tunes. George was especially inspired by Dylan when he chose to switch to electric guitar. He admired that Dylan followed his own path.
The pair grew closer toward the end of the 1960s. George visited Dylan and The Band in Woodstock for Thanksgiving in 1968. The "Blowin' in the Wind" singer was slowly reemerging from his self-imposed exile, which he'd entered in 1966 following a motorcycle accident that left him with a broken neck.
In 1977, George told Crawdaddy (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters) that his friend was unusually quiet and closed off during his stay. George whipped out the guitars to get Dylan out of his shell and asked his friend to write a song with him. The result was "I'd Have You Anytime," which later appeared on George's 1970 triple album, All Things Must Pass.
George explained, "He sang me that song and he was, like, very nervous and shy, and he said, 'What do you think about this song?' And I'd felt very strongly about Bob when I'd been in India years before—the only record I took with me along with all my Indian records was 'Blonde on Blonde.'
"I felt somehow very close to him, or something, you know, because he was so great, so heavy, and so observant about everything. And yet to find him later very nervous and with no confidence…."
Later, in Martin Scorsese's documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, George's wife, Olivia, explained that George was "talking directly to Bob" in "I'd Have You Anytime." It was about wanting Dylan to let him in, and eventually, the singer-songwriter did.
"He was very unabashed and romantic about it in a sense," Olivia said. "He had these love relationships with his friends. He loved them."
George's worst nightmare was a world without Dylan
Eventually, George and Dylan became bandmates in The Traveling Wilburys. Dylan amazed George in the recording studio. The former Beatle often recorded Dylan because he was so amazed. George would also quote Dylan like Scripture.
In 2013's It’s Not Only Rock ‘n’ Roll - Iconic Musicians Reveal The Source Of Their Creativity, Holly George-Warren and Jenny Boyd (George's former sister-in-law) quoted George saying, "[I]f Dylan hadn't said some of the things he did, nobody else was going to say them. Can you imagine what a world it would be if it didn't have a Bob Dylan? It would be awful."
George easily understood Dylan when few could. In 1975, George told Melody Maker (per Cosmic) that Dylan was the "looniest" yet the "most consistent" artist he knew.
"Bob Dylan is the most consistent artist there is," George said. "Even his stuff which people loathe, I like. Every single thing he does represents something that's him. He may write better songs tomorrow, sing high on this album and low on another, go electric or acoustic, go weird or whatever, but the basic thing that causes all this change is an incredible character named Bob Dylan. He's the looniest person I know."
Dylan once expressed his love for George
The "Like a Rolling Stone" singer didn't often express his love for anyone. However, he did reveal his love for the former Beatle once. In a special edition of Rolling Stone, called "Remembering George," published shortly after George's 2001 death, Dylan spoke sweetly about his former friend.
"He was a giant, a great, great soul, with all the humanity, all the wit and humor, all the wisdom, the spirituality, the common sense of a man and compassion for people," Dylan wrote. "He inspired love and had the strength of a hundred men."
Dylan concluded, "He was like the sun, the flowers and the moon, and we will miss him enormously. The world is a profoundly emptier place without him." Leave it to Dylan to be so poetic.
George and Dylan's friendship was one of the best in rock 'n' roll. If only they had more time to collaborate or jam together for their own benefit.
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