A Brief History
On December 30, 1999, 56 year old former Beatle George Harrison was attacked in his own home by a stranger, later identified as Michael Abram, age 36. Harrison was stabbed more than 40 times in the head and body, and suffered a punctured lung. All that kept Harrison from being killed was his heroic wife, Olivia, who disabled Abram by beating him with a poker and a lamp.
Harrison had already been diagnosed with throat cancer in 1997, and later died of lung and brain cancer in 2001, something he attributed to his long habit of smoking cigarettes. Harrison had recovered from his stab wounds, and died at the house of a friend in Los Angeles at the age of 58, his ashes later scattered in the Ganges and Yomuna Rivers in India. He left an estate of close to $200 million and a legacy of wonderful music made with the Beatles, as a solo artist, and with the Traveling Wilburys.
Harrison had been known as “The quiet Beatle” for his lack of outward flamboyance, and was fascinated with the Hindu culture of Indian mysticism. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame both as a Beatle and as a solo artist, and is considered among the best rock guitarists of all time, ranked #21 by Rolling Stone. Besides his heroic widow, Harrison also left behind a son, Dhani.
Harrison’s attacker, Michael Abram, was diagnosed as a schizophrenic and was hospitalized for 19 months before being released, supposedly cured of his mental illness. Abram was not convicted of a crime on the basis of insanity at the time of the incident. Obviously not everyone had similar views on this news and the specter of John Lennon being gunned down by a nut in 1980 was still at the front of many persons’ minds. Lennon was only 40 years old when murdered in New York.
What our younger readers may not be aware of is that another ex-Beatle, Stuart Sutcliffe, also died quite young, at age 22 in 1962. Sutcliffe had been a founding member of the Beatles and left in July of 1961 to pursue other artistic opportunities. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage from a ruptured aneurysm in the brain. Speculation as to the cause of his brain injury includes the possibility that he was hit in the head during a fight after a Beatles performance in Liverpool in January of 1961.
Like Lennon, Harrison is sorely missed by music fans. With the advancing age of Paul McCartney (73) and Ringo Starr (75) it is hard to say how long we will have any of our Beatles left. (Pete Best was the only other member, fired by the band in 1962 in favor of Ringo as drummer. Best is 74.)
Question for students (and subscribers): Why do people attack celebrities for no good reason? Presumably mental illness, which is illustrative of just how badly we need to reform our approach to mental illness and getting these afflicted people help while keeping the rest of us safe in the meanwhile. Feel free to give us your opinions of what measures society should take to aid the mentally ill and protect the rest of us in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Harrison, Olivia, Mark Holborn, et al. George Harrison: Living in the Material World. Harry N. Abrams, 2011.
Thomson, Graeme. George Harrison: Behind The Locked Door. Omnibus Press, 2013.