I always love how people talk about George Harrison.
This is Jim Keltner, the drummer who has played with George since the early 70's.
It just hurts so bad to know that he's not going to be coming around anymore and calling. I want to hear that beautiful, soft accent. Forget his singing, I mean, I used to just love to just listen to him talk. And all the funny stories about him recently about being the quiet Beatle - he was the most talkative person I know. He didn't stop talking.
But the thing that was beautiful about George was that he always had something to say. I used to see people get their feelings hurt being around him. It was almost as if he couldn't not tell the truth.
What brought you two together?
George always loved Ry Cooder. Ry was a huge influence on him. It was the musical connection, I think, because he used to always talk about Ry and his music to me when we first met. He was also Bob Dylan's biggest fan. He could quote the lyrics to practically any Dylan song that you came up with. So I think that was a good, solid connection between the two of us - my association with Bob and Ry. And then, of course, when I started playing with John Lennon, that went a long way, too - because to describe George's relationship with John is to say that John was truly his big brother. Now I've heard Paul say he felt like George was his little baby brother. And that was very touching to hear that just recently. But I know that in fact John was older than both of them, and John was kind of the big brother to the whole deal. George was very, very heavily influenced by John, all of John's thinking and the way John did things in the world, and the way he handled his Beatledom, you know. I think that George was very affected by that. I got to have the best of all of that by being friends with both of them, and it's just been a tremendous ride. I can't ever describe properly what it's like to have been so close with all those guys. With George there was a closeness, like really, truly a brother. I mean, that's such a cliché.
Was it meaningful for you to have spent some time with him at the end of his life?
Oh, God, you can't imagine. My whole deal with George was that I never gave up for a minute, not even till the very last second. We saw him on Sunday, and he died on Thursday, and I didn't believe it. When we left him that day, we were walking three feet off the ground as we got to the car. We had been talking and laughing with him a little bit, and he seemed to have rallied and had his strength, and it was just so wonderful. God, it was just fantastic: "Hi, Jimmy." It just was such a great gift. That's what I'm holding onto. Eric Idle was there one night. When Eric walked in, George just beamed. He started laughing, and he raised his hand to Eric and held his hand, and was actually laughing. I will never forget that moment in my entire life. He was such a huge Eric Idle fan. Just the thought of Eric made him laugh. He was always quoting Eric. And so to see Eric walk in and have George just brighten up like that and start laughing, it was just fantastic.
He seemed to die as he lived, with remarkable dignity.
The guy just had a way of handling everything so beautifully. He was deep with his religion, with his spiritual side, and even though we don't share the same religion, I believe that God must be blessing him immensely right now. And he never changed, he never wavered. He was always talking about how great one of these days it's going to be to get out of these old bodies.
Anything else you'd like to say about him?
To me he was just George. He was just George, my beautiful, beautiful friend, who I kind of took for granted over the years. Then, when he passed on, I was shocked to see the whole world eulogizing him over and over. I never thought of him as this icon. He wasn't any of those things. John and George were both like that. Here I come into their lives, and I'm going, "Oh, man, hey, what was this like" and "What was that like?" Beatle this, Beatle that, and they wouldn't have it, you know. They finally instilled upon me that, hey, Jimmy, you know, we're not Beatles anymore. They were trying to break that, bust that in two, so that they could move on and do something else.