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George Harrison Reportedly Refused Royal Honor Before His Death

George Harrison

According to correspondence recently unearthed by the U.K.’s Daily Mail, long-simmering resentments between former Beatles may have prompted George Harrison to turn down a distinguished award from the royal family before his death.

The Mail’s report (obtained via NME) reveals an exchange between Harrison and the crown, in which he’s offered an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) that was to be announced during Britain’s New Year Honours List of 2000. The plan was to credit Harrison for being “a member of a band that many people would say is the best thing that Britain has ever produced, and possibly the best in the world, the Beatles” — all of which is true, and not a little bit flattering.

For Harrison, however, it was actually something of an insult; as the Mail points out, Paul McCartney was awarded a knighthood in 1997, and given the occasionally prickly relationship between the two, the paper’s sources suggest Harrison saw the less prestigious OBE as an insult. “Whoever it was who decided to offer him the OBE and not the knighthood was extraordinarily insensitive,” journalist Ray Connolly told the Mail. “George would have felt insulted — and with very good reason.”

For those of us in the U.S., the whole thing might seem awfully silly, both in terms of 20th-century knighthoods as well as decades-old songwriting grudges — and it’s also somewhat disheartening to imagine the mystically inclined and even-tempered Harrison getting caught up in something as petty as whose royal honors are bigger. On the other hand, relationships between former bandmates can be awfully complicated, and every artist craves validation on some level. In the end, whatever the truth behind this story might be, what really matters is the music.

Next: Top 10 George Harrison Songs

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