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Olivia Harrison

Olivia Harrison

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Olivia Harrison
Harrison in October 2011
Born Olivia Trinidad Arias
(1948-05-18) 18 May 1948 (age 70)
Mexico City, Mexico
Nationality American
George Harrison
(m. 1978; his death 2001)
Children Dhani Harrison

Olivia Trinidad Harrison (née Arias; born 18 May 1948) is a Mexican-American author and film producer, and the widow of musician George Harrison of the Beatles. She first worked in the music industry in Los Angeles, for A&M Records, where she met George and then helped run his Dark Horse record label. In 1990, she launched the Romanian Angel Appeal to raise funds for the thousands of orphans left abandoned in Romania after the fall of Communism there. Following her husband's death in 2001, Harrison has continued his international aid efforts through projects in partnership with UNICEF, and has worked on film, book and music releases related to his legacy.

Harrison shared George's spiritual preoccupations and, from the mid 1970s, her influence was reflected in a renewed optimism in his music. At their Friar Park home in December 1999, she overpowered a knife-wielding intruder who had repeatedly stabbed George. Her actions were recognised as having saved her husband's life. Among Harrison's film projects, her production of Concert for George won the Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video in 2005, and her co-production of Martin Scorsese's 2011 documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World won an Emmy Award in the category "Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special". She authored books to accompany both these films, and in 2017 compiled a revised edition of George's 1980 autobiography, I, Me, Mine. She is the mother of his son Dhani Harrison, also a musician.


Childhood and music industry career

Arias was born in Mexico City.[1][2][3] Her father, Zeke, was a dry cleaner, and her mother, Mary Louise, worked as a seamstress. Arias's siblings include Peter and Louise.[1] The family moved to California,[2] where she attended Hawthorne High School in the 1960s.[1]

1974 trade ad for Dark Horse Records

In 1972, she began working for A&M Records, at the former site of Charlie Chaplin Studios in Hollywood.[4] By 1974, as a member of the marketing department,[5] she regularly liaised by long-distance telephone with George Harrison, whose new record label, Dark Horse, was distributed by A&M.[3] Impressed with Arias, Harrison arranged for her to work exclusively for Dark Horse Records.[6] The pair met for the first time in October 1974[7] and soon became romantically involved.[3] Until the late 1970s, Arias worked with a roster of artists that included Ravi Shankar, Splinter, Stairsteps, Attitudes, Keni Burke and Henry McCullough.[4] According to author Robert Rodriguez, she was "a capable and even-tempered administrator, ably handling the routine chaos involved with setting up a record label and dealing with all manner of personalities".[3]

Before meeting Harrison, Arias had studied meditation[8] with the Indian guru Maharaj-ji.[9] Their shared interest in spirituality, together with a lifestyle incorporating vegetarianism, had a calming effect on Harrison,[3][5] whose reliance on drugs and alcohol Arias helped curb.[10] His 1976 album Thirty Three & 1/3 conveyed a more contented outlook[11] in which he expressed his faith without the disapproving tone that, for many music critics, had marred his previous two albums.[12] While accompanying Harrison on his promotional campaign for Thirty Three & 1/3, Arias told an interviewer: "We have a nice relationship. When you strive for something higher in the next world, you have a much easier time in this one."[9]

Marriage to George Harrison

Arias gave birth to the couple's son, musician Dhani Harrison, in August 1978.[13] The following month, Olivia and George married in a private ceremony at the Henley-on-Thames Registry Office in England.[14] Their contentment during this period was again reflected in George's music,[15] much of which he wrote at their holiday property on Maui in Hawaii.[16] His self-titled 1979 album includes the song "Dark Sweet Lady", which he said best captured the renewal Arias had provided in his life.[17][nb 1]

Following John Lennon's murder in New York in December 1980, Olivia, George and Dhani spent much of the early 1980s travelling in the Pacific region, alternately residing in Hana on Maui, and Hamilton Island in the north-east of Australia.[19] As the wife of a former Beatle, Olivia largely stayed out of the public spotlight.[20] During the late 1980s, she supported George's campaign to save Henley's Regal Cinema from redevelopment by the John Lewis supermarket chain,[21] and campaigned with Ringo Starr's wife, Barbara Bach, on behalf of Parents for Safe Food.[22]

It was sort of a gradual assault on my conscience … I decided that perhaps we should try to raise some money. I went to Romania and was just overwhelmed, devastated and shocked by the starvation.[20]

– Harrison on her motivation for starting the Romanian Angel Appeal in 1990

In 1990, she fully embraced the media spotlight,[20] in reaction to the plight of around 100,000 Romanian orphans left abandoned amid the chaos that followed the deposing of Romania's Communist leader, Nicolae Ceaușescu.[23] After visiting Romania in early April, she said she was "overwhelmed, devastated and shocked" by the suffering she had witnessed.[24] That same month, she founded the Romanian Angel Appeal to provide aid to the children,[25] having enlisted support from the other ex-Beatles' wives: Bach, Linda McCartney and Yoko Ono.[22] Harrison helped her promote the charity on British television and radio,[26] and, with his Traveling Wilburys bandmates, recorded a cover version of the song "Nobody's Child" to help raise funds for the orphans.[27]

In October 1992, she wrote to the Guardian newspaper to express her disgust with author Geoffrey Giuliano, who had recently published a biography of her husband. She accused Giuliano of falsifying a brief acquaintance with George into a friendship and criticised his depiction of Paul McCartney, whom Giuliano had dismissed as "vacuous and shallow".[28]

On 30 December 1999, George and Olivia were attacked by a deranged man who broke into their Henley home, Friar Park. George went downstairs after hearing noises. Moments later, George returned, followed by the intruder, and was stabbed multiple times. Olivia attacked the assailant with a fireplace poker and a heavy table lamp,[29] and he turned on her. After the local police arrived and detained the intruder, the Harrisons were treated for their wounds at a hospital. The man was quoted as saying he was on a "mission sent by God", and that the Beatles were "witches".[30][31] The home invasion was a front-page news story around the world, with some headlines recognising Olivia as having "saved" her husband.[32][nb 2] The attack followed the arrest of a female stalker who had broken into the Harrisons' Maui home on 23 December.[35] In a 2005 interview, Olivia said of the 30 December incident: "I remember everything about it, every millisecond. I was terrified, but it is one of those things that you just do in a heightened state of awareness so that you can never really forget any of it."[36]

George's death and aftermath

George's injuries from the Friar Park attack were more severe than was reported in the press and led to the removal of a portion of one of his lungs.[37] Within a year, the cancer that he had beaten through treatment in 1998 returned in the form of lung cancer.[38] Olivia and Dhani, together with the Shankars and friends of George's from the Hare Krishna movement, were at his bedside when he died in Los Angeles on 29 November 2001.[39][40] She later remembered him in a Sunday Times interview: "George was the funniest man I knew. When he died, it was like, 'Oh, no, the party's over' … He didn't put up with any crabbiness – other than his own."[41]

Love Theatre, at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas. Cirque du Soleil's Love is among the projects overseen by Harrison in her role as co-controller of the Beatles' commercial rights.

Harrison spent a period in seclusion while mourning her loss.[36] In 2004, she alleged that Gilbert Lederman,[42] a doctor at Staten Island University Hospital, where George received experimental radiation therapy before travelling to Los Angeles, had acted inappropriately by forcing him to listen to the doctor's young son playing guitar and, while in pain and lacking his mental faculties, autograph the boy's guitar.[43] The suit, which also addressed Lederman's discussion of the former Beatle's condition with the media, was settled out of court with a stipulation that the guitar be destroyed.[44][nb 3]

Following her husband's death, Olivia Harrison joined Ono (Lennon's widow), McCartney and Starr in the foursome controlling the lucrative Beatles financial empire.[46] In June 2006, she attended the Las Vegas launch of the Beatles' Love stage show, a project George had initiated through his friendship with Guy Laliberte of Cirque du Soleil.[47] She appeared on-stage at Microsoft's E3 press conference in June 2009, again with Ono, McCartney and Starr, to promote The Beatles: Rock Band video game.[48]

Film production, album reissues and book projects

Olivia Harrison produced the Concert for George tribute concert in 2002 at London's Royal Albert Hall, which featured Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne, Billy Preston, Tom Petty, Shankar, Starr and McCartney, along with Dhani. Proceeds from the event were given to George's Material World Charitable Foundation. Harrison's video production for the Concert for George film received the Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video in 2005.[49] She wrote the introduction for the 2002 reissue of George's autobiography, I, Me, Mine, and authored the book Concert for George: A Celebration of the Life of George Harrison in 2005.

Ravi Shankar in 2009

Harrison has overseen reissue campaigns of her late husband's recording catalogue.[34][50] In early 2005, she operated out of an office in London's Knightsbridge area;[36] while in Los Angeles at that time, she used Dark Horse's offices in Santa Monica.[51] She helped Dhani compile the Dark Horse Years box set in 2004[51] and wrote an introduction on the history of Dark Horse Records in the accompanying booklet.[52] She co-produced the Concert for Bangladesh Revisited documentary accompanying the 2005 reissue of the Concert for Bangladesh album and film.[53] She was reissue producer (with Dhani) of Living in the Material World in 2006.[54] In 2010, she served as compilation producer of George's work with Ravi Shankar, in a box set titled Collaborations, a project she described as a "labor of love".[55] She also helped design the packaging[56] and restore footage of a 1974 Music Festival from India performance from the Royal Albert Hall.[55]

She co-produced the Martin Scorsese documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011), and appeared with Scorsese at Cannes in 2010 and in New York City in the summer of 2011 promoting it.[57] In a radio interview with Leonard Lopate for WNYC, she said that the film had involved five years of work and that it was a project George had hoped to undertake himself after working on the Beatles Anthology series in the mid 1990s.[58] She also authored the accompanying book, George Harrison: Living in the Material World,[58][59] published by Abrams.[60] The film won two awards at the 2012 Emmy Awards,[61] with Harrison and her fellow producers being recognised in the category "Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special".[62]

For the 2014 reissue of George's Apple Records solo albums, overseen by Dhani,[63] Harrison directed a seven-minute film, The Apple Years, which was included on the DVD in the eight-disc box set of the same name.[64] She compiled a revised edition of I, Me, Mine (subtitled The Expanded Edition), which was published by Genesis Publications in February 2017. The updated work involved her searching for George's handwritten lyrics and notes for songs that he had omitted from the 1980 book[65] or had written in the years following its original publication.[18] She told Rolling Stone magazine, referring to her dedication to preserving his legacy: "I have an overdeveloped sense of duty. It obviously means everything to me."[66]


Harrison has continued to develop George's philanthropic initiatives,[34] including the Material World Charitable Foundation, which he established in 1973.[67] In late 2005, coinciding with the reissue of the album and film from the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh, she established The George Harrison Fund for UNICEF with an initial focus on programs in Bangladesh.[68] As of July 2015, the fund had also assisted children affected by civil conflict, natural disasters or poverty in Brazil, India, Angola, Romania, the Horn of Africa, Burma and Nepal.[69]

One of the fund's initiatives has been to introduce floating schools, which allow children in remote areas of Bangladesh that are affected by seasonal flooding to continue attending school.[70] In her work as a UNICEF sponsor, she visited Bangladesh in February 2011[71] to oversee the fund's ongoing efforts there,[72] and in 2015 promoted the UNICEF Kid Power program.[73]


  1. ^ She has cited "Your Love Is Forever" from the same album as one of her favourites, along with his 1970 song "Run of the Mill".[18]
  2. ^ Referring to her bravery during the ordeal, Tom Petty joked in a fax to George: "Aren't you glad you married a Mexican girl?"[33] According to Rodriguez, further to her "rescu[ing] George from the perils of rock stardom" in the 1970s, Olivia's actions represented the second time she had saved his life.[34]
  3. ^ In another episode, in January 2002, Olivia launched a lawsuit against her sister's ex-husband, Carl Roles, for selling items of memorabilia he had stolen from the Harrisons' home in the late 1970s. Roles announced that the items were for sale on the day after George died.[45]


  1. ^ a b c Harry 2003, p. 223.
  2. ^ a b Tillery 2011, p. 115.
  3. ^ a b c d e Rodriguez 2010, p. 424.
  4. ^ a b Harrison, Olivia (2004). "The History of Dark Horse 1976–1992". The Dark Horse Years 1976–1992 (DVD booklet). George Harrison. Dark Horse Records/EMI. pp. 4, 7. 
  5. ^ a b Huntley 2006, p. 120.
  6. ^ Greene 2006, pp. 220–21.
  7. ^ Harrison 2002, p. 1.
  8. ^ Greene 2006, p. 220.
  9. ^ a b The Editors of Rolling Stone 2002, p. 133.
  10. ^ Tillery 2011, p. 117.
  11. ^ Huntley 2006, p. 144.
  12. ^ Schaffner 1978, p. 192.
  13. ^ Badman 2001, p. 225.
  14. ^ Harry 2003, pp. 82, 223.
  15. ^ The Editors of Rolling Stone 2002, p. 188.
  16. ^ Rodriguez 2010, p. 175.
  17. ^ Brown, Mick (19 April 1979). "A Conversation With George Harrison". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 10 August 2018. 
  18. ^ a b Gensler, Andy (3 April 2017). "Olivia Harrison Reveals Ringo Recently Stumbled Upon a Lost George Harrison Song". Billboard. Archived from the original on 3 April 2017. Retrieved 28 July 2018. 
  19. ^ Tillery 2011, pp. 127–28.
  20. ^ a b c Harry 2003, p. 224.
  21. ^ Harry 2003, p. 91.
  22. ^ a b Doggett 2011, p. 300.
  23. ^ Tillery 2011, p. 135.
  24. ^ Harry 2003, pp. 224, 326.
  25. ^ Harry 2003, p. 326.
  26. ^ Harry 2003, pp. 99–100.
  27. ^ Tillery 2011, pp. 135–36.
  28. ^ Badman 2001, pp. 486, 487.
  29. ^ The Editors of Rolling Stone 2002, p. 49.
  30. ^ The Greedy Bastard Diary: A Comic Tour of America, pp 277–278, Eric Idle, Harper Entertainment, 2005, ISBN 0-06-075864-3
  31. ^ Udovitch, Mim; Wild, David (2 January 2002). "Tom Petty Remembers George". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 19 June 2008. Retrieved 31 October 2008. 
  32. ^ Badman 2001, p. 649.
  33. ^ Tillery 2011, pp. 145–46.
  34. ^ a b c Rodriguez 2010, p. 425.
  35. ^ Badman 2001, pp. 647, 653–54.
  36. ^ a b c Moir, Jan (24 January 2005). "'I Will Miss Him Until My Dying Day'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 August 2018. 
  37. ^ Doggett 2011, pp. 328–29.
  38. ^ The Editors of Rolling Stone 2002, pp. 49–50.
  39. ^ Harry 2003, p. 119.
  40. ^ Tillery 2011, p. 148.
  41. ^ Doggett 2011, pp. 333, 370.
  42. ^ Goldman, Andrew (21 May 2005). "The Doctor Can't Help Himself". New York. Archived from the original on 20 August 2009. Retrieved 31 May 2010. 
  43. ^ Doggett 2011, pp. 330–31.
  44. ^ Glaberson, William (17 January 2004). "Harrison Estate Settles Suit Over Guitar Autographed by Dying Beatle". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2010. 
  45. ^ Harry 2003, pp. 119–20.
  46. ^ Doggett 2011, pp. 11, 349.
  47. ^ Doggett 2011, pp. 342–43.
  48. ^ Radosh, Daniel (11 August 2009), "While My Guitar Gently Beeps", The New York Times (New York ed.) (published 16 August 2009), pp. MM26, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 26 August 2009 
  49. ^ Past Winners Search Grammy.com
  50. ^ Doggett 2011, p. 333.
  51. ^ a b Lewis, Randy (9 March 2005). "Here now, she lives for George". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 August 2018. 
  52. ^ "The Dark Horse Years – Out Today!". georgeharrison.com. 1 March 2004. Retrieved 14 August 2018. 
  53. ^ The Concert for Bangladesh Revisited with George Harrison and Friends, DVD credits, Apple Corps, 2005 (directed by Claire Ferguson; produced by Olivia Harrison, Jonathan Clyde & Jo Human).
  54. ^ Living in the Material World, CD credits, EMI Records, 2006 (produced by Dhani & Olivia Harrison).
  55. ^ a b Harrison, Olivia (18 October 2010). "George Harrison and Ravi Shankar Box Set 'Collaborations' Is a Labor of Love for Me". Spinner. Archived from the original on 2 January 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  56. ^ "Collaborations Box Set" > Album credits". georgeharrison.com. Retrieved 14 August 2014. 
  57. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (23 September 2011). "Within Him, Without Him". (limited free access) The New York Times. Retrieved 25 September 2011. 
  58. ^ a b Lopate, Leonard (The Leonard Lopate Show) (5 November 2011). "George Harrison: Living in the Material World (Interview with Olivia Harrison)". wnyc.org. Retrieved 12 August 2018. 
  59. ^ Rabey, Steve (9 October 2011). "George Harrison, 'Living In The Material World'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 12 August 2018. 
  60. ^ "George Harrison: Living in the Material World – in pictures". theguardian.com. 4 October 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2018. 
  61. ^ "George Harrison: Living In The Material World". emmys.com. 18 July 2012. Retrieved 9 August 2018. 
  62. ^ "Nominations Search ('Living in the Material World')". emmys.com. Retrieved 9 August 2018. 
  63. ^ "Announcing The Apple Years 1968–75 Box set – Released 22nd September", georgeharrison.com, 2 September 2014 (retrieved 22 September 2014).
  64. ^ Joe Marchese, "Give Me Love: George Harrison’s 'Apple Years' Are Collected On New Box Set", The Second Disc, 2 September 2014 (retrieved 4 September 2014).
  65. ^ Lewis, Randy (24 February 2017). "Olivia Harrison reflects on the music and a book marking what would have been 'quiet Beatle's' 74th birthday". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 July 2018. 
  66. ^ Appleford, Steve (2 March 2017). "Inside George Harrison's Newly Expanded Memoir". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2 March 2017. Retrieved 10 August 2018. 
  67. ^ Doggett 2011, p. 207.
  68. ^ Bonham Carter, Rachel (1 August 2006). "George Harrison honoured on 35th anniversary of 'Concert for Bangladesh'". unicef.org. Retrieved 9 August 2018. 
  69. ^ "Harrison Fund for UNICEF invests in innovative program to promote fitness and save lives". concertforbangladesh.com. 31 July 2015. Retrieved 9 August 2018. 
  70. ^ "Innovative project with UNICEF provides access to school for over 2,000 children in remote Bangladesh". concertforbangladesh.com. 1 September 2014. Retrieved 9 August 2018. 
  71. ^ "February 2011, Olivia Harrison visits Bangladesh". concertforbangladesh.com. 16 March 2011. Retrieved 9 August 2018. 
  72. ^ Sharmin, Arifa S. (15 March 2011). "Olivia Harrison keeps George Harrison's legacy alive on visit to Bangladesh". unicef.org. Retrieved 9 August 2018. 
  73. ^ "Olivia Harrison speaks to global UNICEF leaders and UNICEF Kid Power school in Boston". concertforbangladesh.com. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 9 August 2018. 


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