The George Harrison song Eric Clapton rejected

George Harrison

There are few greater honors for a musician than having George Harrison create a song specifically for them. It seems absurd that anyone would turn down the chance to record one of his compositions. However, his close friend Eric Clapton did.

Since the 1960s, the two had been confidantes, with Harrison often inviting Clapton to The Beatles’ recording sessions. The latter famously performed with the Fab Four on ‘When My Guitar Gently Sleeps‘. His musical connection with Harrison developed after The Beatles split up.

Harrison and Clapton occasionally worked, and one of their sessions resulted in The Beatles’ hit single “Here Comes The Sun.” In addition, Harrison’s final tour in 1991 saw him go across Japan for a series of co-headline gigs with former Cream guitarist. Their friendship endured even after his ex-wife, Pattie Boyd, married Clapton, in a wedding in which Harrison also performed.

Perhaps their intense friendship led Clapton to reject ‘Cheer Down,’ though Harrison wrote it for him. At the time, Clapton was recording his eleventh studio album, Journeyman, but didn’t think the song fit his plans.

In 1989, the team found a home for ‘Cheer Down’ on the soundtrack for Lethal Weapon 2, which Clapton was curating then. According to George Harrison, his longtime partner was still hesitant to approve the song, but Clapton decided for him.

There’s a song here when Eric was doing the Journeyman album, and I wrote this song for him. He didn’t use it,” recalled the former Beatle in his book Harrison on Harrison. I believe we tried it, just ran through the song, and at the time, he was working with Michael Kamen on the music for Lethal Weapon 2, and the director Dick Donner heard it and wanted it in the film.”

And Eric didn’t want it – he didn’t want to have a single out from the movie – so Dick Donner asked me if I’d record the song, which I did,” says Donner. “I originally wrote it for Eric, and Tom Petty assisted me in writing the lyrics.” ‘Cheer Down‘ is the name of the song. So here is one of my newest songs from the Live In Japan album.”

Despite turning down the opportunity to make ‘Cheer Down’ his own, Clapton eventually performed the song with Harrison. This happened during their tour in Japan.

To be sure, Clapton’s refusal to embrace ‘Cheer Down’ appears ridiculous. Nonetheless, Harrison’s slide guitar solo on the song is breathtaking, and his voice fits in wonderfully. As a result, while the denial makes little sense, it permitted ‘Cheer Down’ to be recorded by its legal owner.

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