They’re both two of the greatest songwriters of all time.
George Harrison: a former member of the pop cultural phenomenon The Beatles whose creativity flourished upon their break-up, having stepped out of the shadow of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
Paul Simon: the creative force behind folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel whose harmonic, humanistic songwriting made a similar impact throughout the 1960s, though he was very much the fulcrum of their success.
Both Harrison and Simon left behind the vehicle which made them popular, traversing unknown territory as solo artists, and in that they could relate to each other.
The pair eventually became good friends – Paul Simon didn’t only admire George’s talent, but also his ability to diffuse the furore of fame around him, remaining uniquely humble.
But George – despite consistently writing, recording, and releasing albums throughout the decade after The Beatles split – often ignored the spotlight.
In one instance, which would become his first television appearance in several years, Paul Simon convinced Harrison to join him for a gorgeous duet of ‘Here Comes The Sun’ in 1976.
The rare appearance together on the long-running US comedy show Saturday Night Live would spark a friendship that lasted until George died.
On 20th November 1976, Paul Simon was chosen as SNL host and musical guest, performing recent singles ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’, ’50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’, and the Simon & Garfunkel classic ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’.
Bringing along George for a duet of ‘Here Comes The Sun’ was certainly a surprise, given his reputation for avoiding such programmes.
Yet, he even mucked in for several of the skits, one of which riffed on the recurring joke that the show’s producer Lorne Michaels made about reuniting the Fab Four for a ludicrously small fee.
Appearing together for four songs during the programme – two which were pre-recorded – George and Paul sat together on stools with acoustic guitars in hand.
It might’ve made more sense for George to perform one of his solo songs, though, ‘Here Comes The Sun’ from The Beatles’ 1969 album Abbey Road remains as a fan favourite even today.
Their chemistry was very evidently from the get-go, as they traded verses throughout the peaceful rendition.
There was even time for the pair to sing together on one of Paul Simon’s songs too – the timeless ‘Homeward Bound’, from Simon & Garfunkel’s 1966 Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.
Fans of the two artists might’ve hoped that this could’ve sparked a potential jaunt in the studio together.
Sadly, it would never come to fruition, despite the chemistry that they share both musically and in terms of their kinship.
After Harrison’s death on 29th November 2001, Paul Simon reflected upon his relationship and the performance with George, saying: “It was an effortless collaboration.”
“The mesh of his guitar and voice with my playing and singing gave our duet an ease and musicality that made me realise how intrinsic and subtle his contribution was to the Beatles’ brilliant creative weave.”
“He made musicians sound good without calling attention to himself.”
In 2014, Paul Simon appeared on the late-night talk show Conan, and discussed his friendship with George.
“He was an extraordinary guy; everybody knows that. Amazing person, not just a musician but really brave, open, kind.”
“Just a certain percentage of him was Beatles, but the rest, he was just regular. Just interested in life, interested in the world, interested in the mind. A pleasure to hang out with him,” Simon added.
“He had lots of ukuleles. He loved to play the ukulele, so you’d just give him a ukulele and say, let’s play. He had a great jukebox.”
“His jukebox was full of all the music he listened to as a kid, which is pretty much what I listened to too, but with a slight English variation on it,” Simon continued.