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George Harrison‘s son, Dhani, grew up around a lot of good music; it was unavoidable. From Dhani’s perspective, though, his life was ordinary. He thought his father “pushed buttons for a living” and had no idea George helped make Yellow Submarine.

Eventually, Dhani learned about his famous father. George kept Dhani out of the spotlight because he wanted his son to have a good childhood, unlike some musicians’ children.

Once Dhani knew about his past and fame, though, George never pushed music on him or tried to get him to follow in his footsteps. That choice was up to Dhani. He took a long time to decide.

George Harrison with his wife, Olivia, and their son, Dhani, at LAX Airport in 1988.
George Harrison, his wife, Olivia, and their son, Dhani | Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images

The former Beatle didn’t want his son to grow up in the spotlight like John Lennon’s kids

After Dhani was born in 1978, George and his wife, Olivia, decided to keep him as much away from the spotlight as possible. They wanted him to have a normal childhood. That’s also why George waited a while to tell Dhani he was a Beatle. George told After Nine it was unfortunate that John Lennon’s kids had grown up in the height of publicity and hadn’t gotten a chance to be kids.

“John’s first son was at the height of Beatlemania, Julian, and his second son is growing up in the height of publicity or whatever it’s called because Yoko is pushing him there,” George said. “I mean she’s putting him in the papers and putting him on the television and putting him in Michael Jackson’s house.

“You know, different strokes for different folks. I think they should let ’em have a bit of peace and be kids and just play as kids. Everybody wants to know about and find out about your kids, but I think that’s unfair on them. It’s not normal anyway, having a dad who’s an ex-Beatle, living in a sort of wacky castle. That’s not normal.

“But to him it is normal, and within that framework, he’s still-he’s a good boy and knows that there’s people who aren’t as fortunate, and he’s sensitive to the other things that are happening in the world. He’s not just like, you know, some pampered little horror, like precocious and that. He’d good; I think he’s OK.”

Dhani didn’t exactly know what his father did in the recording studio. However, George let him hang out with him there. “I got involved, he taught me how to make records from an early age,” Dhani told Daily Mail.

“I was always trying to be with the big kids, and the big kids at my house were like (ELO frontman) Jeff Lynne. You’d come home and it was like, ‘Bob Dylan’s here.’ It’s hard to get a bit of perspective on, like, ‘How did your school test go today?'”

Dhani told NPR, “It offers you a different perspective on life to have these people around the house. It made going to school easier, because you wouldn’t take yourself so seriously.”

George Harrison’s son, Dhani, waited to choose his path after seeing how other musicians’ children were treated in the press

Dhani grew up around a lot of music, but that doesn’t mean George pressured him into following in his footsteps. Although, he did bring his son to events. At eight, Dhani watched his father’s performance at 1987’s Prince’s Trust Concert. When he was 12, he performed with George during a show on his 1991 Japanese tour.

Dhani later told iNews, “The first time I played on stage was with my dad at Tokyo Dome baseball arena in front of 50,000 people when I was 12. My joke to my mates was always that I’m working my way back down to playing in a pub in front of four people. Do your music career in reverse. Living the nightmare.”

However, Dhani initially resisted going into the family business. Straight out of college, he got a job as an aerodynamicist for the British sports car company McLaren. Those plans flew out the window when Sept. 11 happened while his father received cancer treatment in his last months. They put everything in perspective.

“I did everything I could to not be a musician,” Dhani told Billboard. “I went to university (Brown), I worked as a designer, I competed in Olympic sport (rowing)… and I ended up being a musician. It’s in the DNA, I guess.”

Dhani knew he wanted to make music and began helping his father record his last album, Brainwashed. However, he didn’t know what to do after that. Choosing his path was hard, considering how the press talked about other musicians’ children. Dhani was careful.

“I pretty much lived in the studio with my dad. I was on the Travelling Wilburys’ album when I was eight, but I kind of waited for a long time to choose my way because I have seen how utterly brutalised the other children have been in the press,” Dhani told the Telegraph.

“Julian’s first record was great but it was produced in a very similar style to his dad, and consequently everyone compares it. You’re never going to come out of that well. So I kept my head down.”


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George’s son entered his music career cautiously

Dhani told the Telegraph that finishing Brainwashed after his father died helped him grief. “I was very empty after my father passed away,” he said. “It was an emotional time, as it would be for anyone, but to be in the studio every day was kind of cathartic and healing and it just seemed very natural to continue.”

However, George’s son treaded carefully into the music industry. “My position is quite a rare position, having my dad and everything,” he told The Line of Best Fit. “I didn’t get to play gigs in a pub in front of four people, I didn’t get that chance to find out who you are from the age of 15 or 16 without having people drawing attention or comparisons.”

Dhani wanted to establish himself without the help of his famous father’s name. “I always knew that if I was going to do anything and be taken seriously in my life, I had to work and work very, very hard,” Dhani told Daily Mail. “Because you can get a foot in the door by being George Harrison’s son, but you can’t stay there.”

“If you are a family butcher, serving customers since 1870, no one goes, ‘Oh, I’m not sure if their steak is as good as their dad’s’,” he told the Telegraph. “In almost any profession, even if you’re the kid of an actor, people are very supportive and want to see the next generation.”

“But in music, for some reason, people tend to be very sceptical. It’s funny, because music is one of those things it is natural to go into. You hear it so much growing up. It kind of permeates you and eventually you spew out some music of your own.

“There’s a whole Sixties generation whose kids are making music now, but it would be hard not to. It seems obvious.”

Eventually, Dhani started thenewno2, which he thought would “throw people off the scent.” It worked for a bit. After that, Dhani made film and TV scores with the band and released his first solo album, IN // PARALLEL. Whether his father’s name helped him get to where he is now, Dhani loves making music.