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'Devastated' McCartney leads tributes

LONDON (CNN) -- Friends, including Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, paid tribute to Beatle George Harrison as they struggled to come to terms with his death, saying he was a loving man who kept his sense of humor till the end.

Former Beatle Paul McCartney, who was childhood pals with Harrison before they went on to form the Beatles with John Lennon and, eventually, Ringo Starr, said he is "devastated" by the news.

"I am devastated and very, very sad," McCartney said. "We knew he'd been ill for a long time. He was a lovely guy and a very brave man and had a wonderful sense of humor. He is really just my baby brother."

Speaking outside his home in St. John's Wood in northwest London, an emotional McCartney -- whose wife Linda died of cancer in 1998 -- said, "He will be missed sorely by all his friends and loved ones.

"I remember all the beautiful times we had together and I'd like to remember him like that because I know he would like to be remembered like that," McCartney said. "He was a great guy, full of love for humanity but he didn't suffer fools gladly. He's a great man. He'll be sorely missed by everyone.

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"To me he's just my little baby brother," McCartney said. "We grew up together and I knew him in my old home town of Liverpool and we just had so many beautiful times together and that's what I'm going to remember him by."

Starr told the Press Association, "We will miss George for his sense of love, his sense of music and his sense of laughter."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said, ""Their music, the band and the personalities of the band were the background to our lives."

Yoko: 'Grand knowing you'

Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, said Harrison brought magic to the lives of those who knew him. Lennon was murdered in 1980.

"My deep love and concern goes to Olivia and Dhani," she said of Harrison's wife and son. "The three of them were the closest, most loving family you can imagine.

"I hope the press will keep their respectful distance and give Olivia and Dhani the space they need now, " Ono said. "George has given so much to us in his lifetime and continues to do so even after his passing, with his music, his wit and his wisdom."

"Thank you George, it was grand knowing you," Ono said.

Martin: 'He has entered a higher state'

Beatles record producer Sir George Martin said, "George was a wonderful musician and a fine human being.

"He was the baby of the Beatles, and unlike Paul and John, he had a hard time developing his songwriting talent and making his music alone.

"But he worked hard and with enormous patience, building his music meticulously, and he eventually came to write one of the greatest love songs of all time, 'Something.'

"George was a true friend, intensely loyal, caring deeply for those he loved and he inspired much love in return. Now I believe, as he did, that he has entered a higher state. God give him peace."

Palin: 'Great sense of humour'

Actor Michael Palin, who met the Beatle after Harrison sent a letter to the BBC to say how much he enjoyed Monty Python's first show in 1969, said he had a "great wit, a great sense of humor."

Palin said the mystical side to Harrison was always balanced by a "sort of nice, down-to-earth Liverpudlian attitude to life."

"There was a mixture there and it was a rather pleasant mixture, and I think it helped him a lot in the last few years, that he had his spirituality," Palin said. "Death held no terrors for George whatsoever, and he still got a lot out of life and found the humor was there right up to when the last time I saw him, which was in August."

Other comments

Ray Connolly, journalist and writer:

"I think he was the musical cement which embellished these great songs by Lennon and McCartney.

"If you think of 'A Hard Day's Night' and that opening chord, that one chord, that was George, and that made the song," Connolly said. "And so often, there were so many riffs and additions to the songs that made them so wonderful. So he was incredibly important in that sense -- the quiet Beatle who was behind the other two ... and yet he was there, working away quietly, the best musician, the best guitarist among them and he made their songs even better."

Richard Porter, Beatles tour guide:

"I think he was the soul of the Beatles; he was the spiritual one," said Porter. "He was the real Beatle in a way. He wasn't the spin doctor like Paul McCartney. When they did the Beatles 'Anthology,' he was the one that told the truth about the group."

Alan Light, Spin Magazine:

"I think the single thing that George brought was his interest in and introduction of Indian music into rock and roll," Light said. "I think any exploration of non-Western music in pop was a direct result of George Harrison picking up sitar, getting interested in Indian music and meditation and leading Beatles to India in 1966-'67. That is a pretty revolutionary thing.

"And though people think about Lennon and McCartney as sort of the A-list of Beatles and George as filling in a spot, he was remarkable guitar player, tremendous songwriter, and he really shaped a lot of the direction of where the band went," Light said.

Martin Lewis, Beatles historian:

"As a guitar player, he was exemplary," Lewis said. "So many musicians talked about how they wanted the George Harrison sound. The group the Byrds, in America, listened to Harrison and said, 'I want to be like that.' So many guitar players today emulate Harrison's guitar playing. You listen to his playing in the '60s, he doesn't sound out of date at all. It is as contemporary today as it was then."


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