In 1988, I was fortunate to have two Top-Ten songs on the Billboard charts: Tell It to My Heart and Prove Your Love, both sung by Taylor Dayne. At the time, I was a staff songwriter with Warner Chappell Music Publishing, but my contract was up and the top brass, looking to sign me up again, took me out to dinner at Mr. Chow’s in L.A.
While at dinner, someone at our table came up and whispered to me that George Harrison was having dinner in the private room upstairs and that she knew George. “I’ll sign any contract you put in front of me,” I told her, “if you introduce me to George Harrison.”
“Come with me,” she said. My heart began to pound and my mind swirled with excitement as I entered a small room with a large round table. George was sitting with his back to me as I entered the upstairs private room. The woman who knew George went up to him and said. “George, I’d like you to meet a songwriter of ours.” George stood up and shook my hand as she said, “George Harrison, Seth Swirsky.”
I said, “George, it’s so nice to meet you…you know we’ve been riding the charts together. Recently, you with “Got My Mind Set On You” and me with “Tell It to My Heart” (which, at the time, was #3 in Britain and #7 in the U.S.).
“Oh, I know your song,” he said. “My son Dhani and I love it!” Did I just hear that, I thought to myself?
I told George that I had been sitting around the pool at the Sunset Marquis that afternoon listening to one of my favorite of his songs, “I Need You”. His response was, “Oh, wasn’t that one from The Help?” (It was from the record Help, not THE Help, but I love that he called it THE Help!).
Then, George graciously introduced me to the other people around the circular table: He said, “This is Tom, this is Jeff, this is Bob and this is Roy.” He had just introduced me to the members of his new band, The Traveling Wilbury’s who had just formed. The next day, I signed a new publishing agreement with Warner/Chappell!
A few weeks later, I flew back to L.A. to go to the Grammy Awards, where “Tell it to My Heart” was up for Best Female Vocal. After the show, I spotted George standing in a corner by himself at the Warner Records after-party, held at the old Chasen’s restaurant. I decided to reintroduce myself to him. So, I went up and said, “Hey George, I met you a few weeks…” and before I could say anything more, he said, “Hi Seth. Of course, I remember.” I just thought, this man has met everyone under the sun. How gracious to remember me. What a great guy!
Some small talk ensued, just him and me in this room, very few people around. Like, George Harrison and I are drinking beers basically alone in this massive room. SUR-REAL!
Then, I thought, why not just go for it all and I said: “Hey George, are you busy the rest of week — perhaps we can write a song together.” Not missing a beat, he said that he already had a writing session scheduled with “Bobby” and he’d be going back to England soon after. I presumed (correctly) that he meant “Bobby” Dylan. It would have been so cool to write a song with George, but it wasn’t too bad to be turned down for Bob Dylan!
But, what I remember was how seriously he took my request —how respectfully. A number of years later, after George’s death, I had a chance to meet his wife Olivia who I recounted this story to. She beamed a knowing look of what a gracious man her husband was and thanked me for telling her.
Meeting George twice over a two-week period was certainly unexpected and thrilling but in retrospect what is so satisfying is that I met him as a colleague in the music business and that it was he, along with his Beatle bandmates who had inspired me to become a pop songwriter. Thank you George for being as cool in person as you were as an idol of mine growing up.