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Home > Music

While my guitar gently rises in value

9 January 2004

Dr Gilbert Lederman was in a quandry. On the one hand, his son was a huge fan of the Beatles and would have been over the moon to have his guitar signed by George Harrison. On the other hand, George Harrison was on his death bed, stuffed full of cancer drugs, with a tumour the size of a pomegranate growing in his brain.

And Dr Lederman was supposed to be looking after him.

In this sort of situation, there's really only choice a seasoned cancer specialist like Dr Lederman could make. He grabbed a pen, shoved it into George's trembly fist, and scratched out a signature on his son's Fender.

Two weeks later, George passed away, and two weeks after that Ariel Lederman (the lucky son) was pictured in the National Enquirer, holding his guitar (subsequently valued at around $15,000).

Harrison's relatives have filed a lawsuit against the good doctor. They claim he created a "circus atmosphere" around the dying Beatle: giving press interviews; disclosing confidential information; inviting his children into the sickroom to gawp.

The claim states that:

Dr Lederman preyed upon Mr Harrison while he was in a greatly deteriorated mental and physical condition by coercing him to sign an electric guitar and other autographs just two weeks before his death. Dr Lederman took the children into the room where Mr Harrison was bedridden and in great iscomfort. Dr Lederman had Mr Harrison listen to his son play the guitar. Afterwards he took the guitar... and put it in Mr Harrison's lap and asked him to sign it.

Sickly Harrison said he couldn't, telling Dr Lederman: "I do not even know if I know how to spell my name." To which Dr Lederman, ever the professional, replied: "Come on, you can do this." Dr Lederman then held the star's right hand and forced an autograph out of him "with great effort and much obvious discomfort."

What has annoyed Harrison's relatives the most, it seems, is the signing of the guitar. The shameless steering of the hand, the ignoring of George's wishes, and the "effort" and "discomfort" suffered by the ailing star. However - they are placing the emphasis of their writ in entirely the wrong place. A few seconds of having his hand grabbed by Dr Lederman is as nothing compared to having to lie there, dying, with Ariel Lederman proudly strumming out the chords to Daydream Believer.

What crueller deed could Dr Lederman have committed than this? Ensuring that the last live guitar sounds heard by the lead guitarist of the greatest band of all time were those of Ariel Lederman. What pain must George have suffered, as the plink plonk plink of Ariel's clumsy plucking ricocheted around inside his rotting brain?

As Ariel segued brilliantly into Pinball Wizard, Dr Lederman stood to one side and smiled. A thin, airless hiss of despair leaked from George's weak lips, the scream lost behind the popping of a blood-streaked saliva bubble. Dr Lederman bent over and delicately wiped the droplets from George's chin with an antiseptic wipe.

"Good, isn't he?"

The relatives are suing for $7million.

Money doesn't even come close.

The man should fry.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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