Beatles' friend Neil Aspinall dies in New York

Mon Mar 24, 2008 5:32pm EDT
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Neil Aspinall, a close friend and former road manager of The Beatles who was sometimes referred to as the fifth member of the band, died in New York of lung cancer, former band members said on Monday. He was 66.

Aspinall became road manager and personal assistant for the Fab Four after going to school in Liverpool with Paul McCartney and George Harrison. He was a longtime friend, confidant and overseer of The Beatles' business empire, Apple Corps Ltd., for 40 years.

"All his friends and loved ones will greatly miss him, but will always retain the fondest memories of a great man," McCartney, Ringo Starr and the widows of John Lennon and Harrison said in a statement released by Aspinall's family.

Aspinall was one of several men referred to as the "fifth Beatle" -- a title also granted to others closely associated with the group, such as the band's manager Brian Epstein and the original bassist, Stuart Sutcliffe.

Harrison, who died in 2001, called Aspinall one of only two possible "fifth Beatles" at the group's 1988 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Aspinall had lived in Twickenham, England, and died on Sunday night at the Sloan-Kettering hospital in New York City, a family spokesman said.

Aspinall fell ill to lung cancer two months ago and McCartney was reported by British media to have flown to New York to visit him on his deathbed.

He is survived by his wife Suzy and five children.   Continued...

<p>A pedestrian passes a large advertising display in west London for Beatles music compilation album "Love", December 29, 2006. REUTERS/Toby Melville</p>