FORMER Beatle George Harrison has finally lost his battle against cancer.

Harrison, aged 58, lead guitarist in the world's most famous band, died last night in Los Angeles with his wife Olivia and son Dhani, 24, at his side.

Tributes poured in for the youngest of the Fab Four, who joined the band at 17.

Sir Paul McCartney said he was "devastated and very, very sad".

"He was a lovely guy and a very brave man and had a wonderful sense of humour. He is really just my baby brother."

Speaking outside his London home, Sir Paul, whose wife Linda died of cancer in 1998, said: "He will be missed sorely by all his friends and loved ones."

An emotional Sir Paul went on: "I've known George forever and he's a really beautiful guy who I love dearly.

"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.

"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."

Sir Paul said he heard the news of his death last night and that the last time he saw him was a few weeks ago.

"When I saw him last time he was obviously very unwell but he was cracking jokes like he always was and he'll be sorely missed."

Sir Paul said that although he knew that Harrison had been ill for quite some time he had always hoped that some kind of miracle might happen.

Yoko Ono, widow of John Lennon, who was shot dead by Mark Chapman in New York in 1980, said: "Thank you, George, it was grand knowing you."

Harrison brought magic to the lives of those who knew him.

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

"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.

"His life was magical and we all felt we had shared a little bit of it by knowing him."

The former smoker suffered lung and throat tumours and recently underwent treatment in the US.

Harrison died at 9.30 last night UK time at a friend's LA home.

The musician's death leaves two surviving members of the Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

n Opinion: P6 n Obituary: P21