George Harrison

I was shocked to be reminded today that it’s nine years since George Harrison passed away. Nine years! The memory of hearing the news break that the quiet, gentle Beatle, who was just 58, had lost his battle with cancer seems as fresh in my mind as if it were yesterday. What a huge loss felt by so many at his passing.

What a career and life lived. I’m sure you have your favourite George memories and moments gathered together by the dozen, at least, so do share them.

He had the best line in A Hard Day’s Night:

Interviewer: What would you call that hairstyle you’re wearing?
George: Arthur.

Frank Sinatra recorded ‘Something’, recognising it as ‘one of the greatest love songs of the last fifty or so years,’ which, to a fan of Ol’ Blue Eyes (who has of course crooned his way through the very best of them), is high praise indeed. In fact, after ‘Yesterday’, ‘Something’ is quite possibly the most widely-covered Beatles number; no mean feat considering how prolific the songwriting team of Lennon/McCartney.

Let’s not forget, though, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’; one of the finest songs ever recorded, the aching beauty of its considered guitar phrasing equal to the depth in its thoughtful lyrical sentiments.

My personal favourite of his Beatles compositions, however, is probably the hard-driving tune which opened Revolver: ‘Taxman’ (one of the album’s three Harrison-penned songs along with ‘Love You To’ and ‘I Want To Tell You’).

Then there’s Ringo Starr’s ‘Photograph’, which George co-wrote. How poignant its lines when performed by Ringo on the first anniversary of his friend’s death – at the unsurpassed Concert for George held at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 2002.

Don’t forget either the tragically short-lived enjoyment of and for the Traveling Wilburys. I think it says an awful lot for George’s strength of spirit and lack of ego that he could gather a band of such talented individuals together (Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty) and create such infectious, decent fun.

And, as we talked about the music of 1970 last time, there’s the quite brilliant All Things Must Pass, with a sleeve reminding us of George’s love of gardening.

If these stray thoughts haven’t made you smile, I’d like to remember George today with a video which I believe will force most mouths to submit to a position of ‘amused and entertained’: ‘Got My Mind Set On You’, a worldwide hit in 1987 and 1988.

If there is a heaven, with Nelson and Lefty Wilbury reunited, the fortunate souls up there are surely enjoying some terrific musical collaborations, aren’t they?

This week’s chat is on Thursday and the next topic, there or thereabouts, will be ‘thoughtful lyrics (revisited)’. I leave you with one of the many from George, whose karmic mindfulness will continue to inspire for a long time to come, I should think.

“Some things take so long
But how do I explain
When not too many people
Can see we’re all the same?
And because of all the tears
Their eyes can’t hope to see
The beauty that surrounds them
Isn’t it a pity?”

— ‘Isn’t It a Pity’, All Things Must Pass (1970)

37 comments

  1. Fabio Moreira

    I was born in 1990 and around 1995 I got my first taste of the Beatles with a greatest hits album. I must’ve listened to that album about 20 times each day, I still do. As I grew older and explored better the musical history that the Beatles developed, I found myself easily identified with George, a man who didn’t seem much for the severity of being a musician but rather gave forth the essence of fun that comes from creating something incredible.

    The song “Something” was a song I sung to a girlfriend of mine once to get her to go out with me, its lyrics rang true to all my emotions and I could see George in much of myself.

    I cried that day, 9 years ago, when I learned of his passing not only for the fact of losing another Beatle, but for losing an artist who truly understood the human element and knew what having fun was all about.

    We miss you George and pray for the best.

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  3. jan

    So sad. Nine years. Does not seem possible.

    In the beginning I loved the whole group, then John became a favorite. Later I found that my favorite became George. Seemed such a gentle soul and I enjoyed his music more.

    I always felt ‘Something’ was the best of all the music. But I, also, love ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and “Here Comes The Sun’.

    Rest in Peace, George and Richard.

    Jan

  4. Michèle

    And George Harrison organised in 1971 what was -I think- the first major benefit rock concert, the Concert For Bangladesh (with Ravi Shankar, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton…) which raised awareness for the humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh around the world and generated millions of dollars for UNICEF.

    Here, the song ‘Bangladesh’, performed during the concert.

    Among my favourites:

    – ‘When We Was Fab’
    ‘Just For Today’

    He is my favourite Beatles member, very discreet and simple; in the book ‘I Me Mine’, he wrote:

    “I’m really quite simple. I don’t want to be in the business full time because I’m a gardener. I plant flowers and watch them grow. I don’t go out to clubs and partying. I stay at home and watch the river flow.”

  5. Paul Sexton

    Read a story once about a guitar luthier in England who built a guitar for George during the 70s, he was paid by George with a personal cheque which he never cashed in… the cheque is now worth a whole lot more than the guitar that he built.

    Concert For George is on my telly most weekends!

  6. lorraine

    Paul McCartney did a lovely, very affectionate, would have brought a tear to a glass eye, version of ‘Something’ when we saw him at Hampden in the summer. This is him doing it at Anfield a couple of years ago. (The audience singing was far better in Glasgow, BTW.) 😛

  7. frank par

    My fondest memory of George is when he collabrolated with the late Jeff Healey on While My Guitar…

    George was not only an exceptional rhythm and lead player, but had the most difficult harmonies with his voice with the Beatles. Especially on, And I Love Her.

    Peace. 😉

  8. NewYorkDan

    We had a DJ friend play a few songs at our wedding, as people arrived but before the festivities began. “Something” was one of those songs. I chose it specifically because it says so much, rings so true to the feelings of that wonderful day.

    George is in many ways my favorite Beatle. Fabio’s words, above, say it much better than I can: that you always sensed George was having fun creating something meaningful.

  9. Dan

    Can’t believe it’s been 9 years. I always loved The Beatles and followed the solo careers of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and even Starr when they disbanded.

    The Traveling Wilburys were a great band and one I’d have loved to have seen hit the road.

    The video to ‘Got My Mind Set On You’ did make me smile, but so did the other moments you reminded me of, especially the scene in A Hard Day’s Night.

  10. rob

    I remember where I as when I heard the news, being driven to work, going into work looking down, and people responding@ who’s George Harrison? (Had the same thing with John Peel.)

    I received All Things Must Pass that Christmas, and loved it. Not much more needs to be said I guess, I think people overlooked his contribution to the Beatles, maybe in the same way they overlook Rick Wright?

    I can’t say which my favourite song of his would be, I think Isn’t It a a Pity is a classic. I like Let it Down and All Things Must Pass.

    The Concert for George DVD is brilliant, and well worth a look if you haven’t seen it.

    Also check out this version of While My Guitar… with a solo from Prince.

    • FEd

      We listened to Carlos Santana’s version today in the chatroom. (Thanks, Hydrea.)

      It’s on his new album, Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time, and features India.Aire on vocals and cellist, Yo-Yo Ma. Worth listening out for.

  11. NewYorkDan

    Not to spoil the mood, but the guitar work on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is by Eric Clapton, not by Harrison.

    I agree with FEd that one of the alltime best Beatles songs is Taxman. Lyrically and musically, it is a standout.

    Off topic, but yesterday at a workshop for educators, I was asked to name the two people I most admire and to state why I admire them. I named the novelist Kurt Vonnegut, because he overcame a deep and pervasive depression to become one of our most gifted writers.

    The other person I named was, of course, David. Because he lives his life on his own terms, and also because of his deep concern for other people. He could easily live large like a celebrity, but that is not what he seems to want. David is constantly (very quietly) giving of his money and his time to humanitarian efforts that are important to him, an example of which is his work with Crisis. Most non-fans wouldn’t know about this. And while he still makes music, he does that on his own terms as well: low-key, with friends, for fun, rather than constantly upgrading his image a-la Paul McCartney.

    When I shared this with my professional colleagues at the workshop, I got a round of applause not because it was David, but because of my reasons for admiring him.

  12. Bruce

    George’s passing was a terribly sad day for me. Even though we only met briefly in ’62, all the BEATles were like brothers I grew up admiring.

  13. Piero

    From the bottom of my heart I say thanks to George for his music.

    I can recall the first time I listened to “My Sweet Lord” which is still my favourite of his songs.”Concert For George” gathered together on stage legends of music. The only reason why they played is the love they felt for him, for his music, as an artist and as a man.

    I agree with your description of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, FEd, as well as for your definition of “I Got My Mind Set On You”… we get amused and entertained every time we listen to it.

    God bless you George.

    Piero

  14. Ulli

    I remember the day when the sad news broke, almost as shocking as the news of Richard. George was my fave Beatle, but I loved especially his solo albums, one of the best was Cloud 9, IMHO.

    Here is my favorite song of George’s.

    Not to forget his work with the Traveling Wilburys, what great music they made.

    • cath

      thanks for posting the “when we was fab” video. this one and “got my mind set on you” are good tunes with fun videos to match.

      i remembered “got my mind set on you” but i don’t think i ever saw “when we was fab” before.

  15. Michael Kelly

    The thing I always found so amazing whenever I think about the Traveling Wilburys is that among all those shining stars, George was clearly the brightest.

    He was an outstanding guitarist, an outstanding songwriter, and had an outstanding singing voice, and that is such a rare and beautiful combination. Try to name ten artists who have that combination and I’ll bet you struggle after you get five or so (I can name George, David, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young and Stephen Stills before I come up blank).

    • Ian Kelly

      I might also have to add in there John Mayer and Mark Knopfler… just a thought.

  16. Sharon Woods

    A driving rain and that wind. On a hot night, driving the dark road, barely awake. By dusty road or lazy river and silent swamp. Giant reptiles lurk below. Life imitates Art as alligators become goddesses. A lone mortal and Gods’ Dances intertwine. That seductive then glaringly loud and bright sitar with its frank profundity. Sudden golden warmth and sun. Bright then blinding. Love everywhere. Bells and incense. Unbelievable sitar. The cosmic dance creates a gradual heat, then gently spirals downward and cools until all I can see are eyes glittering in the dark like stars.

    He made life and the afterlife look so simple.

    That was George Harrison.

  17. Alessandra

    What a great musician.

    “Within You Without You”, from “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, is certainly my favourite Harrison’s song.

  18. Michèle

    Interviewer: What would you call that hairstyle you’re wearing?
    George: Arthur.

    Another good one, here.

    Interviewer: “Hi, you’re not married?”
    George Harrison: “No, I’m George.”

  19. Stephanie

    Wonderful George.

    Such a fantastic musician and songwriter and I think sometimes a bit underrated in comparison with Lennon/McCartney.

    All mentioned songs are great. Another of my favorites is “My Sweet Lord”. I really hope he has found now his “sweet lord”.

  20. Pete - Coventry

    Some of you might be interested in this. Rob hand-makes guitars to order.

    Not sure if he has made any for David but George Harrison and many others have visited him at his shed at the bottom of his garden.

    His latest shed is bigger than his house.

  21. ash

    I loved George. 🙂

    “Bangladesh” was a memorable song and I think it was the first of its kind of fund raiser?

    I also particularly like “Give Me Love, Give Me Peace On Earth”.

    ash

  22. Stef

    I cried so hard when he died.

    While My Guitar Gently Weeps is my favourite.

    RIP George.

  23. Michèle

    Not George Harrison, but Beatles-related programme:

    Belgian Classic 21 radio station (French speaking) will be broadcasting a John Lennon special on December 8 (to mark the anniversary of his death) from 1pm to 3pm (UK time) – here.

    Click ‘EN DIRECT’ to listen live.

  24. cath

    i’m late on this but i heard that it was the anniversary of george harrison’s death on monday so i watched “a hard day’s night” after work. it was good to laugh. he and the beatles brought a lot of happy times to a lot of people. his death was obviously sad but his legacy is a cheerful one.

    much like leslie nielsen, who i will miss as much as you, fed.

    • FEd

      Ah, Leslie Nielsen.

      I’ve been chuckling at the memory of his finest deadpan lines, always delivered with such perfect timing, from Airplane!, The Naked Gun and Police Squad all week. Surely it’s amazing just how many of them people remember and can repeat with such fondness and a glint in the eye.

    • frank par

      Leslie Neilsen, a true Canuck (Canadian).

      I love the line in Naked Gun to Priscilla Presley as she is up a ladder in the library fetching a book, saying “Nice beaver.” Beside her was a stuffed one, LOL.

      Trivia: What was Leslie’s brother’s name. He passed away a couple of years ago. Hint: He was in the original TV series, Mission Impossible!

      Answer: Peter Graves. 😀

  25. Esteban from South

    I´m too late.

    I think George could create wonderful songs, he was a real artist, and a lot of people remember him every day.