Monday, November 29, 2021

Twenty Years Ago Today George Harrison Died

It was twenty years ago today that George Harrison died after a prolonged battle with cancer. He was only 58. After John, George was always my favourite Beatle. That having been said, in many ways I felt closer to George than I did John. Having been born on February 25, he was a Pisces like me. What is more, he was the only Beatle who had been to the United States prior to their historic appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. His older sister Louise lived in Illinois and Missouri until relatively recently, so that it was not unusual to see her interviewed by the local television stations. Of course, I also loved George's songs,and he probably wrote more of my favourite Beatles songs than anyone except John.

George Harrison was born on February 25 1943 in Liverpool. He developed an interest in music when he was very young, and his father bought him his first guitar, in 1956. He met Paul McCartney on the bus to the Liverpool Institute, which they both attended. The two soon learned they both loved music. Paul McCartney was part of John Lennon's skiffle group The Quarrymen, the group that would evolve into The Beatles. George Harrison auditioned for The Quarrymen, but John Lennon thought the 15 year old George was too young. George auditioned for The Quarrymen a second time and impressed John by playing the lead guitar for Bill Justis's instrumental "Raunchy." Afterwards George played with The Quarrymen from time to time and eventually became a full-time member. George Harrison remained with the group as they went through various names until they settled on The Beatles.

George Harrison would become an integral part o The Beatles' success, both as their lead guitarist and a songwriter. As a songwriter George wrote such songs for The Beatles as "Think for Yourself," "Taxman," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Something," and "I Me Mine." Although he was arguably a songwriter equal to both John Lennon and Paul McCartney, John and Paul generally restricted George to two to three songs per album. It was perhaps for that reason that George became the first Beatles to release a solo album, Wonderwall Music in 1968. On November 27 1970 his album All Things Must Pass was released. A triple album, All Things Must Pass featured songs George had written for The Beatles that had been rejected. The album received widespread critical acclaim and hit no. 1 in both the United Kingdom and the United States.

It was not long after The Beatles' break-up that George Harrison also organized the Concert for Bangladesh. The charity event, held on August 1 1971, raised money for refugees during the Bangladesh Liberation War. George Harrison would have a very successful solo career. Living in a Material World, his follow-up to All Things Must Pass, also hit no. 1 on the Billboard album chart. His fourth studio solo album, Dark Horse, went to no. 4 on the Billboard album chart. While his following albums would not do as well, George Harrison was still fairly successful as a recording artist.

It was in 1988 that George Harrison joined Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty in the supergroup The Travelling Wilburys,. The Travelling Wilburys released two albums, both of which were fairly successful. His song, "Handle with Care," served as The Travelling Wilburys' debut single. In 1994 George Harrison reunited with fellow Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr for The Beatles Anthology. This included the recording to two new Beatles songs using two tracks of John Lennon songs featuring only John's vocals and piano: "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love."

In addition to his music career, George Harrison served as executive producer on such movies as Life of Brian (1979), Time Bandits (1981), Withnail & I (1987), and Nuns on the Run (1990).

Like the rest of The Beatles, George Harrison had an enormous impact on my life. I am not sure when I became aware of The Beatles. It may have been hearing them on the radio or, more likely, The Beatles animated cartoon that aired on ABC in the mid to late Sixties. Either way, they became a part of my life and have remained my favourite rock group ever since. As my second favourite Beatle, George Harrison had a bit more impact on me than either Paul or Ringo. It is not unusual for my second favourite or even my favourite song from any given Beatles album to have been written by George Harrison. Indeed, after John Lennon's "In My Life," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is my favourite Beatles song. For me November 29 2001 was then a day filled with tears. George Harrison meant a lot to me, and he still does.

1 comment:

Billy Hogan said...

I don't remember seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, although I was old enough to have seen them perform. I also remember them from their Saturday morning cartoon. My favorite part of the Ed Sullivan Show was whenever the puppet Topo Gigio appeared.