Long live the “quiet Beatle.” This year marks the five year anniversary of the death of George Harrison after his long battle with cancer. George Harrison was one of the most dynamic musical figures of the 21st century. His music, with and without the Beatles, not only changed the world of music as we know it, but also encouraged changes, promoted peace and all was full of love. Yoko Ono, wife of the late John Lennon, said in reflection upon George’s death, “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.”
George Harrison was born February 24, 1943 (and on an interesting, trivial side-note, until George was in his 40’s, he thought his birthday was February 25!). He was born in Liverpool, England where he attended the Liverpool Institute School for Boys, where he met fellow student, Paul McCartney. George was younger than Paul but the two became excellent friends and Paul was the reason for George getting into the Beatles in the late 50s.
The Beatles were originally named the Quarry Men and included John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lowe on piano and Collin Hanton on drums. The Quarry Men didn’t last long and disbanded, though John, Paul and George stayed tight-knit and decided to begin a second band, The Beatles. Besides the three of them, the Beatles included Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best. Sadly, Sutcliffe died of a brain hemorrhage. Not so sadly, Best was a jerk. So, in came Ringo Starr and the Beatles were finally formed. The Beatles debuted in America on the “Ed Sullivan Show” in New York City on February 9, 1964 and American music has never been the same.
Some (but not all) of George’s best known and most loved songs, which he wrote and often times performed for the Beatles, were “Don’t Bother Me,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “I Need You,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “It’s All Too Much” and “Eight Days a Week.” Though George was the youngest Beatle (and always my personal favorite), being only 27 years old when the band split in 1970, his work and guitar abilities surpassed that of many of his contemporaries at the time and still do today to modern guitar players. George is best known for his flawless slide-guitar talent.
Yes, George Harrison was a Beatle but he was also so much more than that. After The Beatles split, George went on to create dozens of solo works, all of which were held in as high esteem as the works of The Beatles. A few stand-out records of his were All Things Must Pass (1970), Living in the Material World (1973, re-mastered in 2006), George Harrison (1979) and Brainwashed (2002), which he was in the midst of finishing upon his death. This album was finished and produced by George’s son, Dhani and long
time friend and musical comrade, Jeff Lynne.
In George’s later musical years, he teamed up with a short list of A+ performers to create the Travelling Wilburys. This fun-loving, easy going, pop-country group consisted of Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne and, of course, George.
George also had a knack and love for film production. He is best known for producing “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” in 1979 but has a long list of other films, including his most recent, and perhaps most surprising, “Big Daddy,” starring Adam Sandler.
Perhaps one of the most noble, innovative and loving things George Harrison ever did was the Concert for Bangladesh which took place on August 1, 1971. This concert alerted the world to the plight of the Bangladesh people and all the profits and proceeds from the concert itself went straight to UNICEF, in hopes of building a better world for the unfortunate people of Bangladesh. The performers at the Concert for Bangladesh were George Harrison, Ravi Shankar, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Leon Russell and Billy Preston.
Even today, the money made off the selling of the album or DVD does not go into the hands of the still-living performers. It was the first time, in history, that a concert was held in order to benefit a higher cause. In commemoration of the 35th anniversary of this momentous, musical event, Madison Square Garden, where the concert took place, installed a plaque in its Walk of Fame on August 1, 2006. This presentation marks the first time in Madison Square Garden’s history that a concert event was honored on its Walk of Fame. Olivia Harrison, George’s wife, stated, “I know George would be happy that 35 years later the impact of his efforts are still felt and appreciated.”
Even more recently, just this past weekend, on November 11, The Music Circle, along with the Material World Charitable Foundation held a celebration in memory of George and his love for Indian music. The influence of Indian spirituality shined through
George’s music. Such a celebration was indeed special to not only George’s family but to his fans.
The re-mastering of Living in the Material World hit stores September 25, 2006 in a limited edition, deluxe, box set along with an exclusive DVD. By being such a spiritual and loving man, George was able to interpret any kind of music; American, British, Indian, and turn it into something everyone could enjoy. George evoked love through his music and will always be remembered and cherished for that.
So much for the “quiet” Beatle, right?