Saturday, February 2, 2008

George Harrison (1943 - 2001) (The Beatles and Travelling Wilburys)

George Harrison was born in 1943 in Liverpool. He was a quite child but always interested in music. He met Paul McCartney in the mid 50s they both shared the love of popular music and played together with the Quarrymen skiffle group. George was influenced by Chet Atkins, Chuck Berry, and Carl Perkins and as the years passed he too became a master of the guitar (both lead and rhythm), the sitar and his favourite instrument, the ukulele. George was the youngest Beatle and the most introverted earning him the nickname “The Quiet Beatle.” In the Fab Four, George competed with McCartney and Lennon to get his songs recorded. No mean feat but he did it successfully and got one or two songs on each of the Beatles' albums.

It often transpired George’s composition and or the Beatles songs he sang lead on, were the most popular. George matured as a writer through the 60s and 70s and earned the respect of John and Paul as well as their fans. Notable examples from the Beatles catalogue were Taxman, Here comes the sun, While my guitar gently weeps, and Something.

By the mid 60s George was experimenting with the sitar which brought him into close association with sitar virtuoso, Ravi Shankar. Their friendship grew and Ravi became his mentor introducing him to meditation and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. George became committed to Hinduism and eventually embraced the Hare Krishna tradition. He remained a devotee until his death. Arguably, George was the deepest thinking Beatle (although Lennon often gets this mantle) and certainly the most devout, but he also enjoyed a wicked sense of humour, which comes out in his lyrics. His love for Indian music influenced the Beatles music and can be heard in songs like, "Norwegian Wood," "Love You To", and "Within You Without You".

In 1969, the Beatles produced an international number one with "Hare Krishna Mantra", performed by George Harrison and the devotees of the London Radha-Krishna Temple.

George and Eric Clapton were lifelong friends and each mutually appreciated the other’s guitar mastery. George co-wrote Creams’ Badge with Eric Clapton, during a collaborative effort between Clapton, Harrison and Ringo Starr. During the writing of the piece the notation 'bridge' was indiscernible and misread as 'badge,' the song that eventuated was called Badge.

Ringo's contribution was the line, “swans living in the park." Later the song inspired George to compose "Here Comes the Sun" for the album Abbey Road. During the filming of Let it be, George knew the group was on the verge of break up and quit. He was eventually persuaded to return but by that time the Beatles were over. George found himself with a stockpile of his songs which he used on his solo triple album called All Things Must Pass.

My Sweet Lord gave him his first solo hit but he was later sued for copyright infringement because of similarities to the Chiffons single "He's So Fine" (1963).

Long before Sir Bob Geldorf and Live Aid, George Harrison organized the first major superstar charity benefit, The Concert For Bangladesh (1971) and raised millions of dollars to aid the starving refugees of Bangladesh.

The concert included many other popular musicians including Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, Badfinger and Billy Preston, with Classical sitar maestro Ravi Shankar opening the proceedings. He formed his own record company “Dark Horse” which issued a limited number of releases to modest acclaim. After the death of John Lennon, George composed a tribute song which saw him back in the charts with ‘All those years ago.”

A period of silence followed, and then in 1987 collaboration with Jeff Lynne saw George back at the top of the charts again with ‘Got my mind set on you.’

In 1980, George Harrison needed a B side for a new single and was short of a track. He invited his friends Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty to help him and they met in Bob Dylan’s garage studio. When "Handle With Care" was complete all parties realised they had a hit on their hands and the Travelling Wilbuys were born.

George loved movies and established a film production company called Handmade Films. The company gave financial backing to a series of popular and influential movies including: Monty Python, Life of Brian, Time Bandits, Mona Lisa, Private Function and Withnail and I.

During the 90s, George was diagnosed with terminal cancer and towards the end of the decade there was an unsuccessful attempt of his life by a crazed fan. The Quiet Beatle died in 2001, aged 58. At the Concert for George, Joe Brown played tribute to his friend with a rendition of “I’ll see you in my dreams’ on ukulele.

Privately George loved to play the uke and would carry a couple with him, should the opportunity arise to jam with his guests. Hare Krishna.

Worth a listen:
George Harrison
Hare Krishna Mantra (1969)
My sweet Lord (1970)
What is life (1971)
Bangla-Desh (1971)
Give me love (give me peace on Earth) (1973)
All those years ago (1981)
Got my mind set on you (1987)
When we was fab (1988)
Any road (2003)

The Beatles
Roll over Beethoven (1964) (vocals)
Do you wan to know a secret (1964) (vocals)
I need you (1965)
You like me too much (1965)
Taxman (1966)
Blue Jay Way (1967)
While my guitar gently weeps (1968)

Travelling Wilburys
Handle with care (1988)
End of the line (1989)
Wilbury Twist (1990)

The Chiffons
He’s so fine (1963)

Badge (1969)

Shirley Bassey
Something (1971)

Cockney Rebel
Here comes the Sun (1976)
Joe Brown
I'll See You In My Dreams (2006)

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