11/29/2001 - "Dark Horse" dies in LA at 58.
George Harrison liked to tell the story of his search in 1965 for people who had never heard of the Beatles. His search took him to India, where he knew the poor people would not be immersed in pop culture like those in the US and UK. He stepped off the plane where he saw what he called "all these little brown faces" who were "chanting Bee-Tuls, Bee-Tuls!"
Never has there been a pop culture phenomenon like the Beatles. Never will there be another. George Harrison knew that, and he appreciated the things a little band from Liverpool was able to accomplish. But he was never entirely comfortable with his stardom. He was the "Quiet Beatle." Not one of these "fame martyrs" who are always talking about how much they hate their fame, just a reluctant hero who liked to keep to himself.
I can barely remember when John Lennon died. I do remember it, but I was too young to attach any real meaning to it. Today, I feel that meaning as the news of George Harrison's death dominates the news. Surely there is great irony that in a time of upheaval, the questioning of the sanity of our times, and of war, that one of the greatest voices for peace, kindness, and love has fallen silent. And thus, our sadness is multiplied.
In a statement, Ringo Starr said: ``George was a best friend of mine. I loved him very much and I will miss him greatly.'' It wasn't immediately known whether there will be a public funeral. A private ceremony had already taken place, one source said.
"He was a lovely guy and a very brave man and had a wonderful sense of humor. He is really just my baby brother," said fellow Beatle Paul McCartney outside his London home.
Of course these two men can date their friendship back
to the late fifties to a time when two boys in their late
teens named John and Paul were joined in their band
the Quarrymen by a skinnier and younger boy name
George. As time passed, John's friend Stuart Sutcliff
left the band to pursue a career in the arts and Pete Best
was replaced at the drums by Ringo Starr. The stage
was set for something the boys could scarcely have
imagined. At just 19, George entered the studio with his
elder bandmates to record in one day what would soon
be their first album.
George used to talk about how insecure he was as a singer, and you can hear it in his first vocal performance on a Beatles track, "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" And though he was a songwriter, he had little confidence in his own ability next to John and Paul, who could crank out fantastic classics in a few minutes. In fact, one time during their work on "With the Beatles," Mick Jagger was in the studio with the Beatles and he knew they had been working on a song for the Rolling Stones. It wasn't finished, but John and Paul stepped over into the corner and wrote the rest of the song and gave it to the Stones, their first single, "I Wanna Be Your Man." With such talent surrounding him, the humble Harrison surely felt he had to be just what he was. The quiet one.
But friends pushed him to give his songs to the group, and he responded. Directly, in fact. His first songwriting contribution to an album was on the groups' second effort, "With the Beatles." He always sang a song or two lending his vocal track to such classics as "I'm Happy Just to Dance with You," and covers "Roll Over Beethoven," (Berry) and "Everybody's Tryin' to be My Baby," (Perkins), but the group never recorded his songs.
As he was being pushed toward greater involvement by friends, he responded with "Don't Bother Me," disguised as a forlorn love song. But this effort was just the beginning from the lead guitarist of the greatest band ever. Even when he added "I Need You," to the "Help!" soundtrack, it was just a glimpse of things to come.
For "Rubber Soul," George gave the world "Think for
Yourself" and the great "If I Needed Someone," with
a distinctly Byrds-like feel. But it was a song he didn't
write that most influenced not only the world of pop
music, but also the path his life would take. Having
been intrigued by the Indian instruments used during
the recording of their second movie, "Help!" George
brought in and played sitar on a pop record for the first
time, John's "Norwegian Wood." He would later study
with sitar master Ravi Shankar, a friendship George
would carry through the rest of his life.
On "Revolver," George was allowed three songs, the only album, excluding the double record set "The Beatles" (aka the "White Album"), with more than two Harrison compositions. The rocking "Taxman," forever a classic, and slightly quirky "I Want to Tell You," and the first Indian composition on a rock record "Love You To."
In 1967, George gave us "Within You, Without You," "Blue Jay Way," "It's All Too Much," and "Only A Northern Song."
As the years passed, George had a voice and a vision, but he was always overshadowed by Lennon and McCartney. As their partnership began to crumble, their opposition and control of Harrison mounted. The group was barely interested in "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," until he brought in Eric Clapton. That year (1968), George contributed "Piggies," "Long, Long, Long," "Savoy Truffle," and "The Inner Light," his first appearance on a single as a songwriter. (The song backed "Lady Madonna.") As he developed into as good a songwriter as they were, John and Paul didn't notice.
During the filming of "Let it Be," some tense moments between Paul and George showed how the band was tearing apart. Still, Harrison added "For You Blue," and "I, Me, Mine" to the mix, the last Beatles song worked on in the studio. "Old Brown Shoe" was his second appearance on a single, backing "The Ballad of John and Yoko."
His greatest moment, however, came during the last album the group made. George Harrison gave the world "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun" on the "Abbey Road" album. The former was once called the "greatest love song of the century" by none other than Frank Sinatra. It has been covered more than any other Beatles' song, save for McCartney's "Yesterday." The latter, an a acoustic ballad written in Eric Clapton's garden and later performed beautifully with Paul Simon on SNL in New York.
Once the group broke up, George released his back log of material on a huge three album set "All Things Must Pass." He also organized what is widely credited as the first benefit rock concert, the "Concert For Bangladesh," which brought together Harrison with Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and Ringo Starr. Through the seventies and eighties, Harrison was obscure at times, but always showed up on occasion to give the world a
Whether it be to express his inner feelings, as in "My Sweet Lord," to pay tribute to a fallen friend, as in "All Those Years Ago," to share an old classic and turn it into a classic video and #1 song, as in "I Got My Mind Set on You," to fondly remember days past, as in "When We Was Fab," or to provide a soundtrack song, as with the Lethal Weapon 2 finale, my favorite George song, "Cheer Down," when George did show up, it was to give us all something grand.
In recording the fantastic "Cloud Nine" album, George called in friends Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Bob Dylan. The group had such fun they formed a partnership with Roy Orbison and gave us the greatest "Supergroup" album of all time. They called themselves the "Traveling Wilburys," and the two albums they did are among my very favorite discs.
In 1992, George toured for substantially the last time, with his longtime friend Eric Clapton, in Japan. In 1995 he regrouped with Paul and Ringo to work on two "new" Beatles songs, "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love." George and Paul expressed in a public way their mutual admiration and respect for one another at that time, laying to rest the quarrels of their past. Two years later, Harrison told the world he had throat cancer. In 1999, he almost lost his life to a deranged fan's knife in his own home. In recent months, rumors have flown about his cancer and a reported brain tumor. These were denied, but only to keep from calling too much attention to himself.
We all knew this day was coming, the day when we would hear that another Beatle was gone. But I didn't expect it this morning when I heard it. And, I don't know that it will ever be real. After all, John lives every time I play the music, and as I sit and listen now to "Love Comes to Everyone," I know George's voice will go on with us, encouraging the good values he espoused. Love, peace, happiness, harmony, and such like.
As I have been writing this, I have noticed the number of times the words "George gave us" have been written. Perhaps the quiet one is well summarized in this. He was about giving to others. To the world, his music. To his friends, his talent and support. To his family, his life. And to himself he gave, well, himself. He was as honest a superstar as there was.
"When you have had all the experiences, met all
the famous people, made some money, toured the
world and got all the acclaim you still think -- is that it? Some people might be satisfied with that -- but I wasn't," he once said. It wasn't about fame to George Harrison. It was about being true to himself, and about giving to others. Thanks for what you gave to us.
Joshua Best - Beatles Fan
Reporter: "What do you do when you're cooped up in a hotel room between shows?"
George: "We ice-skate."
Reporter: "What would you do if the fans got past the police lines?"
George: "We'd die laughing."
Reporter: "What will you do when the bubble bursts?"
George: "Take up ice hockey."
"I either finish this tour ecstatically happy and want to go on tour everyehere, or I'll end up just going back to my cave for another five years."
- Talking about his North American tour in 1974
"I'll give up this sort of touring madness certainly, but music -- everything is based on music. No, I'll never stop my music."
"The Beatles saved the world from boredom."
"Well, I don't like your tie for a start."
- At their first session, when the Beatles were asked by George Martin if there was anything they didn't like
"I call it Arthur"
-1964, when asked what the Beatles called their haircuts.
"The nicest thing is to open the newspapers and not to find yourself in them."
"As far as I'm concerned, there won't be a Beatles reunion as long as John Lennon remains dead."
"The Beatles exist apart from myself. I am not really Beatle George. Beatle George is like a suit or shirt that I once wore on occasion and until the end of my life people may see that shirt and mistake it for me. "
"I think people who truly can live a life in music are telling the world, 'You can have my love, you can have my smiles. Forget the bad parts, you don't need them. Just take the music, the goodness, because it's the very best, and it's the part I give most willingly'"
"I look at the world and I notice it's turning... Still my guitar gently weeps."