1943 – George Harrison of the Beatles is born in Liverpool, England. (He tells Chart Toppers magazine in a 1992 interview that he had only recently learned that his Birthday was not Feb. 25.) However, All references still on the web say it is the 25th. Does anyone have a birth certificate? After the breakup of the Beatles, Harrison scores No. 1 hits with “My Sweet Lord” in 1970-71 and “Got My Mind Set on You” in 1988. He teams up with Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison in 1988 to form the Traveling Wilburys.
George Harrison, MBE (25 February 1943 – 29 November 2001) was an English rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, author and sitarist best known as the lead guitarist of The Beatles. Following the band’s breakup, Harrison had a successful career as a solo artist and later as part of the Traveling Wilburys super group where he was known as both Nelson Wilbury and Spike Wilbury. He was also a film producer, with his production company Handmade Films, involving people as diverse as Madonna and the members of Monty Python. From an initial exposure whilst a member of the Beatles, he maintained a high public profile regarding his religious and spiritual life.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the Beatles’ main songwriters though Harrison generally wrote or sang lead on a few songs per album. His later compositions earned him growing admiration as a talent in his own right. Despite his artistic growth he remained overshadowed by the Lennon/McCartney duo. After the band’s breakup it was Harrison who achieved the first #1 single (“My Sweet Lord”) by any ex-Beatle. Besides his talents as a singer, songwriter, guitarist, and sitarist, he was also a record producer.
While still a Beatle, Harrison became attracted to Indian music and Hinduism. Both would subsequently play a prominent role in Harrison’s life and music. His use of the sitar introduced the instrument to millions of Western listeners. He adopted Hinduism (as there is no conversion in Hinduism) and his last rites were performed according to Hindu tradition.
After The Beatles’ breakup, Harrison had a successful solo career, scoring hits with “My Sweet Lord” (1970), “What Is Life” (1971), “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)” (1973), “All Those Years Ago” (1981), and “Got My Mind Set on You” (1987). Harrison’s landmark triple album, All Things Must Pass, currently holds the distinction of being the best selling album by a solo Beatle. He also organized the first large-scale benefit concert, The Concert for Bangladesh, which took place on 1 August 1971. Harrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist in 2004.
Harrison was also a film producer and founded Handmade Films in 1979. The company’s films include Monty Python’s The Life of Brian (in which he had a cameo), Time Bandits, Withnail and I, and Mona Lisa. Harrison also has a cameo role in the Rutles TV mockumentary All You Need Is Cash. Harrison died of cancer on 29 November 2001, at the age of 58.
Early years: 1943–1958
Harrison was born in Liverpool, England, on 25 February 1943 to Louise and Harold Harrison, parents of a Roman Catholic family with deep roots in Ireland. His maternal grandparents hailed from Ireland’s County Wexford.
Harrison’s childhood home was located at 12 Arnold Grove, Wavertree, Liverpool, until 1950, when the family moved to 25 Upton Green, Speke. He first attended school at Dovedale Road Infants & Juniors School, just off Penny Lane. There he passed his Eleven-plus examination and was awarded a place at the Liverpool Institute for Boys (in the building now housing the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts), in which he met Paul McCartney and attended from 1954 to 1959. The Institute for Boys was an English grammar school and, despite his qualification, Harrison was regarded as a poor student; contemporaries described him as someone who would “sit alone in the corner.”
He left school in the summer of 1959 without attaining any academic credentials (or even being allowed to sit his O-levels). He formed a skiffle group called ‘The Rebels’ with his brother Peter and a friend, Arthur Kelly.
1960–1970: The Beatles
The Beatles and The Beatles discography
Stuart Sutcliffe and Harrison in HamburgIn the early days of the group, when it was still called the Quarrymen, Harrison was asked by McCartney to join, after John asked Paul. Harrison was the youngest member of the group, initially looked upon as a kid by the others. He was never officially asked to join the group, but hung out with the others and filled in when he was needed, and was soon looked upon as one of the group. During the early years of the group’s rise to local fame, Harrison’s mother often cheered him on from the audience, much to the consternation of Lennon’s Aunt Mimi, who once complained to her that they could all have “lovely peaceful lives” but for Mrs Harrison’s encouraging the group. While McCartney was the “cute Beatle” and Lennon the leader, Harrison was still a favourite of the female fans. At some concerts, the group was occasionally showered with Jelly Babies, which Harrison had said to be his favourite sweet (unfortunately American fans could not get hold of this soft British confection, replacing them instead with hard jelly beans, much to the group’s discomfort).
Harrison was not regarded as a virtuoso guitarist in the early days of The Beatles’ recording career. Several of Harrison’s Beatles guitar solos were recorded under specific directions from McCartney, who on occasion demanded that Harrison play what he envisioned virtually note-for-note. Other Harrison solos were directed or modified by producer George Martin. Martin admitted years later, “I was always rather beastly to George.” Toward the end of the 1960s, however, Harrison became known as a fluent, inventive, and highly accomplished lead and rhythm guitarist. In the 1970s and thereafter, his slide work became his signature sound.
Harrison was the first of The Beatles to arrive on American soil, when he visited his sister, Louise, in Benton, Illinois, in September 1963, some five months before the group appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. During this visit, George browsed a record store and inquired about his group’s music. The store owner had not even heard of them, and British pop music was conspicuously absent in the States: even top performer Cliff Richard’s recent movie, Summer Holiday, was relegated to second billing when it played. Harrison returned to England, reporting to his bandmates that it might be difficult for them to succeed in America.
During the era of Beatlemania, Harrison was characterised as the “quiet Beatle”, noted for his introspective manner and his tendency not to speak in press conferences. He studied situations and people closely, though, and was the most interested of any Beatle in the group’s finances, often quizzing Brian Epstein about them. Despite his “quiet Beatle” image, Harrison also had a slightly wild side. Once, at a bar, a photographer got on Harrison’s bad side. He got too close, and Harrison proceeded to throw his drink at the offending press member. He could also wisecrack as well as anyone in the band; when a reporter asked what they did in their hotel suite between shows, Harrison told him, “We ice-skate.”
During The Beatles’ first trip to the U.S., in February 1964, Harrison received a new “360/12” model guitar from the Rickenbacker company; this was a 12-string electric but its unusual headstock design meant it looked at first glance like a 6-string. He began using the 360 extensively in the studio soon after. Roger McGuinn liked the effect Harrison achieved so much that it became his signature guitar sound with the Byrds.
Harrison wrote his first song, “Don’t Bother Me”, during a sick day in 1963, as an exercise “to see if I ‘could’ write a song”, as he remembered. “Don’t Bother Me” appeared on the second Beatles album (With the Beatles) later that year, on Meet the Beatles! in the U.S. in early 1964, and also briefly in the film A Hard Day’s Night. Although he wrote a song for the Beatles for Sale album, it was not used and the group did not record another Harrison composition until 1965, when he contributed “I Need You” and “You Like Me Too Much” to the album Help!.
Harrison was the lead vocal on all The Beatles songs that he wrote by himself. He also sang lead vocal on other songs, including “Chains” and “Do You Want to Know a Secret” on Please Please Me, “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Devil in Her Heart” on With the Beatles, “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You” on A Hard Day’s Night, and “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby” on Beatles for Sale. During an American tour in 1965, his friend David Crosby of the Byrds introduced him to Indian classical music and the work of sitar maestro Ravi Shankar. Harrison became fascinated with the instrument, immersed himself in Indian music and was pivotal in popularizing the sitar in particular and Indian music in general in the West.
Buying a sitar himself as The Beatles came back from a Far East tour, he became the first Western popular musician to play one on a pop record, on the Rubber Soul track “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”. He championed Shankar with Western audiences and was largely responsible for having him included on the bill at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967. Shankar had not admired Harrison’s first Indian-influenced efforts, but the two became friends, and Harrison began his first formal musical studies with Shankar.After a few initial lessons with Pandit Ravi Shankar, Harrison was placed under the tutelage of Shambhu Das.
During the filming of the movie Help!, on location in the Bahamas, a Hindu devotee presented each Beatle with a book about reincarnation. Harrison’s interest in Indian culture expanded to his embracing Hinduism. A pilgrimage with wife Pattie to India, where Harrison studied sitar, met several gurus and visited various holy places, filled the months between the end of the final Beatles tour in 1966 and the commencement of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band sessions.
Harrison met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who introduced The Beatles, their wives and girlfriends to Transcendental Meditation. While they parted company with the Maharishi some months afterwards, Harrison continued his pursuit of Eastern philosophy.
In the summer of 1969, he produced the single “Hare Krishna Mantra”, performed by the devotees of the London Radha Krishna Temple. That same year, he and fellow Beatle John Lennon met A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Soon after, Harrison embraced the Hare Krishna tradition (particularly japa-yoga chanting with beads, and remained associated with it until his death.
When, during his lifetime, Harrison bequeathed to ISKCON his Letchmore Heath mansion (renamed Bhaktivedanta Manor) north of London, he redoubled speculations that he would leave ISKCON a large sum in his will. Whilst some sources indicate he left nothing to the organisation, others report he did leave a sum of 20 million pounds.
Harrison formed a close friendship with Eric Clapton in the late 1960s, and they co-wrote the song “Badge,” which was released on Cream’s Goodbye album in 1969. Someone — variously reported as Harrison, Starr, or Clapton — misread Harrison’s handwritten “bridge” (a term for a section of a song which typically links the verse to the chorus) as “badge”, and this became the title. Harrison also played rhythm guitar on the song. For contractual reasons, Harrison was required to use the pseudonym “L’Angelo Misterioso.” One of Harrison’s compositions for The Beatles’ Abbey Road album, “Here Comes the Sun”, was written in Clapton’s back garden. Clapton also guested on the Harrison-penned Beatles track “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. Through Clapton, Harrison met Delaney Bramlett, who introduced Harrison to the slide guitar.
Harrison’s songwriting improved greatly through the years, but his material did not earn respect from his fellow Beatles until near the group’s breakup (McCartney told Lennon in 1969: “George’s songs this year are at least as good as ours”). Harrison later said that he always had difficulty getting the band to record his songs.
Notable 1963–70 Harrison compositions include “Don’t Bother Me”, “I Need You”, “Think for Yourself”, “If I Needed Someone”, “Taxman”, “I Want to Tell You”, “Within You Without You”, “Blue Jay Way”, “The Inner Light”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (featuring lead guitar by Eric Clapton), “Piggies” (later featured inadvertently in the notorious Charles Manson murder case), “Savoy Truffle”, “Only a Northern Song”, “Old Brown Shoe, “Something”, “Here Comes the Sun”, “I Me Mine”, and “For You Blue” (about his then-wife Patti Boyd, featuring lap steel guitar by John Lennon).
Friction among Harrison, Lennon, and McCartney increased markedly during the recording of The Beatles, as Harrison threatened to leave the group on several occasions. Between 1967 and 1969, McCartney on several occasions expressed dissatisfaction with Harrison’s guitar playing. Tensions came to a head during the filming of rehearsal sessions at Twickenham Studios for what eventually became the Let It Be documentary film. Conflicts between Harrison and McCartney appear in several scenes in the film, including one in which Harrison retorts to McCartney, “OK, well, I don’t mind. I’ll play whatever you want me to play or I won’t play at all if you don’t want me to play. Whatever it is that’ll please you, I’ll do it.” Frustrated by ongoing slights, the poor working conditions in the cold and sterile film studio, and Lennon’s creative disengagement from the group, Harrison quit the band on 10 January. He returned on 22 January after negotiations with the other Beatles at two business meetings.
The group’s internal relations were more cordial (though still strained) during recordings for the album Abbey Road. The album included “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun”, probably Harrison’s most popular Beatles songs. “Something” is considered to be one of his best works and was recorded by both Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, who deemed it “the greatest love song of the last fifty years”. (However, Sinatra credited the song as his “favourite Lennon-McCartney composition”, rather than crediting Harrison when making the compliment.) Harrison’s increasing productivity, coupled with his difficulties in getting The Beatles to record his music, meant that by the end of the group’s career he had amassed a considerable stockpile of unreleased material.
When Harrison was asked years later what kind of music The Beatles might have made if they had stayed together, his answer was to the point: “The solo stuff that we’ve done would have been on Beatle albums.” Harrison’s assessment is confirmed by the fact that many of the songs on their early solo albums premiered at various times during The Beatles’ recording sessions but were not actually recorded by the group.
Harrison was only 26 years old at the time of The Beatles’ last recording session on 4 January 1970 (Lennon, who had left the group the previous September, did not attend the session).
After The Beatles split in 1970, Harrison released a number of albums, both as solo projects and as a member of other groups, using his slide guitar. After years of being limited in his contributions to The Beatles, he released a large number of the songs he had stockpiled in the first major solo work released after the breakup, All Things Must Pass, the first triple album by a single artist in rock history.
All Things Must Pass was a triumphant entry into the solo market by Harrison and marked by four full sides of excellent Beatle-worthy material, followed by an additional two sides of extended rock jams by Harrison and other musician friends. In terms of its breadth and virtuosity, it in some ways resembled The White Album, but this work was the achievement of a sole individual.
It certainly gave pause to many who considered George to be out of the league of Lennon and McCartney as a performer and songwriter. Along with the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album and Paul McCartney’s Band on the Run, All Things Must Pass is generally deemed one of the three finest solo efforts by the ex-Beatles, or groups headed by ex-Beatles.
The album, which topped the charts, included the number-one hit singles “My Sweet Lord” and “Isn’t It a Pity” as well as the top-10 single “What Is Life.” Harrison was later sued for copyright infringement over “My Sweet Lord,” because of its surface similarity to the 1963 Chiffons single “He’s So Fine”. Harrison denied deliberately stealing the song, but he lost the resulting court case in 1976. In the ruling, the court accepted the possibility that Harrison had “subconsciously copied” the Chiffons’ melody as the basis for his own song. Disputes over damages dragged on into the 1990s, with manager Allen Klein changing sides by buying Bright Tunes, which published “He’s So Fine”, and continuing the suit after parting with Harrison. Harrison ultimately wound up as the owner of both songs (Huntley 2004).
“All Things Must Pass” was revived in early 2001, when a remastered version was released. It peaked at #4 on Billboard’s Pop Catalog chart, with Harrison taking part in Internet chats to help promote it. It reappeared on that chart following Harrison’s death. Featured on the 30th Anniversary edition were five bonus tracks, including the top-notch outtake “I Live For You” as well as a new, updated version of “My Sweet Lord.” ATMP has been certified by the RIAA as having sold six million copies in the U.S. alone. In early 2007, it was determined that “All Things Must Pass” indeed was a #1 album in the United Kingdom when first released in the winter of 1970-71. Because some sales were not properly counted, the album originally peaked at #4 in Britain.
Harrison was the first rock star to organise a major charity concert. His Concert for Bangladesh on August 1, 1971, drew over 40,000 people to two shows in New York’s Madison Square Garden with the intention of aiding the starving refugees from the war in Bangladesh. Ravi Shankar opened the proceedings, which included such other popular musicians as Bob Dylan (who rarely appeared live in the early 1970s), Eric Clapton, who made his first public appearance in months (due to a heroin addiction which began when Derek and the Dominos broke up), Leon Russell, Badfinger, Billy Preston and fellow Beatle Ringo Starr. Unfortunately, tax troubles and questionable expenses tied up many of the concert’s proceeds . Apple Corps released a newly arranged concert DVD and CD in October 2005 (with all artists’ sales royalties continuing to go to UNICEF), which contained additional material such as previously unreleased rehearsal footage of If Not for You, featuring Harrison and Dylan.
In addition to his own works, during this time Harrison co-wrote or produced two hits for Starr (“It Don’t Come Easy” and “Photograph”) and appeared on tracks by Lennon “How Do You Sleep?”, “Oh My Love” and “Gimme Some Truth”, Harry Nilsson (“You’re Breakin’ My Heart”), Badfinger (“Day After Day”) on which he played slide guitar, as well as working for Billy Preston (“That’s The Way God Planned It”) and Cheech & Chong (“Basketball Jones”).
Harrison’s next album was Living in the Material World in 1973. “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)” was a big hit (it reached #1 in the U.S.), and “Sue Me Sue You Blues” was a window into the former Beatles’ miserable legal travails, but overall the record was seen as too overtly religious, though it did reach #1 on the U.S. album chart for 5 weeks. A reissue of the album, along with fine bonus tracks “Deep Blue” and “Miss O’Dell” and a bonus DVD was released in September 2006 and reached #38 on Billboard’s Pop Catalog chart.
In 1974, Harrison released Dark Horse and at the same time launched a major tour of the United States. The tour was panned for its long mid-concert act of Pandit Ravi Shankar & Friends and for Harrison’s hoarse voice. The album made the Top 5 in the U.S. album chart, but was a failure in the UK, because of a combination of declining interest and unfavorable reviews. The single “Ding Dong, Ding Dong”, a Top 40 UK and U.S. hit, was criticised for its unadventurous lyric, though it has since become a favourite record with radio programmers in the closing moments of each year, and at New Year’s Eve parties. The song Dark Horse was released as the second single and reached #15 on Billboard.
It was during this period while in Los Angeles, preparing for the 1974 tour, that he also opened offices for his new Dark Horse Records on the A&M Records lot, on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles. It was in those offices that he met Olivia Trinidad Arias, who was assigned to work at his label with Terry Doran from Apple and Jack Oliver who came over from London to run the label. The relationship with Olivia progressed during the rehearsals, and she joined Harrison on his 1974 tour, during which their relationship blossomed into something more, resulting in her permanent relocation to Friar Park in Henley-on-Thames, England, George’s home.
Subsequent to the 1974 tour he returned to his home in the UK, and commuted between there and Los Angeles for the next few years, while Dark Horse issued a small number of records by performers such as Splinter, Attitudes, and Ravi Shankar. He also planned to issue his own records through Dark Horse, after his contract with EMI expired.
Amid a music media rife with Beatle-reunion speculation, Harrison was probably the least accommodating of these theories, telling the press in 1974 that while he would not mind working with Lennon and Starr again, he could not see himself being involved in a band with McCartney, who had limited his contributions while in The Beatles. He told the press that if someone wanted to hear Beatles-style music, they could “go listen to Wings,” McCartney’s new band. (Schaffner 1977)
His final studio album for EMI (and Apple Records) was Extra Texture (Read All About It), featuring a diecut cover. The album spawned two singles, “You” which reached the Billboard top 20 and “This Guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying)”, which became Apple’s final original single release in 1975. (Schaffner 1977) It was also the first solo Beatles single that failed to chart in the U.S.
Following the former Beatles’ departure from Capitol, the record company was in a position to licence releases featuring Beatles and post-Beatles work on the same album, and used Harrison for this experiment. The Best of George Harrison (1976) combined his best Beatles songs with a slim selection of his best solo Apple work. Harrison made plain his annoyance with the track listing and the fact that he was not consulted. It did not chart in the UK.
Business and personal troubles took their toll on Harrison during 1976. When his first Dark Horse album (Thirty Three & 1/3, his age at the time) was due, Harrison was suffering from hepatitis and could not complete the production. After A&M threatened to take him to court, Warner Bros. Records stepped in, buying out Harrison’s Dark Horse contract with A&M, and allowing him time to regain his health.
Thirty Three & 1/3 was his most successful late-1970s album, reaching #11 on the U.S. charts, and it featured the hits “This Song” (a satire of the “My Sweet Lord” ruling) and “Crackerbox Palace” (a humorous and surrealistic number, looking back on his life to date; the title was the name of comedian Lord Buckley’s former home in Hollywood, California, which Harrison visited, while “Mr. Greif” was George Greif, Buckley’s former manager).
After his second marriage and the birth of son Dhani Harrison, Harrison’s next album was self-titled. 1979’s George Harrison included the singles “Blow Away”, “Love Comes To Everyone” and “Faster”. Both the album and “Blow Away” made the Billboard top 20.
In 1980, Harrison became the only ex-Beatle to write an autobiography, I Me Mine. Former Beatles publicist Derek Taylor helped with the book, which was initially released in a high-priced limited edition by Genesis Publications. The book said little about The Beatles, focusing instead on Harrison’s hobbies, such as gardening and Formula One automobile racing. It also included the lyrics to his songs and some photographs with humorous captions.
Harrison was deeply shocked by the December 1980 murder of John Lennon. The crime reinforced his decades-long worries about safety from stalkers. It was also a deep personal loss, although unlike former bandmates McCartney and Starr, Harrison had little contact with Lennon in the years before the murder. Harrison modified the lyrics of a song he had written for Starr to make it a tribute song to Lennon. “All Those Years Ago” received substantial radio airplay, reaching #2 on the U.S. charts. All three remaining Beatles performed on it, although it was expressly a Harrison single. “Teardrops” was issued as a follow-up single, but was not nearly as successful.
Both singles were taken from the album Somewhere in England, released in 1981. The album was originally slated for release in late 1980, but Warner Bros. rejected it, ordering Harrison to replace several tracks, and to change the album cover as well. This was another professional humiliation.
In 1981 Harrison played guitar on one track of Mick Fleetwood’s record The Visitor, Lindsey Buckingham’s song “Walk a Thin Line”.
Aside from a song on the Porky’s Revenge soundtrack in 1984, his version of a little-known Bob Dylan song “I Don’t Want To Do It”, Harrison released no new records for five years after 1982’s Gone Troppo was met with apparent indifference.
In 1985, Harrison made a rare public appearance on the Showtime special Carl Perkins and Friends along with Starr and Clapton among others. He only agreed to appear because he was a close admirer of Perkins where the Beatles covered three of his songs while Carl was in the studio watching them record. In 1986, Harrison made a surprise performance at “Heartbeat ’86,’ a concert event to raise money for the Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Harrison played and sang the finale Johnny B. Goode along with Robert Plant, The Moody Blues, and Electric Light Orchestra, among others.
In 1987 Harrison returned with the critically acclaimed album Cloud Nine, co-produced with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra, and enjoyed a hit (#1 in the U.S.; #2 in the UK) when his rendition of James Ray’s early 1960s number “Got My Mind Set on You” was released as a single; another single, “When We Was Fab”, a retrospective of The Beatles’ days complete with musical flavours for each bandmate, was also a minor hit. MTV regularly played the two videos, and elevated Harrison’s public profile with another generation of music listeners. The album reached #8 and #10 on the U.S. and UK charts, respectively. In the U.S., several tracks also enjoyed high placement on Billboard’s Album Rock chart — “Devil’s Radio,” “This Is Love” and “Cloud 9” in addition to the aforementioned singles.
In 1988, he was instrumental in forming the Traveling Wilburys with Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty when they gathered in Dylan’s garage to quickly record an additional track for a projected Harrison European single release. The record company realised the track (“Handle With Care”) was too good for its original purpose as a B-side and asked for a full, separate album. This had to be completed within two weeks, as Dylan was scheduled to start a tour. The album was released in October 1988 and recorded under pseudonyms as half-brothers (supposed sons of Charles Truscott Wilbury, Sr.), Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.
One of Harrison’s most artistically successful ventures during this period was his involvement in film production through his company Handmade Films. The Beatles had been fans of the anarchic humour of the Goons, and Harrison became a dedicated fan of their stylistic successors, Monty Python. He provided financial backing for the Python film The Life of Brian after the original backers (EMI Films) withdrew, fearing the subject matter of the film was too controversial. Other films produced by Handmade included Mona Lisa, Time Bandits, Shanghai Surprise and Withnail and I. He made several cameo appearances in these movies, including appearing as a nightclub singer in Shanghai Surprise and as Mr Papadopolous in Life of Brian. He also appeared in an episode of the hit television series The Simpsons. One of his most memorable cameos was as a reporter in the cult Beatles parody The Rutles, created by Python Eric Idle.
Early in 1989, Harrison, Lynne and another ex-Beatle Starr, all appeared on Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”, where Harrison played electric guitar. The same year also saw the release of Best of Dark Horse 1976-1989, a compilation drawn from his later solo work. This album also included two new songs, “Poor Little Girl”, and “Cockamamie Business” (which saw him once again looking wryly upon his Beatle past), as well as “Cheer Down” which had first been released earlier in the year on the soundtrack to the Mel Gibson movie Lethal Weapon 2. Unlike his previous greatest hits package, Harrison made sure to oversee this compilation.
The first year of the new decade saw a new Traveling Wilburys’ album, despite the death of Roy Orbison in late 1988. The band reportedly approached Del Shannon about filling the vacant slot, but Shannon committed suicide in February 1990. The second album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 was recorded as a four-piece. It was not nearly as successful as the previous album, but still managed to spawn the singles “She’s My Baby”, “Inside Out”, and “Wilbury Twist”.
In 1991, Harrison staged a tour of Japan along with Eric Clapton. It was his first tour since the 1974 U.S. tour, and, although he seemed to enjoy it, there were to be no others. The Live in Japan recording came from these shows. In October 1992, Harrison played three songs (“If Not for You”, “Absolutely Sweet Marie”, and “My Back Pages”) at a huge Bob Dylan tribute concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
In 1994–1996, Harrison reunited with the surviving former Beatles and Traveling Wilburys producer Jeff Lynne for The Beatles Anthology project, which included the recording of two new Beatles songs built around solo vocal and piano tapes recorded by Lennon in the 1970s, as well as the lengthy interviews on The Beatles’ history.
In 1995, at the height of the Britpop movement—which was heavily influenced by Harrison’s music—he became embroiled in a feud with Oasis’ Gallagher brothers. Devoted fans of The Beatles, the brothers were offended when Harrison referred to them as “silly” and “a passing fad”. Noel Gallagher responded by saying “George was always the quiet Beatle—maybe he should keep that up” whilst Liam Gallagher described him as a “nipple” and threatened to play golf off Harrison’s head should they ever meet. Apparently, the feud was short lived, and when Noel Gallagher and Harrison actually met, they got on well.
In 1996, Harrison recorded, produced and played on “Distance Makes No Difference With Love” with Carl Perkins for his “Go-Cat-Go” record. Harrison’s final television appearance was not intended as such; in fact, he was not the featured artist, and the appearance was to promote Chants of India, another collaboration with Ravi Shankar released in 1997, at the height of interest in chant music. John Fugelsang, then of VH1, conducted the interview, and at one point an acoustic guitar was produced, and handed to Harrison. When an audience member asked to hear “a Beatles song,” Harrison pulled a sheepish look and answered, “I don’t think I know any!” Harrison then played “All Things Must Pass” and “Any Road”, a song which subsequently appeared on the 2002 Brainwashed album.
In January 1998 Harrison attended the funeral of his boyhood idol, Carl Perkins, in Jackson, Tennessee. Harrison played an impromptu version of Perkins’ song “Your True Love” during the service. That same year he attended the public memorial service for Linda McCartney.
A former heavy smoker, Harrison endured an ongoing battle with cancer throughout the late 1990s, having growths removed first from his throat, then his lung. He was first diagnosed with cancer in August 1997.
In late 1999 Harrison survived a knife attack by an intruder in his home, which in some ways mirrored John Lennon’s murder. On the evening of 30 December 1999, Michael Abram broke into the Harrisons’ Friar Park home in Henley-on-Thames and stabbed George multiple times, ultimately puncturing his lung. Harrison and his wife, Olivia, fought the intruder and detained him for the police. 35-year-old Abram, who believed he was possessed by Harrison and was on a “mission from God” to kill him, was later acquitted on grounds of insanity. Harrison was traumatized by the invasion and attack and was rarely seen in public afterward.
In 2001, Harrison appeared as a guest musician on the Electric Light Orchestra album Zoom, played slide guitar on the song “Love Letters” for Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, remastered and restored unreleased tracks from the Traveling Wilburys, and wrote a new song, “Horse to the Water.” The latter song ended up as Harrison’s final recording session, on 2 October. It appeared on Jools Holland’s album Small World, Big Band.
Harrison’s cancer recurred in 2001 and was found to have metastasized. Despite very aggressive treatment, it was soon found to be terminal. He set about getting his affairs in order and spent his final months with his family and close friends. He also worked on songs for an album with his son Dhani, which was released posthumously.
Harrison died in a Hollywood Hills mansion that was once leased by McCartney and was previously owned by Courtney Love. (Reuters reported that the house had been leased in the name of Gavin de Becker, a security consultant working for Harrison).
During an interview on the Larry King show on CNN during 2007, Paul McCartney described how he had visited Harrison on his death bed and demonstrated how he had sat silently next to Harrison while stroking Harrison’s hand to comfort him. The interview can be seen on YouTube.
Harrison died on 29 November 2001. He was 58 years old. Harrison’s death was ascribed to lung cancer that had metastasized to the brain. He was cremated and, although it was widely reported that his ashes were scattered in the Ganges River, the ceremony was not conducted at the expected time. The actual disposition of the ashes has not been publicly disclosed.
After his death, the Harrison family released the following statement: “He left this world as he lived in it: conscious of God, fearless of death and at peace, surrounded by family and friends.” Harrison had often said, “Everything else can wait, but the search for God cannot wait; and love one another.”
Harrison and Aaliyah made UK chart history when they scored the first (and so far the only) pair of back-to-back posthumous number one hits as Aaliyah’s “More than a Woman” (released on 7 January 2002 and topped the chart on 13 January 2002) was followed by Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” (re-released on 14 January 2002 and topped the chart on 20 January 2002).
Harrison’s final album, Brainwashed, was completed by Dhani Harrison and Jeff Lynne and released on 18 November 2002. It received generally positive reviews in the United States, and peaked at #18 on the Billboard charts. A media-only single, “Stuck Inside a Cloud”, was heavily played on UK and U.S. radio to promote the album (#27 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart), while the official single “Any Road”, released in May 2003, reached #37 on the British chart.
Personal and family life
Harrison was the youngest of four children (his older siblings were sister Louise and brothers Peter and Harry). His father, Harry, had been a sailor until the children came along; he then changed careers, becoming a city bus driver to stay close to home. His mother, Louise French, taught ballroom dancing at home. His maternal grandfather John French, born in 1870, immigrated from County Wexford, Ireland, to Liverpool where he signed on with the city’s police force.
The family always encouraged George; his mother lent him the money for his first guitars and kept him company (sometimes until late hours) as he taught himself to play. Harrison paid his mother back by making deliveries for the local butcher; Lennon’s family were among those along his route. His next job (after leaving school) was his apprenticeship at Blacklers, while playing nights with the early Beatles; to meet their first tour commitments, Harrison had to take his summer holiday early.
George’s father, Harry, was disappointed that George had to quit at Blacklers to make the first Beatles trip to Hamburg in 1960, wanting him instead to have a trade, but he reasoned that if things didn’t work out, George was young and had time to start over. Harrison himself had hopes of being a working musician for a few years, then possibly trying to get into art school.
Harrison married model Pattie Boyd on 21 January 1966, at Leatherhead and Esher registry office, with Paul McCartney as best man. Harrison is reputed to have written the song “Something” for Boyd in 1969, although he himself denied this, saying he was actually thinking about a song for Ray Charles. In the late 1960s, Eric Clapton fell in love with Boyd, and famously poured out his unrequited passion on the title song of the landmark Derek and the Dominos album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970). Some time after the song’s release, Harrison and Boyd divorced, and she and Clapton subsequently married. Despite this, Harrison and Clapton remained close friends, calling themselves “husbands-in-law.”
Harrison’s mother died in 1970, aged 58, and his father died in 1978, aged 70, both of cancer. Harrison married for a second time, to Olivia Trinidad Arias (born 18 May 1948), in 1978. The ceremony took place on 2 September They had one son, Dhani Harrison. Dhani looks so remarkably like his father that McCartney quipped on stage at Concert for George: “Olivia told me that it looks like George stayed young and we all got old.” After the 1999 stabbing incident in which Arias subdued Harrison’s assailant nearly single-handedly, Harrison was sent a fax by close friend Tom Petty that simply read, “Aren’t you glad you married a Mexican girl?”
Harrison was a tremendous fan of Monty Python, forming his Handmade Films company for the purpose of financing the group’s film The Life of Brian. It was through his love of the comedy group’s work that he met Python member Eric Idle. The two became close friends, with Harrison appearing on Idle’s Rutland Weekend Television series and in his Beatles spoof, The Rutles’ All You Need Is Cash. Idle also performed at the Concert for George, held to commemorate Harrison. Idle writes at length about his love for and friendship with Harrison, and his fond memories of the singer, in his memoir The Greedy Bastard Diary.
He was also a fan of the comedy satirical rock group the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, which appeared in the Beatles film Magical Mystery Tour and was a close friend of the band’s drummer ‘Legs’ Larry Smith. His other close friends included, apart from Eric Clapton, Jon Lord of Deep Purple and Joe Brown. Jon Lord wrote a song commemorating Harrison – “A Smile When I Shook His Hand”, released on Lord’s 2004 CD Beyond the Notes. During the 2005 German tour Lord also performed “Here Comes the Sun”.
An accomplished gardener, Harrison restored the English manor house and grounds of Friar Park, which once belonged to Victorian eccentric Sir Frank Crisp. Purchased in 1970, the home is the basis for the song “Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)”. Several Harrison videos were also filmed on the grounds, including “Crackerbox Palace”; in addition the legendary cover of the “All Things Must Pass” album was shot on the grounds. Harrison took great solace working in the garden, and dedicates his book “I, Me, Mine” to gardeners everywhere. Harrison also owned homes in Hawaii and Australia where he kept extensive tropical gardens.
Harrison was a fan of sports cars and motor racing; even before becoming a musician, he collected photos of racing drivers and their cars. He was often seen in the paddock areas of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone as well as other motor racing venues. He credited Jackie Stewart with encouraging him to return to recording in the late 1970s, and he wrote “Faster” as a tribute to Stewart (who also appeared in the accompanying promotional video) and Niki Lauda. Proceeds from its release went to the Gunnar Nilsson cancer charity, set up following the Swedish driver’s death from the disease in 1978.
He was also a huge fan of the small British racing car, the Mini Cooper. Throughout the 60’s he drove his Minis to shows and clubs around London. In The Beatles Anthology, there is a story of a drug-induced trip involving his Mini Cooper, and footage of Harrison driving his Coopers around race tracks at high speeds.
Harrison’s first “important” car was recently sold at auction in Battersea Park. The 1964 Aston Martin DB5 was bought new and delivered personally to Kinfauns.
Also in The Beatles Anthology, Harrison, McCartney, and Starr are shown sitting around a table at Friar Park with a colour poster of the late Brazilian Formula 1 World Champion Ayrton Senna behind them. Harrison also owned a $1 million McLaren F1 road car. The 3-seater McLaren can be seen carrying Harrison, McCartney, and Starr in segment of The Beatles Anthology, prior to the video for the single “Free As A Bird” and also in that of “Any Road”.
On 12 June 1965 Harrison and the three other Beatles were appointed Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), and received their insignia from the Queen at an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 26 October.
In 1970 Harrison and the three other Beatles won the Academy Award for the best Original Song Score for Let It Be.
The minor planet 4149, discovered on 9 March 1984 by B. A. Skiff at the Anderson Mesa Station of the Lowell Observatory, was named after Harrison.
In December 1992, Harrison became the first recipient of Billboard’s Century Award — presented to music artists for significant bodies of work. Fellow Traveling Wilbury Tom Petty introduced Harrison, who made a rare public appearance to receive the prestigious honor.
Several days after his death, The Simpsons episode “A Hunka Hunka Burns in Love” was dedicated to his memory. Harrison had guest starred on the series as himself in the episode Homer’s Barbershop Quartet.
On 29 November 2002, the first anniversary of Harrison’s death, McCartney, Starr, Eric Clapton, Ravi Shankar, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Jeff Lynne, Billy Preston, Joe Brown, Jools Holland, Sam Brown, Olivia Harrison, and Dhani Harrison were among many others who attended the Concert For George at the Royal Albert Hall in London, which was organized by Clapton. McCartney played “Something”, and started the song by playing a ukulele unaccompanied. He explained this by saying that when he and Harrison got together, they would often play Beatles songs (and their own) on a ukulele. McCartney, Clapton, and Starr reunited on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” for the first time since the song was recorded. The profits from the concert went to Harrison’s charity, the Material World Charitable Foundation.
In 2003, Harrison was ranked #21 in Rolling Stone’s list of The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
Harrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist on 15 March 2004 by his Traveling Wilburys friends Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty.
The career and legacy of George Harrison were the featured cover story for the 10 December 2001, issue of Time magazine. This marked the first issue of Time magazine published after 11 September 2001 that had as its featured cover story a person or topic that was totally unrelated to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Harrison was inducted into the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame on 1 August 2006.
In June 2007, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced that Harrison would receive a star on the Walk of Fame in 2008. Meanwhile, that same month, portraits of Harrison and John Lennon were unveiled at The Mirage Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, where they will be on permanent display.
In September 2007, Variety announced that Martin Scorsese would make a film about Harrison’s life.
Beatles songs written or co-written by Harrison
List of Beatles songs written by George Harrison
Main article: George Harrison discography
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George Harrison & Hinduism – His Idea of God & Reincarnation
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Excerpt from Wikipedia