George Harrison ( 1943 -- 2001 )
Musician, singer, songwriter. Born February 25, 1943, in Liverpool, England. George Harrison is a musician and songwriter who enjoyed particular prominence in the 1960s as a member of The Beatles. As a child, Harrison developed an appreciation for his father's record collection, which included works by American country music figures such as Jimmie Rodgers. While still a youth, Harrison obtained his first acoustic guitar. He soon made the acquaintance of Paul McCartney, an older student who shared Harrison's enthusiasm for music. Harrison and McCartney regularly played music together, and they soon began performing in the Quarry Men, a rock band formed by John Lennon. By the mid- to late 1950s, Harrison had begun playing electric guitar. The Quarry Men, meanwhile, had been renamed Johnny and the Moondogs, and after losing their drummer began appearing as a trio comprised of Harrison, McCartney, and Lennon.
While playing with Lennon and McCartney, Harrison also appeared in other combos, including the Les Stuart Quartet, while his mates performed together as the Nurk Twins. In 1958, Harrison, Lennon, and McCartney began performing with drummer Ken Browne. After Browne left, the band added Stuart Sutcliffe, a bassist and art student who had become friends with Lennon. This lineup, which played as the Silver Beatles, obtained work in 1960 supporting pop performer Johnny Gentle during a brief tour of Scotland. That same year, the group changed names to become the Beatles, and after adding drummer Pete Best received an extended booking at the Indra Club, a nightspot in Hamburg, West Germany.
In Hamburg, the Beatles developed a sizeable following that relished the band's raw sound, borrowed from Carl Perkins and Chuck Berry, and its considerable intensity, which sometimes led to all-night sets. Before the end of 1960, the Beatles moved to a larger club, the Kaiserkeller, where they continued to win raves with their energy and musicianship. The band's success in Hamburg was interrupted only briefly when Harrison was discovered to be a minor and, moreover, a musician who had been working—as had Lennon—without a proper permit.
The Beatles were compelled to come home to Liverpool, and in early 1961 they began playing at a jazz club, the Cavern, where they soon duplicated the success they had enjoyed in Hamburg. That spring, the band returned to Hamburg, then contracted to support rocker Tony Sheridan in a recording studio, where they played such tunes as "Cry for a Shadow," an instrumental written by Harrison and Lennon. Later that year, after another successful stint at the Cavern, the band met music-store owner Brian Epstein, who advised the musicians to diminish the rawness of their personal appearance and performances. He also encouraged them to sign a recording contract with EMI's Parlaphone Records. After signing with Parlaphone, the band changed drummers, hiring Richard Starkey, who went by the name Ringo Starr.
In the fall of 1962, the Beatles released their first single, which paired the Lennon-McCartney compositions "Love Me Do" and "P. S. I Love You." A second single, featuring Lennon and McCartney's "Please Please Me," reached the radio airwaves in early 1963 and thereupon became the top song on the charts of Melody Maker. As their prominence rapidly grew in England, the Beatles traveled to the United States for an appearance on television's Ed Sullivan Show. The band, whose members sported matching mop-top haircuts and dress suits, met with hordes of wildly enthusiastic fans at New York City's Kennedy Airport, and the ensuing performance on The Ed Sullivan Show served to increase the Beatles' popularity throughout America. In addition, songs such as "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand”—both written by Lennon and McCartney—reached the record charts in on both sides of the Atlantic. Beatlemania, replete with movies, posters, fan clubs, copycat clothing and haircuts, and even dolls, had begun.
Lennon and McCartney, as principal singers and writers of the Beatles' material, received most of the attention from media and fans. Harrison, meanwhile, became known as the band's most reserved member. Even his work as lead guitarist proved understated, with his solos exhibiting little of the flash often associated with rock music. His singing and songwriting, meanwhile, were limited within the band. He served as lead vocalist on one song, Lennon and McCartney's "Do You Want to Know a Secret," from the Beatles' first long-playing recording, Please Please Me, and he made his songwriting debut with "Don't Bother Me," which appeared on the band's second release, With The Beatles. The song's title proved to be an eloquent expression of the quiet Harrison's attitude toward his band's growing stardom.
Harrison's next significant contribution as a singer and songwriter came with "I Need You," which appeared in the band's 1965 film, Help!, and its related soundtrack. Three more Harrison compositions appeared on the Beatles' other 1965 release, Rubber Soul. Among these tunes was "If I Needed Someone," which the band included in their concerts performed during the next year as they toured the United States and Asia. Also on Rubber Soul, Harrison introduced Beatles fans to the haunting strains of sitar, which he played on the album's single “Norwegian Wood.”
Although Harrison prospered as a member of the Beatles, he also became increasingly disappointed by the band's artistic compromises. Heeding manager Epstein's advice, the Beatles had already modified their stage performances, curtailing some of the wild behavior that had characterized their early shows in Hamburg and Liverpool. The band was also compelled to change their repertoire, jettisoning some of their favorite covers in order to promote their own tunes. They also found themselves prisoners of their own image as the zany lads of their madcap comedy A Hard Day's Night. In addition, the band members discovered that fame and success exerted a limiting effect on their freedom. Adoring fans rendered it difficult for individual band members to appear in public without causing a commotion. The press, meanwhile, provided constant attention, rendering even the least significant activities—shopping or merely walking the streets—seemingly newsworthy.
1966 proved a pivotal year in Beatles history. The band played to a wildly enthusiastic crowd at Shea Stadium in New York City, but the considerable noise from that same audience undermined the band's ability to hear each other onstage and, therefore, produce music that met their increasingly exact standards. As a consequence, the Beatles withdrew from further public performance.
Although the Beatles refrained from playing further concerts, they continued to produce successful recordings. In 1966, when they played their last concerts, they also released Revolver, which ranks among rock music's most substantial achievements. The album features McCartney on such tunes as "Eleanor Rigby," "Got to Get You into My Life, and "Here, There, and Everywhere," and it ends with Lennon singing "Tomorrow Never Knows," a radical tune with hypnotic rhythms and an instrumental interlude that includes a guitar solo played backwards. The album also contains three of Harrison's songs, including "Love You To," which indicates his interest in Indian music.
After completing Revolver, Harrison traveled to India with his wife, Patti, an actress and model who had appeared briefly in A Hard Day's Night. While in India, Harrison studied sitar with master musician Ravi Shankar, and he met with various mystics and students. Harrison's appreciation for Indian culture is evident in "Within You, Without You," which he wrote for inclusion on the Beatles' next record, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. That 1967 album, with tunes such as the dreamy, orchestrated "A Day in the Life," has come to be recognized as a precursor to the concept album, where contents are arranged for greater song-to-song continuity. Like Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's has been hailed among the greatest recordings in rock music. John Lahr, for example, described it in The New Republic as "a majestic record in which the Beatles broke out into a whole new realm of musical sophistication." Rolling Stone reviewer Scott Isler reported that the album serves to demonstrate "that rock & roll could accommodate classical aspirations, with whatever mixed results."
With Sgt. Pepper's completed, Harrison continued to indulge himself in the music, religion, and philosophy of India. He even persuaded his band mates to share his interest, and the foursome ultimately traveled to India to practice meditation with the Maharashi Mahesh Yogi. Harrison's band mates eventually broke from the fold, but Harrison would continue to maintain an interest in Eastern culture.
In 1967, the Beatles released Magical Mystery Tour, which featured previously uncollected songs as well as tunes from the band's television special of the same title. Included on the album is Harrison's characteristically quirky "Blue Jay Way," which features manipulated vocals and unusual instrumentations. Harrison, however, was not the only member of the Beatles to indulge in radical expression. Lennon, for example, demonstrated his prowess as a pioneering songwriter with both "I Am the Walrus," which ends in a plethora of chants and dialogues, and the psychedelic "Strawberry Fields Forever," which culminates in an orchestral flourish.
By this time, the Beatles had undergone significant changes. They had exchanged their mop-top haircuts and matching suits for the long hair and colorful clothes indicative of Sixties fashions, and they would eventually forsake fashion entirely and sport facial hair. In addition, they had largely abandoned the primitive rock of their early days in favor of complex arrangements and elaborate musical structures. But they had also grown apart as musicians. McCartney, perhaps the most accessible of the Beatles songwriters, had begun to surpass Lennon in influence within the band. Lennon, meanwhile, became increasingly political and experimental, and Harrison began to demonstrate renewed interest in more conventional rock ballads.
The band's growing eclecticism is evident in The Beatles ,their 1968 release usually referred to as the "White Album." The recording ranges from McCartney's "Back in the USSR," which recalls the music of the Beach Boys, to Lennon's amiable "Revolution," and it also features both acoustic tunes such as "Rocky Raccoon" and basic rock songs such as "Helter Skelter." Harrison's contributions include "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," which features a solo by his close friend, eminent guitarist Eric Clapton. But as Harrison told Dan Forte in a Guitar Player interview, "It was my guitar that was gently weeping—Eric just happened to be playing it."
The Beatles determined to film themselves making their next recording. But the ensuing project became most memorable as a document of the increasing tension within the band, and it reveals the increasing presence of Lennon's lover, Yoko Ono. After ending the film project, the Beatles reconvened with producer George Martin for Abbey Road, which included two of Harrison's most popular songs, "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something." This album marked the quartet's last work as collaborating musicians. The next year saw the release of Let It Be, a collection of songs—reworked by producer Phil Spector—from the documentary film project.
After the Beatles ceased working together, Harrison, who had amassed a sizeable collection of songs, released All Things Must Pass, a three-record work in which songs such as "My Sweet Lord" and "Awaiting on You All" demonstrate his affinity for mixing rock and religion. All Things Must Pass, which also generated such popular songs as "What Is Life" and "Wah Wah," topped the Billboard charts in early 1971. Later that year, Harrison organized benefits to raise funds for famine victims in Bangladesh. These concerts, featuring Harrison and such artists as Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, and Bob Dylan, resulted in another three-record release, The Concert for Bangladesh, and a film of the same title.
Harrison's solo career peaked with All Things Must Pass and The Concert for Bangladesh. During the next few years he released more recordings, including Living in the Material World, which featured the popular song "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth).” In 1974, he undertook an extensive concert tour that included Ravi Shankar and other Indian musicians as a supporting act. But Dark Horse, a recording released to coincide with the tour, failed to match the popularity of his previous works.
Harrison's personal life was proving equally troubling. In 1977, his marriage ended in divorce after his wife formed a relationship with his close friend Clapton, whom she would later marry.
In the early 1980s, after his second marriage, to Olivia Arias, and the birth of their son, Dhani, Harrison realized only a measure of success with "All Those Years Ago," which recalled the Beatles heyday in light of Lennon's assassination in 1980 by a deranged fan, and Gone Troppo, the album featuring that song, proved relatively unsuccessful with the record-buying public.
After an extended leave from recording, during which he found success as a film producer, Harrison reappeared as one of the Traveling Wilburys, a band that also included Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, and Electric Light Orchestra leader Jeff Lynn. The group's debut recording, The Traveling Wilburys, Volume 1, found favor with record reviewers, and it was followed, after Orbison's death, with a second release. Around this time, Harrison also made a rare concert appearance at an event honoring Dylan.
In 1987, Harrison continued his return to musical activity with Cloud 9, which marked another successful venture. The record featured a hit single, Harrison's reworking of the 1950s tune "Got My Mind Set on You," and it included "When We Was Fab," another tune recalling Beatlemania. Steve Simels, writing in Stereo Review, proclaimed Cloud 9 "a very nice record."
In the mid-1990s, Harrison reunited with McCartney and Starr for the Anthology projects, a series of recordings, video documentaries, and publications devoted to the Beatles. Assessing one of the recordings, Anthology 2, Jerry McCulley wrote in Rolling Stone that "the songs of the Beatles are among this divisive century's rarest achievements: a lasting body of work that crosses cultural and generational boundaries." Richard Corliss, meanwhile, wrote in Time that The Beatles Anthology, a six-hour television documentary, constituted "a jolly . . . comprehensive ramble that captures the thrill of the glory years." An oversized volume, The Beatles Anthology, also won recognition as an engaging history of the band.
Harrison's creative endeavors include other publications. In 1981, he wrote a memoir, I, Me, Mine, which offers his reflections on his many songs. Times Literary Supplement reviewer Blake Morrison described I, Me, Mine as "a kind of personal testament," and he added that Harrison's "accompanying comments on the origins of his songs are often illuminating." Harrison also served as editor of Raga Mala: The Autobiography of Ravi Shankar, which appeared in 1999.
In 1998, Harrison disclosed that he had been treated for throat cancer, which he blamed on his history of smoking. Harrison underwent another ordeal after December 30, 1999, when an intruder broke into his home west of London and stabbed Harrison several times. The man, who obsessively hated the Beatles and believed himself on a divine mission to kill Harrison, was acquitted by reason of insanity and confined to a mental hospital. One of Harrison's lungs was punctured in the attack.
After rumors surfaced in the British press in the summer of 2001 that Harrison was dying of brain cancer, the musician vigorously denied them, asserting that he had recovered. In early October 2001, he recorded a song he had written with his 24-year-old son, Dhani, called “Horse to the Water,” with the blues pianist Jools Holland. In a display of his unfailing humor amidst the continued speculation about his failing health, Harrison credited the song to “RIP Ltd. 2001.” It appears on Holland's album Small World Big Band (2001).
After a stay at a New York hospital, where he reportedly underwent radiation treatment for a brain tumor, Harrison succumbed to brain cancer on November 29, 2001, in Los Angeles.
In October 2002, Harrison received a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to British cinema at the British Independent Film Awards. Brainwashed, solo material recorded just months before his death, is set to be released November, 2002. A tribute concert is also planned for November, which will include a performance by surviving band members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.
1969 Electronic SoundAlbums
1970 All Things Must PassAlbums
1972 The Concert For Bangladesh (with other artists)Albums
1973 Living In The Material WorldAlbums
1974 Dark HorseAlbums
1975 Extra TextureAlbums
1976 Thirty Three And A ThirdAlbums
1977 The Best Of George HarrisonCompilations
1979 George HarrisonAlbums
1981 Somewhere In EnglandAlbums
1982 Gone TroppoAlbums
1987 Cloud NineAlbums
1989 Best Of Dark Horse 1976-1989Compilations
1992 Live In JapanAlbums