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George Harrison
George Harrison infobox image
Born February 25, 1943
Wavertree, County Borough of Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Died November 29, 2001 (aged 58)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, US
Occupation Musician, author, producer, gardener
Association with the Beatles Lead Guitarist

George Milo Harrison MBE (25 February 1943 – 29 November 2001) was an English musician, singer and songwriter who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of the Beatles. Sometimes called "the quiet Beatle", Harrison embraced Indian culture and helped broaden the scope of popular music through his incorporation of Indian instrumentation and Hindu-aligned spirituality in the Beatles' work. Although the majority of the band's songs were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, most Beatles albums from 1965 onwards contained at least two Harrison compositions. His songs for the group include "Taxman", "Within You Without You", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something".

By 1965, he had begun to lead the Beatles into folk rock through his interest in Bob Dylan and the Byrds, and towards Indian classical music through his use of Indian instruments, such as the sitar, which he had become acquainted with on the set of the film Help!. He played sitar on numerous Beatles songs, starting with "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)". Having initiated the band's embrace of Transcendental Meditation in 1967, he subsequently developed an association with the Hare Krishna movement. After the band's break-up in 1970, Harrison released the triple album All Things Must Pass, a critically acclaimed work that produced his most successful hit single, "My Sweet Lord", and introduced his signature sound as a solo artist, the slide guitar. He also organised the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh with Indian musician Ravi Shankar, a precursor to later benefit concerts such as Live Aid. In his role as a music and film producer, Harrison produced acts signed to the Beatles' Apple record label before founding Dark Horse Records in 1974. He co-founded HandMade Films in 1978, initially to produce the Monty Python troupe's comedy film The Life of Brian (1979).

Harrison released several best-selling singles and albums as a solo performer. In 1988, he co-founded the platinum-selling supergroup the Traveling Wilburys. A prolific recording artist, he was featured as a guest guitarist on tracks by Badfinger, Ronnie Wood, and Billy Preston, and collaborated on songs and music with Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, and Tom Petty. He is a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee – as a member of the Beatles in 1988, and posthumously for his solo career in 2004.

Harrison's first marriage to model Pattie Boyd in 1966 ended in divorce in 1977. In the following year he married Olivia Arias, with whom he had a son, Dhani. Harrison, a lifelong cigarette smoker, died of numerous cancers in 2001 at the age of 58, two years after surviving a knife attack by an intruder at his home, Friar Park. His remains were cremated, and the ashes were scattered according to Hindu tradition in a private ceremony in the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in India. He left an estate of almost £100 million.

History

Early life

George Harrison was born at 12 Arnold Grove in Wavertree, Liverpool on 25 February 1943. He was the youngest of four children of Harold Hargreaves (or Hargrove) Harrison and Louise. Harold was a bus conductor who had worked as a ship's steward on the White Star Line, and Louise was a shop assistant of Irish Catholic descent. He had one sister, Louise, and two brothers, Harold and Peter.

George lived the first four years of his life at 12 Arnold Grove, a terraced house on a cul-de-sac. The home had an outdoor toilet and its only heat came from a single coal fire. In 1949, the family was offered a council house and moved to 25 Upton Green, Speke. In 1948, at the age of five, George enrolled at Dovedale Primary School. He passed the eleven-plus exam and attended Liverpool Institute High School for Boys from 1954 to 1959. Though the institute did offer a music course, George was disappointed with the absence of guitars, and felt the school "moulded [students] into being frightened".

Harrison-1961

George Harrison in 1961

George's earliest musical influences included George Formby, Cab Calloway, Django Reinhardt and Hoagy Carmichael; by the 1950s, Carl Perkins and Lonnie Donegan were significant influences. In early 1956, he had an epiphany: while riding his bicycle, he heard Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" playing from a nearby house, and the song piqued his interest in rock and roll. He often sat at the back of the class drawing guitars in his schoolbooks, and later commented, "I was totally into guitars." George cited Slim Whitman as another early influence: "The first person I ever saw playing a guitar was Slim Whitman, either a photo of him in a magazine or live on television. Guitars were definitely coming in."

At first, Harold Harrison was apprehensive about his son's interest in pursuing a music career. However, in 1956, he bought George a Dutch Egmond flat-top acoustic guitar, which according to Harold, cost £3.10s. One of his father's friends taught George how to play "Whispering", "Sweet Sue" and "Dinah". Inspired by Donegan's music, George formed a skiffle group, the Rebels, with his brother Peter and a friend, Arthur Kelly. On the bus to school, George met Paul McCartney, who also attended the Liverpool Institute, and the pair bonded over their shared love of music.

With The Beatles

George Harrison Infobox

George in 1964

When the Beatles were still a skiffle band named the Quarrymen, George joined the band with Paul McCartney and John Lennon. In March 1958, he auditioned for the Quarrymen at Rory Storm's Morgue Skiffle Club, playing Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith's "Guitar Boogie Shuffle," but John felt George was too young to join the band, having just turned 15. On the upper deck of a Liverpool bus, Paul arranged a second meeting, during which George dazzled John by playing the lead guitar part for the instrumental "Raunchy." He began socialising with the band and filling in on guitar as needed, eventually being accepted as a member. Despite his father's wishes, George dropped out of school at the age of 16 and worked as an apprentice electrician at Blacklers, a local department store, for several months. George employed the moniker "Carl Harrison" for the group's first tour of Scotland in 1960, in allusion to Carl Perkins.

Allan Williams, a promoter, arranged for the band, now known as the Beatles, to perform at Bruno Koschmider's Indra and Kaiserkeller clubs in Hamburg in 1960. George was deported for being too young to work in nightclubs, therefore their first residence in Hamburg ended prematurely. When Brian Epstein took over as their manager in December 1961, he cleaned up their image and landed them an EMI recording deal. Beatlemania had come by the time their debut album, Please Please Me, was released in early 1963, with their first song, "Love Me Do," reaching number 17 on the Record Retailer chart.

George was known as "the quiet Beatle" because he was often serious and focused on stage with the Beatles. When the Beatles landed in the United States in early 1964, George was sick with Strep throat and a fever, and doctors recommended him to keep his mouth shut as much as possible until his scheduled appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. As a result, the press picked up on George's apparent laconic demeanour during public appearances on the tour, and the nickname stuck, much to George's amusement. On Please Please Me, he had two lead vocal credits, including the Lennon–McCartney song "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" and three on With the Beatles (1963). The latter includes George's first solo authorship credit, "Don't Bother Me."

George was the Beatles' scout for new American albums, with a particular expertise in soul music. With his interest in the Byrds and Bob Dylan, and his usage of the sitar on "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" on 1965's Rubber Soul, John had begun to guide the other Beatles into folk rock and Indian classical music. Three of his works were included on the album Revolver (1966): "Taxman," which was chosen as the album's opening track, "Love You To," and "I Want to Tell You." The band's continued exploration of non-Western instruments was exemplified by his drone-like tambura section on John's "Tomorrow Never Knows," while the sitar- and tabla-based "Love You To" was the Beatles' first true dive into Indian music.

George's interests had shifted away from the Beatles by late 1966. His use of Eastern gurus and religious figures on the album cover for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967 mirrored this. The Indian-inspired "Within You Without You," to which no other Beatle contributed, was his single contribution to the album. On the track, he played sitar and tambura, accompanied by dilruba, swarmandal, and tabla players from the London Asian Music Circle.

He recorded the basic track for his song "The Inner Light" in January 1968 at EMI's Bombay studio, using a group of local musicians playing traditional Indian instruments. It was the first George tune to feature on a Beatles single, and it was released as the B-side of Paul's "Lady Madonna." The song's lyric, which was inspired by a Tao Te Ching phrase, showed George's growing interest in Hinduism and meditation. Tensions within the group were intense during the recording of The Beatles that same year, and drummer Ringo momentarily left. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," which featured Eric Clapton on lead guitar, and the horn-driven "Savoy Truffle" were two of George's four songwriting contributions to the double album.

At the end of his Beatles career, George cited Dylan and the Band as a big musical influence. He met Dylan and was intrigued to the Band's idea of collaborative music-making and creative equality among the band members, which contrasted with John and Paul's dominance of the Beatles' songwriting and creative direction, during a visit to Woodstock in late 1968. This coincided with a creative songwriting era and a strong desire to distance himself from the Beatles. Tensions within the band resurfaced in January 1969, during the videotaped rehearsals that became the 1970 documentary Let It Be, at Twickenham Studios. Frustrated with the chilly and sterile film studio, as well as John's creative disengagement from the Beatles and what he saw as Paul's dictatorial attitude, George left the group on January 10th. After his bandmates decided to shift the film project to their own Apple Studio and forgo Paul's desire to return to public performance, he returned twelve days later.

When the Beatles recorded Abbey Road in 1969, their relationship was more friendly, though still strained. George's "two classic contributions" to the album – "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something" – saw him "finally reach equal songwriting standing" with John and Paul. During the making of the album, George asserted more creative control than he had previously, refusing modifications to his songs, particularly from Paul. When released on a double A-side single with "Come Together," "Something" became his first A-side; the song went to number one in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and West Germany, while the combined sides topped the Billboard Hot 100 list in the United States. Frank Sinatra recorded "Something" twice in the 1970s (1970 and 1979), calling it "the finest love song of the previous fifty years." It was considered by John to be the best song on Abbey Road, and after "Yesterday," it became the Beatles' second most covered song.

When the sides were listed together at number one on the Hot 100 in May 1970, George's song "For You Blue" was combined on a US single with Paul's "The Long and Winding Road" and became George's second chart-topper. He had built a stockpile of unreleased songs by the time they broke up due to his increasing production.While George developed as a songwriter, his compositional contributions to Beatles albums were limited to two or three songs, which frustrated him and contributed to the band's break-up. On 4 January 1970, George, Paul, and Ringo recorded his song "I Me Mine" for the Let It Be soundtrack album, which was George's final recording session with the Beatles.

Solo career

George Harrison 1970

George in 1970

"Something" provided a launching pad for George's solo career, but he'd already been dabbling in solo projects since 1968. That year, the Beatles launched their Apple Corps collective of businesses, one of their enterprises being an experimental label called Zapple. George released Wonderwall Music that year, becoming the first Beatle to release a solo album, and this collection of Indian music was followed in 1969 by Electronic Sound, an album where George experimented with synthesizers. A better indication of the sound George chose to follow once he officially went solo in 1970 came with his on-stage cameos during Delaney & Bonnie's 1969 British tour. Along with Bob Dylan and the Band, these American blues-rockers had an influence on All Things Must Pass, a sprawling triple album produced by Phil Spector that functioned as a spectacular introduction to George as a solo artist. Bolstered by "My Sweet Lord," a single that hit number one throughout the world, and the Top Ten "What Is Life," All Things Must Pass topped the charts in the U.S. and U.K., elevating George above John, Paul, and Ringo's stardom. His rise was not without controversy -- Bright Tunes Publishing sued George for copyright infringement in 1971, claiming "My Sweet Lord" plagiarised the Chiffons' 1963 "He's So Fine"; George lost the case but, in a byzantine turn of events, he wound up with the publishing to both songs after his then-manager Allen Klein purchased the rights to "He's So Fine" -- but there was no question George came into his own.

George harrison and the concert for bangladesh

Harrison performing at The Concert For Bangladesh in 1971

George followed All Things Must Pass with something equally grand: a benefit concert for the refugees of war-torn Bangladesh. Upon the urging of his friend Ravi Shankar, George arranged a star-studded benefit held at Madison Square Garden on August 1, 1971, enlisting his friends Ringo, Dylan, Eric Clapton, and Billy Preston to play; it was the first all-star charity show, setting the template for those to follow. Although there were problems dispersing funds, the concert was a success, as was the album, which went gold in the U.S. and won the 1973 Grammy for Album of the Year. Also in 1973, George released Living in the Material World, his second studio album and his second number one, assisted by the single "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)," a number one hit in the U.S. that topped out at eight in the U.K. He supported the record with an extensive series of North American concerts, the first tour launched by a Beatle. Upon its conclusion, he released his next album, Dark Horse (his tour shared the same title), a record greeted with mixed reviews and softening sales; it failed to chart in Britain, although it did peak at four in the U.S., where the title track went to number 15.

George closed out his contract with EMI and Apple in 1975 with Extra Texture (Read All About It), an album that fared better in the U.K. and performed respectably in the U.S., due to the single "You." He quickly launched his own Dark Horse label in 1976, inaugurating the imprint that November with Thirty Three & 1/3. (Apple released The Best of George Harrison, containing solo and Beatles cuts, almost simultaneously.) Supported by the modest hits "This Song" and "Crackerbox Palace," the slightly slicker Thirty Three & 1/3 wound up a bigger hit than its two predecessors, thereby starting George's Dark Horse years off on a slight rebound. This continued through 1979's eponymous album, a record highlighted by the soft rock hit "Blow Away," a single that peaked at number 16 in the U.S. but went no further than 51 in the U.K.

George Harrison 1987

George in 1987

George rebounded with 1981's Somewhere in England, thanks in no small part to the hit "All Those Years Ago," a song fashioned as a tribute to John and featuring contributions from Ringo and Paul and Linda McCartney. Despite this hit -- which went to two in the U.S. and 13 in the U.K. -- the record failed to go gold in either America or Britain, and Gone Troppo, released just a year later, sank from view quickly. George slid into a relatively quiet phase, concentrating on raising his son Dhani -- he was born in 1978, the first and only son of George and Olivia Harrison, who also married in 1978. George concentrated on his film company HandMade Films, a company started in 1978 with the intent of financing Monty Python's silver-screen debut Life of Brian but gained momentum in the early '80s thanks to the release of 1980's Bob Hoskins gangster drama The Long Good Friday and Terry Gilliam's 1981 fantasy Time Bandits; the company would also release the acclaimed Mona Lisa (1986) and Withnail and I (1987), before becoming mired in money problems surrounding the runaway production of the 1986 Sean Penn and Madonna film Shanghai Surprise. George stayed involved in music largely through live guest appearances, popping up at charity concerts and tributes, but he also appeared on Dave Edmunds' oldies-inspired soundtrack for 1985's Porky's Revenge.

George Harrison live in japan

George performing at his Live In Japan concert in 1991

Eventually, George began work on his ninth studio album, hiring Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra as co-producer. Lynne brought a lush, glossy sheen to 1987's Cloud Nine, a sound that was instrumental to the record's success. Preceded by a bouncy rendition of James Ray's forgotten chestnut "Got My Mind Set on You," a single that turned into a number one hit in the U.S. and reached two in the U.K., Cloud Nine was an undeniable comeback, reaching the Top Ten on both sides of the Atlantic and earning a platinum certification in the U.S., assisted in part by its second single, "When We Was Fab." In the wake of its success, George and Lynne returned to the studio to record a B-side with the assistance of Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. This session turned into a full album with the superstars calling themselves the Traveling Wilburys. Accompanied by the single "Handle with Care," their record, The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1, appeared in October 1988 and it was selling well prior to the December death of Orbison. Its second single, "End of the Line," helped cement its success and it wound up being certified platinum three times in the U.S., reaching a peak of three; it wound up in the Top Ten in every major country around the world, save the U.K., where it topped out at number 16. The Traveling Wilburys released a second album, Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 3, in the fall of 1990. While it didn't sell as well as its predecessor, the record nevertheless went to number 11 in the U.S., where it also went platinum.

George Harrison in The Beatles Anthology

George being interviewed in The Beatles Anthology

Following the 1992 release of Live in Japan and some live appearances that year, George once again receded from the spotlight, reuniting with the surviving Beatles to assemble their 1994 archival Anthology project, an effort that also included working two existing John demos into a finished project with the assistance of Lynne. After Anthology was released, George produced Ravi Shankar's 1997 album Chants of India.

Later life and death

On 30 December 1999, George and his wife were attacked at their home by a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, who broke in and attacked George with a kitchen knife, puncturing a lung and causing head injuries before Olivia Harrison incapacitated the assailant by striking him repeatedly with a fireplace poker and a lamp. In May 2001, it was revealed that George had undergone an operation to remove a cancerous growth from one of his lungs, and in July, it was reported that he was being treated for a brain tumour at a clinic in Switzerland. In November 2001, he began radiotherapy at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City for non-small cell lung cancer that had spread to his brain. When the news was made public, George bemoaned his physician's breach of privacy, and his estate later claimed damages.

On 29 November 2001, George died on a property belonging to Paul on Heather Road in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. He was 58 years old. He died in the company of Olivia, Dhani, Shankar and the latter's wife Sukanya and daughter Anoushka, and Hare Krishna devotees Shyamsundar Das and Mukunda Goswami, who chanted verses from the Bhagavad Gita. His final message to the world, as relayed in a statement by Olivia and Dhani, was: "Everything else can wait, but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another." He was cremated at Hollywood Forever Cemetery and his funeral was held at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades, California. His close family scattered his ashes according to Hindu tradition in a private ceremony in the Ganges and Yamuna rivers near Varanasi, India. He left almost £100 million in his will.

George's final album, Brainwashed (2002), was released posthumously after it was completed by his son Dhani and Jeff Lynne. A quotation from the Bhagavad Gita is included in the album's liner notes: "There never was a time when you or I did not exist. Nor will there be any future when we shall cease to be." A media-only single, "Stuck Inside a Cloud", achieved number 27 on Billboards Adult Contemporary chart. The single "Any Road", released in May 2003, peaked at number 37 on the UK Singles Chart. "Marwa Blues" went on to receive the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance, while "Any Road" was nominated for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

Songs George Harrison wrote for the Beatles

  • ‘Blue Jay Way’
  • ‘Don’t Bother Me’
  • ‘For You Blue’
  • ‘Here Comes the Sun’
  • ‘I Me Mine’
  • ‘I Need You’
  • ‘I Want to Tell You’
  • ‘If I Need Someone’
  • ‘It’s All Too Much’
  • ‘Long Long Long’
  • ‘Love You To’
  • ‘Old Brown Shoe’
  • ‘Only a Northern Song’
  • ‘Piggies’
  • ‘Savoy Truffle’
  • ‘Something’
  • ‘Taxman’
  • ‘The Inner Light’
  • ‘Think for Yourself’
  • ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’
  • ‘Within You Without You’
  • ‘You Like Me Too Much’

Discography

With The Beatles

Solo albums

Studio albums

  1. Wonderwall Music (1968)
  2. Electronic Sound (1969)
  3. All Things Must Pass (1970)
  4. Living in the Material World (1973)
  5. Dark Horse (1974)
  6. Extra Texture (Read All About It) (1975)
  7. Thirty Three & 1/3 (1976)
  8. George Harrison (1979)
  9. Somewhere in England (1981)
  10. Gone Troppo (1982)
  11. Cloud Nine (1987)
  12. Brainwashed (2002)

Live Albums

  1. Concert for Bangladesh (1972)
  2. Live in Japan (1992)

Compilations

  1. Best of George Harrison (1976)
  2. Best of Dark Horse 1976-1989 (1989)
  3. The Dark Horse Years 1976-1992 (box set) (2004)
  4. Let It Roll: Songs by George Harrison (2009)
  5. Early Takes: Vol 1 (2012)
  6. The Apple Years 1968-75 (box set) (2014)

Instruments

George Harrison 1971

Harrison playing guitar in 1971

Guitars

Electric

Acoustic

  • 1962 Gibson J-160E (1962-1968)
  • 1968 Gibson Jumbo (1968-1970)
  • 1974 Zemaitis 12-String

Other

  • 1965 Fender VI (1968-1969)
  • Undefined Sitar (1965-1968)
  • Undefined Ukulele (1992-2001)
  • Undefined Mandolin (1982)

External links

Gallery

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