Magic remembers George Harrison

On This Day 29/11/2019
George Harrison December 1963 during a live Beatles Show

Written in the Summer of 63, the first song by George Harrison to feature on an album, 'Don’t Bother Me' sums up much of the perception surrounding the Quiet Beatle, unheard from until this second Beatles album.

Back in the day he may have been the least prevalent band member to the media and even fans but Harrison’s musical journey displays an astounding willingness to explore and experiment.

His abilities show a laser focused mix of pure raw talent coupled with dogged determination.

He described his own introduction to music as an epiphany when overhearing Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel while riding his bike through the neighbourhood at age 12.

Inspired he took up a passion for the guitar, as a younger schoolmate of Paul McCartneys, Harrison auditioned atop a double decker bus impressing the originally doubtful John Lennon, joining the Quarrymen, the progenitor to the Beatles.

Fame was difficult for George, with the Beatles success there also came the feeling from McCartney and Lennon they couldn’t quite shake the impression that George was still their junior and not their equal.

During their North American tour Harrison was introduced to Indian Classical music and the Sitar which he became fascinated by, he is credited with introducing the instrument to mainstream western ears when it appeared on John Lennon’s ‘Norwegian Wood’.

Harrison learns the sitar as Beatles look on

He later adopted and became an advocate for Hinduism making pilgrimage across India prior to the recording of Sergeant Peppers, eventually leading his bandmates on a spiritual tour of India to meet with gurus across the subcontinent.

In both his writing and performance Harrison can be defined by his willingness to explore new concepts and incorporate them into his music.

While traditionally this may have alienated him from typical Beatles fans, he was no less able to deliver iconic compositions, having penned what has been described as the greatest love song not to use the words "I love you"; 'Something'.

The first Harrison song to find it’s way to being a Beatles A-side track.

The late-in-the -game recognition of Harrison’s talents couldn’t stymie the tide of resentment throughout the group, with Harrison walking out during the Let It Be recording sessions returning weeks later only after being promised to have more of his work feature on the albums.

It wouldn’t be long before the Beatles would each go their own way.

A welcome relief for Harrison who had found the fame and duties of his position exhausting, brought to life in one of the Beatles most well loved songs, 'Here Comes the Sun'.

The song is a breath of relief, a reprieve for Harrison written in the country home of friend Eric Clapton where he had stolen away to avoid attending a meeting of the Beatles' Apple Corps organisation.

Soon after the dissolution of the Beatles in 1970 George released triple album 'All Things Must Pass' which included a number of songs that his bandmates refused to perform enlisting bandmate Ringo Starr, and friend Clapton among others to record the songs.

Widely regarded as his best work the album topped the charts both sides of the Atlantic, he would continue to release albums and tour for the remainder of the decade to less favourable reviews.

A difficult time for George his wife of eight years left him and his releases failed to meet expectations.

George with his first wife Patti Boyd

Georges fears surrounding stalkers intensified following Lennon’s murder in December 1980, notbaly upset he had said at the time that he still had a lot of love and respect for Lennon. Recording at the time, he modified one of his compositions for Ringo in tribute to Lennon. 

Fading into obscurity Harrsions’s music across the decade struggled to gain notice, until nearing the end of the 80s his Cloud Nine Album marked a resurgence of sorts, produced alongside ELO’s Jeff Lynne.

In 1988, Harrison formed the Traveling Wilburys with Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. Originally the group was formed to perform a B-side track 'Handle with Care’ for a Harrison solo release but the record company was so impressed they sought a full album from the group.

Spurred by the groups success George set out on another solo tour, his first in 18 years. The Wilburys produced their second album as a four piece set, opting not to replace Orbison after his death.

Harrison during the filming of Magical Mystery Tour

Titled, at Harisson’s request, The Travelling Wilburys Vol. 3 ‘To confuse the buggers’ the album would mark the final collaboration between the artists, sadly never materialising into a touring act.

In the Mid-90s Ringo, Paul and George would team up with Jeff Lynne to produce the Beatles’ Anthology, a definitive collection of Beatles work, interviews and the first new release from the group since 1970 in the form of “Free as a Bird”

A longtime smoker Harrison successfully survived throat cancer in 98, a year later his worst nightmare would come true when a deranged fan bypassed his estates security services and attacked him in his kitchen, stabbing him and puncturing a lung.

Harrison survived the attack, but ultimately lost his life when his cancer returned, doctors performed lung surgery before discovering the cancer has spread to his brain.

On November 29th 2001 Harrison passed away in a friends home with his wife and son by his side. 

The Quiet Beatle would remain an indisputable force within the era-defining group, while not always the loudest voice, his contributions have proven themselves some of the most enduring.