Running on a dark race course
I'm a blue moon
Since I stepped from out of the womb
I've been a cool jerk
Cooking at the source
I'm a dark horse."
George Harrison MBE (25 February 1943 – 29 November 2001) was the lead guitarist for The Beatles, and a musical legend in his own right.
For instance, not only was Harrison great with the guitar, but he also introduced the band to new instruments like the sitar that gave the band whole new sounds to use. He endeavoured to write his own songs, but he found that his efforts weren't being taken seriously by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, or their producer George Martin either, and he was usually relegated to one or two tracks on each album (although he got three on Revolver, including the opening track, and four on The White Album). However, he persisted and by the time of the band's final produced album, Abbey Road, he firmly proved that he was their equal with the classic songs, "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun".
Harrison finally got to fully stretch his wings post-breakup with his solo album All Things Must Pass, the biggest-selling solo album by an ex-Beatle to date.note In addition to his artistic rise, he also used music to do direct social good, most famously by creating the first rock benefit concert, The Concert for Bangladesh, in 1971 to help that country—which besides being poverty-stricken was not only still fighting for its independence from Pakistan but also had to deal with the effects of a massive cyclone. He also was a member of the late-1980s supergroup The Traveling Wilburys.
In addition, he became a film producer by founding Hand Made Films to produce Monty Python's Life of Brian when EMI (who also owned the Beatles catalog) suddenly withdrew funding over its subject matter. The company continued on after he left it in the late 1980s.
In 1997, Harrison was diagnosed with throat cancer. He publicly blamed years of smoking for the illness. He underwent radiotherapy treatment, which was initially believed to have been successful. However, after a knife attack in December 1999 that required the removal of part of his lung, the cancer returned. In May 2001, Harrison was operated for lung cancer, and in November of the same year, it was revealed that his cancer had metastasized, as he underwent treatment for a brain tumor as well. On 29 November 2001, Harrison passed away from complications related to his illness, in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, at a property belonging to McCartney, surrounded by friends and family, at the age of 58. His final album, Brainwashed, released the following year, having been completed after a 15-year production by his son and prior collaborators.
A documentary directed by Martin Scorsese, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, was released in October 2011.
He ended at #62 in 100 Greatest Britons, and Rolling Stone recognizes him as the eleventh greatest guitarist of all time on their list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
Solo studio and live discography:
- Wonderwall Music (1968)
- Electronic Sound (1969)
- All Things Must Pass (1970)
- The Concert for Bangladesh (1971)
- Living in the Material World (1973)
- Dark Horse (1974)
- Extra Texture (Read All About It) (1975)
- Thirty Three & 1/ॐ (1976)
- George Harrison (1979)
- Somewhere in England (1981)
- Gone Troppo (1982)
- Cloud Nine (1987)
- Live in Japan (1992)
- Brainwashed (2002)
George Harrison provides examples of:
- Age-Progression Song: "Crackerbox Palace" is an elliptical example.
- Aloof Dark Haired Guy: Definetely played this persona in Beatlemania.
- Alternate Music Video: "Got My Mind Set on You" has two clips. The first one features a guy deciding to draw a girl's attention by trying to Win Her a Prize. The second is the better known "dancing furniture" clip.
- Breakout Character: His diminished role in the early years with the Fab Four grew in the later years.
- "This Guitar (Can't Keep From Crying)" and "Here Comes the Moon" were obviously tips-of-the-hat to a couple beloved songs he did with The Beatles.
- The fadeout of "Isn't It a Pity" sounds intentionally very similar to "Hey Jude".
- A non-Beatles example: The Eric Idle-directed video for "Crackerbox Palace" has a brief cameo by the Pantomime Princess Margaret from Monty Python's Flying Circus.
- The music video for "When We Was Fab" shows scenes of George in his Sgt. Pepper uniform playing guitar, while another scene shows him and two other figures as the Beatles (minus John) with their "I Am The Walrus" outfits/instrumentation.
- Cover Version: Although his version of "Got My Mind Set on You" is considered the definitive version, it was originally written by Rudy Clark as a James Ray song. Additionally, George covered Bob Dylan's "If Not for You" on All Things Must Pass.
- Distinct Double Album: All Things Must Pass was a distinct triple album. The first two records were filled with songs (including the title track) that George had originally offered to the Beatles but didn't get recorded because Lennon and McCartney were unwilling to let him have more than his two-songs-per-record quota. The third record is mostly jam-session recordings.
- Double-Meaning Title: The title of Thirty Three & 1/ॐ refers to both George's age at the time of recording and the playing speed of a 12-inch vinyl record (the size of a typical album).
- The Eeyore: While he had a droll personality himself, a fair number of his songs feature a pessimistic lyrical tone, all the way back to "Don't Bother Me". "Within You, Without You", "Circles" and "Isn't It a Pity" are also good examples.
- Foreign Culture Fetish: His interest in India, although it was a good deal deeper than the usual level of this; he studied the sitar (a ferociously difficult instrument to play well), he managed to incorporate Indian classical music into his own songwriting without making it sound like exotic local colour, and he organised the Concert for Bangladesh, which helped raise consciousness in the West of the refugee crisis caused by the Bangladesh Liberation War.
- Garnishing the Story: Harrison's guest appearance on Rutland Weekend Television as Bob the Pirate (including speaking the lingo), culminating in him performing a sea shanty instead of "My Sweet Lord".
- God-Is-Love Songs: Several. "Long, Long, Long" from The White Album is the most well-known example. "The Lord Loves the One (That Loves the Lord)" from Living in the Material World takes it even more literally.
- Grief Song: "You said it all/Though not many had ears/All those years ago".
- Interfaith Smoothie: The backing vocals of "My Sweet Lord" transition effortlessly from chanting "Hallelujah" to chanting "Hare Krishna", and eventually become a Vedic prayer to Vishnu.
- It's Been Done: The Trope Namer thanks to his guest appearance on The Simpsons.
- Lucky Charms Title: Thirty Three & 1/ॐ, read as "thirty three and a third", uses a Devanagari Om symbol (ॐ) in place of a three.
- Mr. Fanservice: Like all the Beatles in Help!, George's shirt being blown by the dryer has got the most recognition.
- New Year Has Come: "Ding Dong, Ding Dong".
- Paper-Thin Disguise: "L'Angelo Misterioso" plays guitar on several albums by George's friends, even writing the last big Cream hit.
- Posthumous Collaboration: Harrison was working on Brainwashed since 1988, but was never able to finish it before his death in 2001. It was eventually completed by his son and prior collaborators Jim Keltner and Jeff Lynne.
- Properly Paranoid: He claimed in 'The Beatles Anthology' that when going on an American tour, he refused to ride in a Ticker Tape Parade, citing the proximity of the tour to the assassination of President Kennedy.
- Protest Song: "Bangladesh". It may not sound like one today, but at the time, merely calling the country Bangladesh (instead of "East Pakistan") was a political statement that directly went against U.S. policy.
- Rearrange the Song: When he re-recorded the White Album outtake "Not Guilty" eleven years later on 1979's George Harrison, he changed it from a strident rock song to a jazzy, moody ballad, and transferred its Epic Riff from electric to acoustic guitar.
- Renaissance Man: Specifically as musician, George could play 26 instruments: guitar, sitar, 4-string guitar, bass guitar, arp bass, violin, tanpura, dobro, swarmandal, tabla, organ, piano, Moog synthesiser, harmonica, autoharp, glockenspiel, vibraphone, xylophone, claves, African drum, conga drum, tympani, ukulele, mandolin, marimba, and Jal-Tarang.
- That of course doesn't include his work, as a composer, actor, and film producer.
- Self-Titled Album: Harrison's eighth studio album is simply called George Harrison.
- Separated by the Wall: The cover to his album Wonderwall Music (note the hole in the wall).
- Shout-Out: "Crackerbox Palace" is an extended one to Lord Buckley, and Harrison also says "It's twue! It's twue!"
- Solo Side Project: Wonderwall Music and "Electronic Sound", both released while he still was a member of the Beatles.
- Super Group: Not just any Super Group: THE Super Group. Harrison founded The Traveling Wilburys, consisting of Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, Jim Keltner and Harrison himself. The group came about because Harrison had called up his friends to record a B-Side for his single "This Is Love", but his record company saw the potential in the song and encouraged the group to do more with it than make it "filler".
- Surreal Music Video:
- The music video for "When We Was Fab" starts off simple enough, with George playing the song in question against a wall on a street full of people. Then, a truck comes along and drops off Ringo Starr. And then comes the extra arms...
- And of course, the dancing furniture from the second "Got My Mind Set on You" video.
- Take That!:
- "Taxman" from Revolver was quite the shot against the British tax system of the time.
- "This Song" was written about the "unconscious plagiarism" George allegedly committed against Bright Music and the Chiffons' "He's So Fine" in writing "My Sweet Lord", complete with interjections from Eric Idle that facetiously accuse Harrison of plagiarizing even more '60s tunes.
- "Sue Me, Sue You Blues" was one to the judicial system he had to put up with during the lawsuits filed through the Beatles' breakup.
- "Blood from a Clone" is a jab at Warner (Bros.) Records, who distributed the album the song is from (Somewhere in England) and rejected multiple songs, at least partially because they were "too laid-back". The song itself references the company's apparent dislike of laid-back music, and says that they'd rather have music made by beating one's head on a brick wall, while George says he's beating his own head on a brick wall out of frustration.
- This Is a Song: "This Song"
- Uncle Pennybags/Promoted Fanboy: Financed Monty Python's Life of Brian after the original producers got freaked out by the "religiously offensive" content and backed out. For no reason except that he was a massive Monty Python fanboy (and friend of them) and just wanted to see the movie. Eric Idle called it "the most expensive movie ticket ever purchased", at least $4 million.note
- More importantly, this led to the start of Harrison's film production company "Handmade Films".
- Unplugged Version: Harrison recorded a well-known acoustic version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". It finally got released with The Beatles Anthology.
- Win Her a Prize: The first "Got My Mind Set on You" video is centered around a boy trying to draw a girl's attention by winning her a toy ballerina she wants.
- World Music: Harrison was the Beatle most interested in Indian culture, and as such is well known for experimenting with traditional Indian music in his songs. Two of the three Beatles songs with sitar music, "Love You To" (Revolver) and "Within You Without You" (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band) were written by him ("Norwegian Wood" (Rubber Soul), composed by John Lennon, is the exception). "The Inner Light" (Past Masters), another heavily Indian-influenced piece (though it does not contain any sitar), was also composed by Harrison. Ravi Shankar taught him to play the instrument. Harrison's first solo album Wonderwall Music is almost entirely full of Indian music.