Monday, February 25, 2013

I Want to Tell You: Remembering George Harrison on His 70th Birthday

Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right

By order of entry into the band, as well as his stature throughout, George Harrison was the third Beatle.

This could be seen as both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, he was one-fourth of the greatest, most important rock band in history, one that centuries hence will remain exalted alongside Mozart and Beethoven.

And there is no way of knowing if, without bandship with John, Paul and Ringo, George ever would have become famous or developed the songcraft that created "Here Comes The Sun," "Something" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," nor had the platform to explore Indian music and mysticism that helped introduce Eastern influences into popular music.

But on the other hand, Lennon and McCartney only allowed two Harrison compositions/lead vocals per Beatles album, no matter how many songs George may have had up his sleeve.

And based on having released the unprecedented 3-record set All Things Must Pass in November 1970, just months after The Beatles' official split--which many consider (along with Lennon's Plastic Ono Band and Imagine) the greatest of Beatle solo albums--Harrison's output within the Beatles could conceivably have been much greater than it was.

So after my friend Dave noted on Facebook that today would have been George Harrison's 70th birthday had he not been stricken with cancer and--after also being stabbed by a lunatic home invader--passed away at age 58 in 2001, I felt compelled to compile and share some of my favorite Harrison songs. (Wikipedia denotes all his compositions.)

A YouTube video playlist is below, which plays through 10 tunes including Beatles' classics written (or in the case of "I'm Happy Just to Dance With You," sung) by Harrison, solo cuts like "All Things Must Pass," "Blow Away" (a favorite of mine as a kid) and "Any Road," plus a Traveling Wilburys song.

With this evidence--and for just $9.99 on Amazon, I highly recommend downloading Live In Japan, a long-cherished double album documenting his 1990 tour of Japan with old pal (and wife stealer) Eric Clapton on guitar--it seems fair to say that even if he was the third Beatle, George Harrison forever stands not only among his bandmates, but the rock 'n roll songwriting gods: Jagger/Richards, Pete Townshend, Brian Wilson, Ray Davies, Bob Dylan and few others.

And while I really can't expound on this with any acuity or corroboration, when I think of a "beautiful soul" in the realm of musical heroes or the famous of any sort, no one comes to mind more prevalently than George Harrison. (Who, not incidentally, also deserves credit for creating the all-star benefit concert with 1971's Concert for Bangladesh.)

"All things must pass," indeed, but I have no doubt the world is a worse place without "the Quiet Beatle" around to celebrate his 70th birthday.

But I still wish him a happy one while sharing some of the best of what he left behind. For as George also sang, "Life flows on within you and without you."

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