George Harrison, 1943-2001
George Harrison, member of the Beatles, solo artist, film producer, guitarist extraordinaire, died of throat cancer Thursday 11/29 at the age of 58. Below, Brian Briscoe (followed by Darin Murphy and Scott Hoffman) belaud "the quiet Beatle."
Editor-in-Chief, High Bias
All Things Must Pass Away
As we mourn the passing of George Harrison, we needn't look far to find words of solace from the man himself in songs such as "My Sweet Lord," "What is Life?" or "Here Comes the Sun." Unlike Kurt Cobain, whose music is soaked in irony and foreshadowing, Harrison's music is replete with messages of love and God, of peace and devotion.
By now, the media have eulogized Harrison extensively. Career numbers, accomplishments and biographies are all good reading. He was, after all, one quarter of the Beatles.
The tears came in
painful, sloppy bursts,
and so did the relief
and the catharsis. The impact of his work was, and is, felt far and wide. His Concert for Bangladesh raised millions for a nation in need. Solo albums like All Things Must Pass (1970) and Cloud Nine (1987) were critical and commercial successes. His production company Handmade Films revitalized the British film industry with hits like Monty Python's The Life of Brian and Time Bandits. "Something," a Harrison composition, is one of the most widely played songs on the planet.
Like the best art, though, Harrison's music was both visceral and intellectual, touching individuals, not just an adoring public. This is one example.
Five years ago, The Beatles Anthology 3 was released. Among the outtakes of varying interest was a Harrison demo of "All Things Must Pass," which became the title track for his 1970 solo album.
1996 was, personally, rough. The details won't lend much to this story, though the issues included relocation, alcoholism, estrangement, and therapy. My releases then, as they are now, were music and writing.
So maybe that night while the boombox played I was writing the earliest chapters of the novel that consumes me still. Or maybe it was an email plea for sobriety or moderation. Maybe I was face-first on the desk, fighting the stomach pain that came with the problems.
And then that demo played, which Harrison recorded with just voice and shimmering electric guitar on his 26th birthday. This was not the dense, Phil Spector-produced requiem from Harrison's solo album. This was a plaintive, heartfelt recording from the same sessions as his "Something" demo. "Daylight is good at arriving at the right time," he sang. "It's not always gonna be this grey."
It moved me quite unexpectedly. The tears came in painful, sloppy bursts, and so did the relief and the catharsis.
The bad times weren't over. If this year has shown anything, it's that they never are. But life got better. The message, one of resignation about what is good being no less temporal than what is bad, was comforting somehow. We are reminded on a daily basis that what nourishes us is fragile and impermanent. It is a comfort to be reminded that what ails us is too.
Thank you, Mr. Harrison.
All things must pass
None of life's strings can last
So, I must be on my way
And face another day
Copyright 1970/2000 Harrisongs, Ltd.