IF NOT FOR YOU
Let the guitars weep gently. Here's a shout out for the guy who stands in back, lets others take the spotlight, does his job and doesn't say much.
The patron saint of such stand-up guys is now George Harrison, whose life ended Thursday morning at a friend's house in Los Angeles. He died as one of the world's most famous people, yet also one of the most reclusive. Many an obituary will call him a "former" Beatle, but in the minds of millions, he never stopped being one.
Mr. Harrison joined John Lennon's band the Quarrymen in 1958. Youngest member of the band, he was not yet an accomplished guitarist when the Beatles first went "world" in 1963-4. Many of his solos on the early recordings were labored copies of his 1950s idols. But he improved rapidly. While the artistic growth of John Lennon and Paul McCartney overshadowed his own, nevertheless he made his own mighty contribution.
Twenty-two Harrison songs appeared on Beatles albums. On several, his were among the very best. On Revolver, "Taxman" is a sneering, knife-edged piece of social criticism. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on The Beatles stands out on that uneven dream of an album. He reached his peak as a songwriter with "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun," the two best songs on Abbey Road.
Harrison's discovery of Eastern mysticism awakened in him a yearning spirituality that endeared him to millions of fans in ways unusual for a rock star. "Within You Without You," a collaboration with producer George Martin, was the most profound offering on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It reminds the listener of what ancient Indian religion calls the maya, the "wall of illusion" preventing us from seeking the truth.
Echoes of ancient wisdoms ran through his songs: "With every mistake/We must surely be learning" ("While My Guitar Gently Weeps"); "The farther one travels/The less one knows" ("The Inner Light").
In a concert in the early 1970s, Harrison sang the Lennon/McCartney tune "In My Life," tweaking a line to sum up his philosophy: "In my life/I love God more."
The private, dignified manner in which that life ended seems very much in keeping.
What were his best moments as a musician? You know them. The brazen opening chord to "A Hard Day's Night." The ebullient fade-in and fade-out to "Eight Days a Week." The cascading intro to "Help!" An exultant two-bar break in "Got to Get You into My Life." The tabla harp work on "Strawberry Fields Forever" and the astonishing guitars, backward and forward, on "Rain." The crazy, in-your-face guitar screams in "Revolution." The wailing lead on "Come Together," and the best Beatle solo he ever played - sensitive, unexpected, a new way to use slide guitar - on "Something."
His career was not as distinguished afterward but, then, that holds true for all the Beatles. He was an absurdly generous philanthropist, a funder of films (Monty Python's Life of Brian), and an intensely private person.
George Harrison seldom may be ranked shoulder-to-shoulder with John Lennon and Paul McCartney. But as an integer in history's most famous musical foursome, as a presence informing the music, as a spiritual figure, and as originator (both credited and un- ) of many of the Beatles' best achievements, he earned a place as one of the most influential pop musicians in history.
And he earned a particularly affectionate place in many fans' hearts. He was unassuming and self-erasing in a flamboyant band and time. He was a passionate, oceanic believer. And the boy could play a little. That is why on Friday morning, kids of 10 to 70 and beyond wept, and gently.
Here is the complete list of songs George Harrison composed and recorded with the Beatles and the UK album in which they originally appeared.
Don't Bother Me (With the Beatles) 1963
I Need You (Help) 1965
You Like Me Too Much (Help) 1965
If I Needed Someone (Rubber Soul) 1965
Think For Yourself (Rubber Soul) 1965
Taxman (Revolver) 1966
Love You Too (Revolver) 1966
I Want To Tell You (Revolver) 1966
Within You Without You (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band) 1967
Blue Jay Way (Magical Mystery Tour) 1967
The Inner Light (B-side to Lady Madonna) 1968
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles) 1968
Piggies (The Beatles) 1968
Long Long Long (The Beatles) 1968
Savoy Truffle (The Beatles) 1968
It's All Too Much (Yellow Submarine) 1969
It's Only A Northern Song (Yellow Submarine) 1969
Something (Abbey Road) 1969
Here Comes The Sun (Abbey Road) 1969
Old Brown Shoe (B-side to The Ballad of John and Yoko) 1969
I Me Mine (Let It Be) 1970
For You Blue (Let it Be) 1970
There are several other Beatles compositions in which George recieves a composing credit. He and John Lennon co-wrote "Cry For A Shadow," an instrumental the Beatles recorded in Hamburg, Germany in 1961 with Pete Best on drums. He also appears as the co-composer on two songs with all three other Beatles. The first is the instrumental "Flying" from Magical Mystery Tour. The second is "Free As A Bird," a leftover John Lennon song he helped finish, along with Paul and Ringo, for Anthology One. He also wrote and recorded with The Beatles a song called "Not Guilty," originally intended for The White Album, but for reasons unknown it never appeared on any Beatles release until Anthology Three. A different version of "Not Guilty" appeared on George's self-titled 1979 solo album. Also, there are two superb, solo acoustic performances of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "All Things Must Pass," both which appear on Anthology Three.
Other Beatles Songs Featuring George On Lead Vocals
Do You Want To Know A Secret?
Devil In Her Heart
Roll Over Beethoven
I'm Happy Just to Dance With You
Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby
Free As A Bird (2nd lead vocal)