MBE (25 February 1943 – 29 November 2001) was an English rock guitarist, singer-songwriter, actor and film producer who achieved international fame as lead guitarist of The Beatles. Often referred to as "the quiet Beatle", Harrison was a devotee of Indian mysticism, and helped broaden the horizons of the other Beatles, as well as those of their Western audience, to include Eastern thought and practices. Following the band's break-up, he had a successful career as a solo artist and later as part of the Traveling Wilburys, and also as a film and record producer. Harrison is listed at number 21 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".
Although most of The Beatles' songs were written by Lennon and McCartney, Beatle albums generally included one or two of Harrison's own songs, from With The Beatles onwards. His later compositions with The Beatles include "Here Comes the Sun", "Something" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". By the time of the band's break-up, Harrison had accumulated a backlog of material, which he then released as the acclaimed and successful triple album All Things Must Pass in 1970, from which came two singles: a double A-side single, "My Sweet Lord" backed with "Isn't It a Pity", and "What Is Life". In addition to his solo work, Harrison co-wrote two hits for Ringo Starr, another former Beatle, as well as songs for the Traveling Wilburys—the supergroup he formed in 1988 with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison.
Harrison embraced Indian culture and Hinduism in the mid 1960s, and helped expand Western awareness of sitar music and of the Hare Krishna movement. With Ravi Shankar he organised a major charity concert with the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh.
Besides being a musician, he was also a record producer and co-founder of the production company HandMade Films. In his work as a film producer, he collaborated with people as diverse as the members of Monty Python and Madonna.
He was married twice, to model Pattie Boyd from 1966 to 1974, and for 23 years to record company secretary Olivia Trinidad Arias, with whom he had one son, Dhani Harrison. He was a close friend of Eric Clapton. He is the only Beatle to have published an autobiography, with I Me Mine in 1980. Harrison died of lung cancer in 2001.
The Beatles: 1960–1970Edit
Main articles: The Beatles and The Beatles discographyStuart Sutcliffe and Harrison (right) in HamburgHarrison became part of The Beatles when they were still a skiffle group called The Quarrymen. McCartney told Lennon about his friend George Harrison, who could play "Raunchy" on his guitar. Although Lennon considered him too young to join the band, Harrison hung out with them and filled in as needed. By the time Harrison was 15, Lennon and the others had accepted him as one of the band. Since Harrison was the youngest member of the group, he was looked upon as a kid by the others for another few years.
Harrison left school at 16 and worked as an apprentice electrician at local department store Blacklers for a while. When The Beatles were offered work in Hamburg in 1960, the musical apprenticeship that Harrison received playing long hours at the Kaiserkeller with the rest of the group, including guitar lessons from Tony Sheridan, laid the foundations of The Beatles' sound, and of Harrison's quiet, professional role within the group; this role would contribute to his reputation as "the quiet Beatle". The first trip to Hamburg was shortened when Harrison was deported for being underage.
When Brian Epstein became The Beatles' manager in December 1961 after seeing them perform at The Cavern Club in November, he changed their image from that of leather-jacketed rock-and-rollers to a more polished look, and secured them a recording contract with EMI. The first single, "Love Me Do", with Harrison playing a Gibson J-160E, reached number 17 in the UK chart in October 1962, and by the time their debut album, Please Please Me, was released in early 1963, The Beatles had become famous and Beatlemania had arrived. Harrison (third from left) with the rest of The Beatles in America in 1964After he revealed in an interview that he liked jelly babies, British fans inundated Harrison and the rest of the band with boxes of the sweets as gifts. A few months later, American audiences showered the band with the much harder jelly beans instead. In a letter to a fan, Harrison mentioned jelly babies, insisting that no one in the band actually liked them and that the press must have made it up.
The popularity of The Beatles led to a successful tour of America, the making of a film, A Hard Day's Night (during which Harrison met his future wife Pattie Boyd), and in the 1965 Queen's Birthday Honours, all four Beatles were appointed Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). Harrison, whose role within the group was that of the careful musician who checked that the instruments were tuned, by 1965 and the Rubber Soul album, was developing into a musical director as he led the others into folk-rock, via his interest in The Byrds and Bob Dylan, and into Indian music with his exploration of the sitar. Harrison's musical involvement and cohesion with the group reached its peak on Revolver in 1966 with his contribution of three songs and new musical ideas. By 1967, Harrison's interests appeared to be moving outside the Beatles, and his involvement in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band consists mainly of his one song, "Within You Without You", on which no other Beatle plays, and which stands out for its difference from the rest of the album.
During the recording of The Beatles in 1968, tensions were present in the band; these surfaced again during the filming of rehearsal sessions at Twickenham Studios for the album Let It Be in early 1969. Frustrated by ongoing slights, the poor working conditions in the cold and sterile film studio, and Lennon's creative disengagement from the group, Harrison quit the band on 10 January. He returned on 22 January after negotiations with the other Beatles at two business meetings.
Relations among The Beatles were more cordial (though still strained) during recordings for the album Abbey Road. The album included "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something", "Something" was later recorded by Frank Sinatra, who considered it "one of the greatest songs of the last twenty years". Harrison's increasing productivity, coupled with his difficulties in getting The Beatles to record his music, meant that by the end of the group's career he had amassed a considerable stockpile of unreleased material. Harrison's last recording session with The Beatles was on 4 January 1970. Lennon, who had left the group the previous September, did not attend the session.
For the most part of The Beatles career, the relationships in the group were extremely close and intimate. According to Hunter Davis, "The Beatles spent their lives not living a communal life, but communally living the same life. They were each other's greatest friends." Harrison's wife Pattie Boyd described how The Beatles "all belonged to each other" and admitted, "George has a lot with the others that I can never know about. Nobody, not even the wives, can break through or even comprehend it."
Ringo Starr also stated, "We really looked out for each other and we had so many laughs together. In the old days we'd have the biggest hotel suites, the whole floor of the hotel, and the four of us would end up in the bathroom, just to be with each other." and added "There were some really loving, caring moments between four people: a hotel room here and there - a really amazing closeness. Just four guys who loved each other. It was pretty sensational."
John Lennon stated that his relationship with George was "one of young follower and older guy." and admitted that "[George] was like a disciple of mine when we started." The two would often go on holiday together throughout the 60s. Their relationship took a severe turn for the worse after George published his autobiography, I Me Mine. Lennon felt insulted and hurt that George mentioned him only in passing. Lennon claimed he was hurt by the book and also that he did more for George than any of the other Beatles. As a result, George and John were not on good terms during the last years of Lennon's life. After Lennon's murder, George paid tribute to Lennon with his song "All Those Years Ago" which was released in 1981, six months after Lennon's murder.
Paul McCartney has often referred to Harrison as his "baby brother", and he did the honours as best man at George's wedding in 1966. The two were the first of The Beatles to meet, having shared a school bus, and would often learn and rehearse new guitar chords together. McCartney stated that he and George usually shared a bedroom while touring.
Harrison's guitar work with The Beatles was varied, flexible and innovative; although not fast or flashy, his guitar playing was solid and typified the more subdued lead guitar style of the early 1960s. The influence of the plucking guitar style of Chet Atkins and Carl Perkins on Harrison gave a country music feel to The Beatles' early recordings. Harrison explored several guitar instruments, the twelve-string, the sitar and the slide guitar, and developed his playing from tight eight- and twelve-bar solos in such songs as "A Hard Day's Night" and "Can't Buy Me Love", to lyrical slide guitar playing, first recorded during an early session of "If Not for You" for Dylan's New Morning in 1970. The earliest example of notable guitar work from Harrison was the extended acoustic guitar solo of "Till There Was You", for which Harrison purchased a José Ramírez nylon-stringed classical guitar to produce the sensitivity needed. Harrison's first electric guitar was a Czech built Futurama/Grazioso, which was a popular guitar among British guitarists in the early 1960s., The guitars Harrison used on early recordings were mainly Gretsch played through a Vox amp. He used a variety of Gretsch guitars, including a Gretsch Duo Jet - his first Gretsch, which he bought in 1961 second hand off a sailor in Liverpool; a Gretsch Tennessean, and his (first out of two) Gretsch Country Gentleman, bought new for £234 in April 1963 at the Sound City store in London, which he used on "She Loves You", and on The Beatles' 1964 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. George Harrison with Ravi Shankar, 1967During The Beatles' February 1964 trip to the US, Harrison acquired a Rickenbacker 360/12 guitar. He had tried out the 12-string electric guitar during an interview with a Minneapolis radio station, and was given the guitar either by the Rickenbacker company or the radio station. The 360/12 was an experimental 12-string guitar with the strings reversed so that the lower pitched string was struck first, and with an unusual headstock design that made tuning easier. Harrison used the guitar extensively during the recording of A Hard Day's Night, and the jangly sound became so popular that the Melody Maker termed it "the beat boys' secret weapon". Roger McGuinn liked the effect Harrison achieved so much that it became his signature guitar sound with the Byrds.
He obtained his first Fender Stratocaster in 1965 and used it for the recording of the Rubber Soul album, most notably on the "Nowhere Man" track, where he played in unison with Lennon who also had a Stratocaster. Lennon and Harrison both had Sonic Blue Stratocasters, which were bought second hand by roadie Mal Evans. Harrison painted his Stratocaster in a psychedelic design that included the word "Bebopalula" painted above the pickguard and the guitar's nickname, "Rocky", painted on the headstock. He played this guitar in the Magical Mystery Tour film and throughout his solo career.
After David Crosby of the Byrds introduced him to the work of sitar master Ravi Shankar in 1965, Harrison—whose interest in Indian music was stirred during the filming of Help!, which used Indian music as part of its soundtrack—played a sitar on the Rubber Soul track "Norwegian Wood", expanding the already nascent Western interest in Indian music. Harrison listed his early influences as Carl Perkins, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and the Everly Brothers.
Main article: List of George Harrison songsHarrison wrote his first song published with the Beatles, "Don't Bother Me", while sick in a hotel bed in Bournemouth during August 1963, as an exercise "to see if I could write a song", as he remembered. Everett, "Don't Bother Me" appeared on the second Beatles album (With the Beatles) later that year, then on Meet the Beatles! in the US in early 1964, and also briefly in the film A Hard Day's Night. The group did not record another Harrison composition until 1965, when he contributed "I Need You" and "You Like Me Too Much" to the album Help!.
Harrison's songwriting improved greatly through the years, but his material did not earn respect from his fellow Beatles until near the group's break-up. McCartney told Lennon in 1969: "Until this year, our songs have been better than George's. Now this year his songs are at least as good as ours". Harrison had difficulty getting the band to record his songs. The group's incorporation of Harrison's material reached a peak of three songs on the 1966 Revolver album and four songs on the 1968 double The Beatles.
Harrison performed the lead vocal on all Beatles songs that he wrote by himself. He also sang lead vocal on other songs, including "Chains" and "Do You Want to Know a Secret" on Please Please Me, "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Devil in Her Heart" on With The Beatles, "I'm Happy Just to Dance with You" on A Hard Day's Night, and "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" on Beatles for Sale.