Born as the youngest of four children on February 25, 1943, in Liverpool, England, George Harrison was a true virtuoso in his field of work. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a question of his work as a musician, film producer, or actor. He was exceptional in every field he took part in.
But as we all know, he was best known as the lead guitarist of the world’s best-selling band – The Beatles.
Early Life of George Harrison
As we already said, George was the youngest of four children born in war-time Liverpool. Similar to his future band-mates, George Harrison was not born into wealth. His father Harold Harrison worked as a bus conductor and as a ship’s steward. While his mother Louise French was a shop assistant and a stay-at-home mom at times.
When it comes to his siblings, George had two brothers named Harold and Peter and one sister Louise.
His love for music developed at a young age because of his mother Louise. She was known among her friends as a music enthusiast with a loud singing voice. Apparently, she was very supportive of his musical career from the beginning. While his father who was skeptical at first, in 1956 bought him a flat-top acoustic guitar.
George Harrison met Paul McCartney on the bus to school, where they immediately bonded over their shared love of music. The rest is history.
The Birth of The Beatles
Before becoming what they are known as today – the Beatles were called The Quarrymen. A British skiffle group formed by John Lennon and several school friends.
Paul McCartney met John Lennon in the summer of 1957 and later in October of the same year, he joined The Quarrymen. While George Harrison joined the band in the winter of 1958 on a recommendation from Paul.
However, at first, Lennon turned down Paul’s offer because he thought George was too young since George was 3 years younger than Lennon who was 17 at the time. Paul McCartney however, wasn’t entirely happy with the decision and was persuading John to give him a second chance. Which he did eventually. And George nailed the audition that took place on the upper deck of a public bus in Liverpool.
Afterward, he continued playing for The Quarrymen until 1960 when the Beatles were born in the ashes of the former band. Now with a new lineup, new name, and fewer bandmates because Lennon’s school friends had left the group. The newly formed Beatles were desperately in a need of a drummer. The desperation lasted for two years until Ringo Starr sealed the seat in 1962. Thus, we got the legendary fab 4 lineup that we all know of.
In the beginning, the Beatles mostly played in small clubs and bars in Liverpool and Hamburg, Germany where they built their reputation. However, everything changed at the end of 1962 when ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘Please Please Me’ were released. That’s when “Beatlemania” started and the world turned upside down. Including the lives of the Beatles.
George Harrison and his role in the Beatles
As we all know, Paul and John were the top dogs in the band. They wrote and sang all of the songs in the earlier years.
Having said that, George himself wanted to take part in the writing too but lacked the experience and knowledge John and Paul had. So, it took him a couple of years before having his first composition published on a Beatles album. The song was called “Don’t Bother Me” and appeared on their second album With the Beatles.
Here’s what Lennon had to say about George’s songs
“There was an embarrassing period when George’s songs weren’t that good and nobody wanted to say anything,”. Later he added, “He just wasn’t in the same league for a long time – that’s not putting him down, he just hadn’t had the practice as a writer that we’d had.”
But as the years went by, George Harrison only got better and better. He later wrote songs like ‘Something’ and ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ which are some of the most famous Beatles songs. ‘Something’ is the second-most covered Beatles song after ‘Yesterday’. Even Frank Sinatra himself called it “the most beautiful love song ever written”.
10 other songs written by George Harrison – no co-credits
- I need you (1965)
- You like me too much (1965)
- Taxman (1966)
- Love you to (1966)
- The inner light (1968)
- Long long long(1968)
- Piggies (1968)
- Here comes the sun (1969)
- For you blue (1970)
- I me mine (1970)
The break-up of the Beatles
Even before the break-up of the Beatles, George had already recorded and released two solo albums called Wonderwall Music and Electronic Sound. He evidently had a surplus of creativity that had to be released somewhere.
Since his influence on the Beatles was limited, due to the Lennon-McCartney dominance, things escalated during the recording session of Let It Be in 1969 and Harrison left the band. But later was convinced by his band-mates to come back, promising him that they would use more of his songs.
However, the reunion didn’t last for long since there were already existing inner conflicts in the band between John and Paul. The duo had stopped writing songs together years ago at that point.
The last song the Beatles ever recorded was Harrison’s ‘I Me Mine’.
Despite being called “The Quiet Beatle”, George Harrison had the best starting solo career.
With All Things Must Pass, a triple album with two discs of his songs and a third one featuring recordings of him jamming with his friends – Harrison topped the charts all around the world. He also was the first Beatle to hit Number 1 in the United States with ‘My Sweet Lord’ and ‘Isn’t It a Pity’.
Another interesting fact is that All Things Must Pass is the best-selling album by any former Beatle as a solo artist. The album features world-renowned artists like Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, Gary Wright, Billy Preston, and so on.
However, George never managed to outdo his first album after the disbandment of the Beatles. Even though he had many great albums and songs, not one managed to challenge All Things Must Pass.
George Harrison discography
- Wonderwall Music (1968)
- Electronic Sound (1969)
- All Things Must Pass (1970)
- Living in the Material World (1973)
- Dark Horse (1974)
- Extra Texture (Read All About It) (1975)
- Thirty Three & 1/3 (1976)
- George Harrison (1979)
- Somewhere in England (1981)
- Gone Troppo (1982)
- Cloud Nine (1987)
- Brainwashed (2002)
In the Bahamas, during the filming of Help!, the Beatles met the founder of Sivananda Yoga – Swami Vishnudevananda who gave each of them a signed copy of his book on reincarnation.
This fascinated George who immediately began studying Eastern culture, religion, and philosophy. In the spirit of the Hindu yoga tradition, George became a vegetarian in the late 60s. He later became a lifelong supporter and advocate of the teachings of Swami Vivekananda and Paramahansa Yogananda.
However, he never kept secret the fact that he used various psychedelic drugs while practicing meditation. This eventually helped him in his journey of self-knowing and awakening spiritually.
When asked about his opinion and views on other religions, George Harrison said:
“All religions are branches of one big tree. It doesn’t matter what you call Him just as long as you call.”
While filming A Hard Day’s Night, George met a 19-year-old girl named Pattie Boyd who became his wife on 21 January 1966. Paul McCartney was his best man. However, they divorced 8 years later in 1974 when Pattie left George to be with his friend Eric Clapton.
A few years later in 1978, Harrison met his soon-to-be second wife Olivia Trinidad Arias with whom he had one son. His only son Dhani Harrison, followed the footsteps of his father and became a musician as well.
Another interesting thing about George Harrison is that he loved motor racing and sports cars. He even wrote a song about it called ‘Faster’. A tribute song to Formula One drivers Sir Jackie Stewart and Ronnie Peterson.
George was also known as a big humanitarian and organized a lot of charities to help those in need and donated as much as he could. For example, he donated the earnings from the song ‘Faster’ to a cancer charity and organized a charity concert for Bangladesh. Protested the Vietnam war and supported the Civil rights movement as well.
Also, the Monty Python classic The Life of Brian would have never been made if it wasn’t for his financial support.
Later life and death
After decades of heavy smoking, Harrison was diagnosed with throat cancer in the late 1990s but thankfully he was successfully treated with radiotherapy.
A year later after his battle with cancer, a 33 years old Beatles fan tried to murder George and his wife Olivia with a knife in their home. Luckily they managed to survive even though both of them had several cuts and minor stab wounds.
In May 2001 sadly, his cancer returned more aggressive than ever and it had spread to his brain. Only half a year later on 29 November 2001, George Harrison lost his last battle and passed away.
‘Death is just where your suit falls off and now you’re in your other suit. But you can’t see it on this level, so it’s all right. Don’t worry’
– George Harrison –
Featured image by: badgreeb pictures