The Talented George Harrison Part One
George Harrison, MBE (25 February 1943 – 29 November 2001) was an English guitarist, singer-songwriter, and producer who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of The Beatles. Often referred to as “the quiet Beatle”, Harrison embraced Hinduism and helped broaden the horizons of his fellow band mates as well as their American audience by incorporating Indian instrumentation in their music. Although most of the Beatles’ songs were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, most Beatles albums from 1965 onwards contained at least two Harrison compositions. His songs for the group included “Taxman”, “Within You Without You”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something”, the last of which became the Beatles’ second-most covered song.
Harrison at the White House in 1974
25 February 1943
29 November 2001 (aged 58)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
* Rock pop Indian classical experimental
* Musician singer songwriter music and film producer
* Vocals guitar sitar
* Parlophone Capitol Swan Apple Vee-Jay Dark Horse Gnome
* The Quarrymen The Beatles Plastic Ono Band Traveling Wilburys Ravi Shankar Eric Clapton The Radha Krsna Temple
* Gretsch 6122 Country Gentleman
* Fender Stratocaster “Rocky”
* Gibson Les Paul “Lucy”
* Rickenbacker 360/12
* Fender Telecaster
* Gibson SG
* Epiphone Casino
Harrison’s earliest musical influences included George Formby and Django Reinhardt; Carl Perkins, Chet Atkins and Chuck Berry were subsequent influences. By 1965, he had begun to lead the Beatles into folk rock through his interest in The Byrds and Bob Dylan, and towards Indian classical music through his use of the sitar on “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”. Having initiated the band’s embracing of transcendental meditation in 1967, he subsequently developed an association with the Hare Krishna movement. After the band’s break-up in 1970, Harrison released the triple album All Things Must Pass, a critically acclaimed work that produced his most successful hit single, “My Sweet Lord”, and introduced his signature sound as a solo artist, the slide guitar. He also organized the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh with Indian musician Ravi Shankar, a precursor for later benefit concerts such as Live Aid. In his role as a music and film producer, Harrison produced acts signed to the Beatles’ Apple record label before founding Dark Horse Records in 1974 and co-founding HandMade Films in 1978.
Harrison released several best-selling singles and albums as a solo performer, and in 1988 co-founded the platinum-selling supergroup the Traveling Wilburys. A prolific recording artist, he was featured as a guest guitarist on tracks by Badfinger, Ronnie Wood, and Billy Preston, and collaborated on songs and music with Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and Tom Petty, among others. Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 11 in their list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. He is a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee – as a member of the Beatles in 1988, and posthumously for his solo career in 2004.
Harrison’s first marriage, to model Pattie Boyd in 1966, ended in divorce in 1977. The following year he married Olivia Harrison (née Arias), with whom he had one son, Dhani. Harrison died in 2001, aged 58, from lung cancer attributed to years of cigarette smoking. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in India, in a private ceremony according to Hindu tradition. He left an estate of almost £100 million.
Early years: 1943–1957
Harrison’s place of birth and first home – 12 Arnold Grove
Born in Liverpool on 25 February 1943, Harrison was the youngest of four children of Harold Hargreaves Harrison and his wife Louise (née French). He had one sister, Louise, and two brothers, Harry and Peter. His mother was a shop assistant from a Catholic family with Irish roots, and his father was a bus conductor who had worked as a ship’s steward on the White Star Line. His future wife, the model Pattie Boyd, described Harrison’s parents as “quite short and very Liverpudlian”.
According to Boyd, Harrison’s mother was particularly supportive: “All she wanted for her children is that they should be happy, and she recognized that nothing made George quite as happy as making music.” An enthusiastic music fan, she was known among friends for her loud singing voice, which at times startled visitors by rattling the Harrisons’ windows. While pregnant with George, she often listened to the weekly broadcast Radio India. Harrison’s biographer Joshua Greene wrote, “Every Sunday she tuned in to mystical sounds evoked by sitars and tablas, hoping that the exotic music would bring peace and calm to the baby in the womb.”
Harrison was born and lived the first six years of his life at 12 Arnold Grove, Wavertree, Liverpool, a terraced house in a dead end street. The home had an outdoor toilet and its only heat came from a single coal fire. In 1949 the family were offered a council house and moved to 25 Upton Green, Speke. In 1948, at the age of five, Harrison enrolled at Dovedale Primary School. He passed the eleven-plus exam and attended Liverpool Institute High School for Boys from 1954 to 1959. Though the institute did offer a music course, Harrison was disappointed with the absence of guitars, and felt the school “moulded [students] into being frightened”.
Harrison’s earliest musical influences included George Formby, Cab Calloway, Django Reinhardt and Hoagy Carmichael; by the 1950s, Carl Perkins and Lonnie Donegan were significant influences. In early 1956 he had an epiphany: while riding his bicycle, he heard Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” playing from a nearby house, and the song piqued his interest in rock and roll. He often sat at the back of the class drawing guitars in his schoolbooks, and later commented, “I was totally into guitars.” Harrison cited Slim Whitman as another early influence: “The first person I ever saw playing a guitar was Slim Whitman, either a photo of him in a magazine or live on television. Guitars were definitely coming in.”
Although apprehensive about his son’s interest in pursuing a music career, in late 1956 Harrison’s father bought him a Dutch Egmond flat top acoustic guitar. A friend of his father’s taught Harrison how to play “Whispering”, “Sweet Sue” and “Dinah”, and, inspired by Donegan’s music, Harrison formed a skiffle group called the Rebels with his brother Peter and a friend, Arthur Kelly. On the bus to school, Harrison met Paul McCartney, who also attended the Liverpool Institute, and the pair bonded over their shared love of music.