Tuesday, January 25, 2011

George Harrison

George Harrison of the Beatles was born in Liverpool on February 25, 1943 and died in Los Angeles on November 29, 2001. His Roman Catholic family consisted of his mother, a shop clerk, and his father, who was a bus conductor. He had one sister, Louise, and two brothers, Harry and Peter. Although he was accepted by the Liverpool Institute for Boys, he was totally obsessed with guitars rather than his studies after hearing "Heartbreak Hotel." Harrison then bought an acoustic guitar and started a skiffle group called the Rebels.

While at the Liverpool Institute, Harrison met an older student, Paul McCartney, who had told his friend John Lennon that George could actually tune a guitar and play a tune called "Raunchy." Lennon accepted him into his band, the Quarrymen, in 1958 while George pursued an apprenticeship as an electrician. When Lennon's group began working in Hamburg in 1960, Harrison was deported to England for being underage. Harrison would make later trips to Hamburg, however, and stayed in the band when it was renamed the Beatles by John Lennon and became managed by Brian Epstein, who first saw the group play at Liverpool's Cavern Club. Through these early days with the Beatles, Harrison assumed the duties of lead guitarist and performed many vocals as well.

As the Beatles gained popularity, Harrison became known as the quiet Beatle. He contributed a song or two to each early album, but also sang cover versions of songs such as "Chains," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Devil in Her Heart," Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby," and others. His backing vocals are clearly heard on most Beatles albums, although his voice stands out more clearly on the early albums and in live performances. "Help" is a perfect example.

Harrison developed an interest in Indian culture, beginning with the music of Ravi Shankar. Harrison purchased a sitar, which was featured on "Norwegian Wood" while Harrison was still learning the instrument. He eventually became curious about meditation and all aspects of Hinduism, a development that would lead all four Beatles to travel to Rishikesh, India to study transcendental meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The other Beatles lost interest in meditation over time, but Harrison became a devotee of chanting and meditation and continued his Hindu religious practices until his death in 2001. While his work with the sitar was featured on many Beatles songs, his ability with the instrument came to fruition on "Within You Without You."

As is well known, tensions within the Beatles began to grow increasingly serious during the White Album sessions. Harrison left the group for twelve days but continued with the Beatles despite growing rifts within the group, as can be seen in the film Let It Be, where he is seen arguing with Paul over his guitar work on "Two of Us." The Beatles broke up in 1970 after recording Abbey Road. With this album, most fans and critics believe Harrison achieved his greatest songwriting credits with the Beatles in "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun." The other Beatles believed "Something" to be the best song on the album.

In the final days of the Beatles, friction existed between the Beatles in many different ways. At one point, Ringo also left the band during the White Album. In general, the biggest problem seemed to a belief by the Beatles that Paul McCartney was overbearing and attempting to impose his views and ideas on the other three. The presence of Yoko Ono further strained the Beatles' relationships. As for George Harrison and John Lennon, Lennon regarded himself as George's mentor and was hurt that Harrison barely mentioned him in the autobiography I Me Mine. The relationship between the two men remained strained until Lennon's death in 1980.

George Harrison's solo work was impressive after the breakup of the Beatles, and with the issue of All Things Must Pass, critics felt that George had risen to a new level of songwriting ability and performance. Harrison had built such a backlog of songs that All Things Must Pass was released as a triple album. He also began demonstrating at this time an affinity for playing slide guitar, with the slide being evident on most subsequent recordings. His complete discographgy can be accessed by consulting the SITEMAP below.

Harrison organized the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 in order to alleviate famine and poverty in that country, although the IRS withheld money from the benefit for several years because concert organizers failed to file for tax-exempt status. The concert was issued as both a film and a box set album. Harrison enlisted the help of Eric Clapton, Badfinger, Leon Russell, Ringo Starr, and Bob Dylan for the event.

As for his personal life, Harrison married model Pattie Boyd in 1966, having met her on the set of A Hard Day's Night. The marriage encountered difficulties because (according to Boyd) George became introverted after he began to chant and meditate for hours at a time while also becoming reclusive in his recording studio at his estate, Friar Park. Eric Clapton was madly in love with Boyd (the subject of the song "Layla"), and she moved in with Clapton in 1974. Harrison later married Olivia Trinidad Arias in 1988, with whom he had a son, Dhani.

From 1988 to 1990, George formed The Traveling Wilburys, featuring Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne. The group had such hits as "Handle with Care" and "The End of the Line."

Harrison was also interested in films and started his production company, Handmade Films, in 1978. The two most well known movies handled by Harrison's company were Time Bandits and Monty Python's Life of Brian. Harrison also had an avid interest in race cars.

George Harrison, a heavy smoker like the other Beatles, was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1997. The growth in his neck was treated with radiation. In 1999, he was attacked with a knife by an intruder at Friar Park, who was subdued by Olivia as George was fighting back. By 2001, Harrison's cancer returned and metastasized to his lung and brain. He was treated at the Mayo Clinic but died on November 29, 2001, with the official cause of death listed as lung cancer. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered over the Ganges River. In 2002, The Concert for George was held at the Royal Albert Hall. Organized by Eric Clapton, the show featured Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Dhani Harrison, and many other musicians who had been friends and fans of Harrison through the years.

More information on George Harrison can be found at his Official Website. Consult the SITEMAP below of the link in the sidebar to access this site.

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