Today will be marked by many as a day of remembering a favorite musician and songwriter, George Harrison. He passed away on this day in 2001, quietly and out of the spotlight, just as he liked to live his life. Much has been written about him and his death, and more of his life was suddenly of interest as he passed on from here into the next realm.
He never seemed to care very much if people noticed, as least it appeared that way. He made his music, declared his love for God and made the search for Him very public. In the course of that journey George brought along a generation that would also search for meaning in their lives, for God and for answers. Many found what they needed, others doubtless did not. But George Harrison kept on slipping in bits about faith and a salvation that would see him through this life and into the next.
As a musician and songwriter I think he was underrated. As a Beatle he was certainly considered less talented, even less important by some. His emergence as a real force of creativity was, inexplicably, shocking to many. On Abbey Road, Something was lauded as a masterpiece and considered by many to be the best song on the album. The other “best” was also George’s: the very memorable Here Comes The Sun. Funny that it should have taken people by surprise. To those of us who were faithful George fans all of those years ago, it just made sense that he finally got what he deserved: top billing.
All of these years later, reflecting on the music and the man, it’s gratifying to me for him to have developed into a significant human being on the world scene. As a kid looking for a heart throb wrapped up as a pop star, George did it for me. He was handsome, played lead guitar and he just exhibited something the other three didn’t. I can’t tell you exactly what that was, but to me, a ten year old California girl, George was the most exotic of a very exotic bunch of Brits. The accent, the look and the sound of them was phenomenal…breathtaking. And George, oh my goodness! He had it all as far as I was concerned. Who could have predicted that he would grow up in those years and become a spiritual seeker, humanitarian and philanthropist, all the while remaining a type of hippie for the masses.
George was unique…ubiquitous…elusive. While he tried to live a private life, he kept depositing bits of life into us. His spiritual journey made his music real and relevant to those who shared his quest for God. The very thing that irritated and bored Rolling Stone was, and is today, a gateway into something beyond rock and roll. There’s life in the words and music of George Harrison, regardless of your belief system, it all still leads to God from someone who wants desperately to know Him. George’s earnest yearnings for the spiritual engendered something tangible for those who heard the same invitation to follow a higher path.
His early zeal was eventually mellowed as he walked it out and made the mistakes we all make (well, maybe his were different, in a pop star sort of way). He wasn’t any different from the evangelicals of any faith, the new converts looking for the lost, driving people away in hoardes. It’s all part of the journey, really. We’ve all done it in our glee and enthusiasm for the “truth”. God bless us all.
I love George’s music. I love his guitar playing and the voice of his instrument, the sighs and cries that make his playing great. I’ve always thought he took up slide because that technique offered a real sense of emotion to his playing, something that went beyond just rock guitar gymnastics. What he left out in the way of glam bam playing, he more than made up for in sensitive and beautiful passages of guitar work. The ultimate, final offering of Marwa Blues, for which he won a posthumus Grammy, is the definition of poignant and emotional musicianship. It’s a favorite of mine.
I hope more people will discover the music of George Harrison. I would hope for them that they would take the time to really let it sink in, listen to the words and remember how they came to be.
This is one songwriter that lets you look at him closely in the words he sings, and it’s a worthwhile trip with a man who helped change a generation…or two.