Way back in the dawn of time, when I was 10, I was over at Cousin Dianes house. There was a ritual in her life at that time, which was playing The Concert for Bangladesh (vinyl of course), at ear piercing volume. The album was a boxed set, a 3 LP volume with a booklet. I poured over that booklet time and again as I endured the deafening sound. That was where I first saw Bob Dylan and his raised fists, father of time looking Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, and Badfinger, and wool hatted Billy Preston. And of course, it was where I first saw George Harrison. In his white suit, and orange shirt with the Hare Krishna logo on the lapel. And that long beard. And I listened. I heard the audience roar at the opening chords of "My Sweet Lord." I heard George introduce "a friend of us all." And I heard him play. As I grew, I kept listening, and the older I became, the further I looked back. And the further I looked back, the more I found. Like where Georges sound came from: Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Big Bill Broonzy, and Elmore James. Id say thats not too bad for a bus drivers son from Liverpool to imagine himself all the way to middle America, and eventually help bring it all back home. Dont forget it was those British Invasion groups that brought R n B back to America, where it had been born.
Weve all lost a little piece of ourselves today. Whether or not he was your favorite Beatle doesnt matter. It doesnt matter if he was as good a writer or singer as the main guys, just like it doesnt matter with the other three. In fact, it doesnt matter if you were a Beatles fan at all. The fact is, those songs (and those four guys) are an indelible print on the fabric of this world. Any one of those parts within the songs that our childrens children, and we will forever hear travel on an equal path. As I ponder todays sad news, I think of Georges playing on things like "And I Love Her," "Norwegian Wood," "Octopus Garden," "Old Brown Shoe," "And Your Bird Can Sing." And of course there are the classics: "Something," "Here Comes The Sun," "I Me Mine" among them.
As I got older and got into the guitar, it was his slide that always floored me. His playing was impeccable. He adhered to the less is more approach. George Harrison didnt need a thousand notes and fretboard theatrics to get his point across. George Harrison let you feel it at its core. Im not going to say that all his solo stuff brought the world to its knees. But its in there as well. In hits like "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)," "All Those Years Ago," "Crackerbox Palace," the great "When We Was Fab," and of course the seminal "My Sweet Lord." Album tracks like "Beautiful Girl," "Beware Of Darkness," "Sue Me Sue You Blues," "Pure Smokey," and many others. You can also hear it on other peoples albums in some brilliant guest appearances: Lennons "Give Me Some Truth," Dylans "Under The Red Sky," Ringos "Photograph" (co-authored with George), and Creams "Badge" (under the pseudonym LAngelo Misterioso). And dare not any of you forget my beloved Traveling Wilburys.
I was lucky enough to see one of Georges rare appearances. It was the big Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Celebration. It was the first time George had been on a New York City stage in 21 years. Chrissie Hynde introduced him. "Are you ready for another guitar hero?" she asked. "Let me give you a little clue: Hallelujah! Hare Krishna! YEAH YEAH YEAHGEORGE HARRISON!" He sounded good, looked happy. He strummed an acoustic and sang a couple of songs. It was the thrill of the night.
And let us not forget his sense of humor. At the Beatles first recording sessions, producer George Martin asked that they tell him if there was anything they didnt like, to which 20 year old Harrison replied, "I dont like your tie." When he was organizing The Concert for Bangladesh, John was invited to appear. When Lennon showed up at rehearsals, he asked George what he would like Yoko to do. George answered, "Id like her to enjoy watching the show." "Whaddya call that haircut?" "Arthur." Even right up to the end he was a joker. A just released song of Georges, "A Horse To Water," featured on an album of all-star duets by pianist Jools Holland, is published not by Georges longtime company Harrisongs, but by RIP, Ltd. 2001. With a sense of humor like that, its no secret why he called his own record label Dark Horse (a subsidiary, by the way, of his holding company Ganga Distributors).
He also told us great things. "Its easier to give a sigh and be like all the rest, who stand around and crucify you while you do your best." "Watch out now, take care, beware of greedy leaders, theyll take you where you should not go." "Sunrise doesnt last all morning, a cloudburst doesnt last all day." "If its not love that you need, then Ill try my best to make everything succeed." "Think for yourself." He was a humble contributor. He was a spiritual man. The music (and the news) tells us that he wasnt afraid to die. One thing we may know is that the band just got a little groovier in heaven. I could go on and on.
But I wont. As for me, maybe tonight Ill watch A Hard Days Night or The Concert for Bangla Desh. Maybe Ill make a bedtime tape of George songs for my kids. Then maybe Ill do what people all over the world with a guitar will do: Ill hold it while it gently weeps for the sad truth that no guitar will ever be played by George Harrison again. At least not here on this Earth.