George Harrison

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About George Harrison

As Beatlemania raged in the early ’60s, the press dubbed him The Quiet One on account of his dry, diffident media presence—not to mention the fact that his first contribution to the group was a song called “Don’t Bother Me.” But that nickname proved all the more apt as George Harrison became the unassuming catalyst of The Beatles’ radical sonic evolutions over the decade. Born in Liverpool in 1943, Harrison swiftly moved beyond his formative Chuck Berry mimicry to develop the jangly Rickenbacker sound that defined mid-’60s milestones like Help! and Rubber Soul (and spawned a million power-pop bands in their wake). At the same time, his growing fascination with Indian music introduced the sound of the sitar to Western pop audiences, cracking open the portal into The Beatles’ groundbreaking psychedelic explorations (as well as his own pioneering adventures in electronic and tape-loop experimentation on 1968’s Wonderwall Music). But even as he worked in the shadow of the most dominant songwriting partnership in rock history, Harrison’s limited contributions to The Beatles’ canon—be it the wondrous acid raga “Within You, Without You” or the disarmingly vulnerable “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”—provided a profound metaphysical counterpoint to Paul McCartney’s romanticism and John Lennon’s cynicism. He could imbue a simple love song like “Something” with an elegance and eloquence that made it natural cover-tune fodder for Frank Sinatra. Once liberated from his back-seat position in the Fab Four, Harrison channeled all of his widescreen musical ambitions and Zen-master philosophies into his 1970 triple-album masterpiece All Things Must Pass, the most cosmically grandiose statement among all solo Beatle releases. (It was followed by a chart-topping all-star live album—1971’s The Concert for Bangladesh—that effectively presaged the Live Aid era of rock ’n’ roll charity drives.) But Harrison rarely displayed that sort of spotlight-seizing bravado again during a solo career defined by breezy, easygoing sing-alongs, until a Jeff Lynne-abetted comeback—first with 1987’s Cloud Nine and then with the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys—returned him to the Top 10. After surviving a near-fatal home-invasion attack in 1999, Harrison succumbed to cancer in 2001. But in the afterlife, the Quiet Beatle’s spiritual sentiments resound most loudly—his eternally optimistic 1969 serenade “Here Comes the Sun” has become The Beatles’ most popular song in the streaming era.

Liverpool, England
February 25, 1943
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