He was one of the most famous men in the world. Best known for being a Beatle, George Harrison was also a movie producer, humanitarian and father of musician Dhani Harrison. He organized the first big music charity benefit concert and helped introduce Indian music to Western audiences. He survived an attack from a deranged fan but would later succumb to lung cancer at the age of 58. His impact on pop culture is incalculable. He is deeply missed.
Harrison was born to a lower class family in Liverpool, England on February 25, 1943. Harrison was the third member to join the famous Beatle lineup. Paul McCartney asked him to join when Harrison was only 14 years old. John Lennon, at first put off by Harrison’s youth, finally relented when Harrison showed Lennon how to tune a guitar.
Harrison played lead guitar in live shows. He learned a variety of instruments for studio albums, including the sitar and the ukulele. He was only allowed one or two songs per Beatles album, which became a great source of frustration. Songs written by McCartney and Lennon would dominate Beatle albums. Still, Harrison managed to pen some of the most beloved of Beatle tunes, including Here Comes the Sun and While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
On His Own
Although Harrison’s solo work would never reach worldwide acclaim as his work with the Beatles, he still had hit songs with Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth), Got My Mind Set On You and the only song about Hare Krishna to break into the pop charts, My Sweet Lord. He also briefly joined the supergroup The Travelling Willberrys. He helped Elton John with his Princess Diana tribute single, Candle in the Wind (Goodbye England’s Rose). Harrison used his star power to help a variety of humanitarian causes, including organizing the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971.
Harrison was also free to pursue other interests such as sports cars and bankrolling a movie studio with Denis O’Brien, HandMade Films. Films made include the Madonna flop Shanghai Surprise (1986), the international hit Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1978) and the cult favorite Time Bandits (1981.) Harrison also played a bit part in a movie spoofing the Beatles, The Rutles: All You Need is Cash (1978.)
For someone who lived most of his life in the fishbowl of superstardom, Harrison was able to keep most of his life private. Known as “the Quiet One” of the Fab Four, he was as careful with his word choice for speaking as he was for songwriting. Even his decades-long friend and contemporary, Eric Clapton, never could quite figure Harrison out, as he wrote in Clapton: The Autobiography (Three Rivers Press; 2008.) Clapton would fall in love with Harrison’s wife Patti Boyd. Patti would leave Harrison for Clapton but then left Clapton.
Harrison managed to drop his various drug habits, but his addiction to cigarettes would lead to his premature death. He was cremated and his ashes spread into the Ganges River in India.