John was the big mouth, Paul was the big eyes, Ringo was the big nose and George was the big mystery.
My study of The Beatles began with John Lennon, and I presumed that Paul McCartney would be next. For me, John was easy… he was outspoken, opinionated, and somewhat socially abrasive (much like myself). I would never have predicted the chain of events that would put George Harrison on my radar ahead of Paul, but that is a story in itself, perhaps better left for another day.
So far, I’ve read almost half a dozen books on George Harrison, watched countless interviews (the one with Dick Cavett was particularly good), and even spoken to a few people who met him. The more I learn the more I’m left feeling that I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of understanding. Additionally, simply reading about him often left me feeling as if I was intruding into a life that George had worked very hard to keep private; he is quoted as saying he would have rather been successful than famous.
The nicest thing is to open the newspapers and not to find yourself in them.
“George Harrison” by Craig Sumsky
George Harrison was born in Liverpool, England on February 25, 1943, the youngest of four. He disliked school, but he did love cars, comic books and music. His mother helped buy him his first guitar, and soon after he joined a band called The Beatles and became very famous and very successful making music. He played other instruments as well, and in particular he studied the sitar, not surprising since George loved Indian culture, music, and spirituality. After The Beatles broke up in 1970, he had a successful solo career and was responsible for organizing The Concert for Bangladesh, the first benefit concert of its kind. In addition to being a musician, George was an accomplished songwriter, motion picture producer, automobile enthusiast (racing was a hobby) and gardener. He was very spiritual, and lived the latter part of his life in a very spiritual way. Later, he played with the group The Traveling Wilburys, continuing to make music over a span of fifty years. George was a loving husband and father. He died of Lung Cancer at 58 years old in Los Angeles, California on November 29, 2001.
Short and to the point, the way I think George would have wanted it. If you’d like to learn more, here are a few books you might want to check out.
I, Me, Mine by George Harrison
By far my favorite of anything I read about him, as far as books go this is probably the least ‘revealing’, autobiography I’ve ever read. At the same time, it is in his own words (with the help of friend and former Beatles press officer Derek Taylor). The real treasure within this book is George talking about his music. As I read, I would listen to each song, gaining a better understanding of the inspiration (or lack thereof) for each composition. This is the book I would most highly recommend regarding George Harrison.
Wonderful Tonight by Pattie Boyd
Pattie was George Harrison’s first wife, and later married Eric Clapton. Quite an interesting story here, and strangely enough, Eric and George were able to maintain a friendship in the end. Although this book is really more about Pattie’s life experience overall than a story of George Harrison, I found it to be an easy and enjoyable read, and a respectful and invaluable insight into a part of George’s life. I always prefer reading a book authored by someone who was ‘there’ as opposed to something purely researched, and this was no exception. Pattie, a former supermodel, is now an acclaimed photographer (as well as a pretty good cook).
Here are a few other books I found to provide interesting perspectives into the life of George Harrison.
Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison
by Joshua M. Greene
Ticket to Ride by Larry Kane
The Beatles Anthology by The Beatles
The Mammoth Book of The Beatles (edited) by Sean Egan
Read the Beatles (edited) by June Skinner Sawyers
Yet no matter what can be written in any book, I truly believe that the real George, his thoughts, his words, his feelings, his inner self and all the gifts and wisdom he had to offer in his life as George Harrison are best expressed in his music.
When you’ve seen beyond yourself
Then you may find, peace of mind is waiting there
And the time will come when you see we’re all one
And life flows on within you and without you
P.S. Olivia, If by chance you should read this, I hope you write a book about George someday. If you did I’d be amongst the first to read it.
Illustration of George Harrison by Sean Gallo