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All Things Must Pass

George Harrison, 1943-2001

by S.E. Shepherd
December 1, 2001

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All Things Must Pass_S.E. Shepherd-George Harrison, 1943-2001 I grew up listening to the Beatles, literally. As I’ve mentioned before in other articles, I was born at a time near the end of the Beatles’ recording career, and thanks to four brothers all more than a decade older than me, I was saturated in Beatles music almost from birth. When John Lennon was killed in 1980, I was the only fifth grader in my school able to bring my own Beatles memorabilia to music class.

Though not quite the tragedy of John Lennon’s murder, the death of George Harrison still marks a sad day for both Beatles’ fans and fans of all music. His death was not unexpected, as he had been battling a brain tumor for some time. Still, the loss of another part of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s most legendary band cannot be underestimated.

George Harrison was probably the most over-looked Beatle. With the writing talents of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the Beatles had little room for a third singer-songwriter. Harrison had to settle for the measly one or two tracks he was allotted each album. Nonetheless, Harrison often proved he was as capable songsmith as his more prolific bandmates, if not better. I personally feel many of his songs are the band’s best.

Though one could argue fewer showcases for his songs helped Harrison to be a better songwriter, clearly the lack of equal recording time was a source of frustration for him during his time with the Beatles. Nowhere is this more evident than on Harrison’s first solo album, All Things Must Pass. A chunky 3-record set, it was undoubtedly a collection of songs he wrote during his years with the Beatles, but was never allowed to record. George must have felt some vindication though, as All Things Must Pass is still credited as the best solo effort by any of the former Beatles.

Harrison was never able to duplicate the success of that first album, and much of his work after it can be relegated to a “greatest hits” package. Still, George Harrison penned many great songs and even made a bit of a comeback in the ‘80’s, with Cloud Nine, and his “second band,” the Traveling Wilburys. He even pioneered the Rock benefit concert, staging 1971’s Concert for Bangladesh.

All in all, George Harrison left quite a musical legacy. He never ascended the “guitar god” status of peers such as Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, or even Keith Richards, yet George Harrison was unquestionably gifted at finding the right hooks and melodic solos that gave the Beatles’ music its often imitated but never duplicated sound. His solos were neither flashy nor lengthy, but each gave its particular punch the song (whatever song) needed.

It is unfortunate that we recognize George Harrison’s greatness not only as a musician, but also as a humanitarian and a human being, after his death. Always seen as quiet and serious, George Harrison also could be funny and witty. When Harrison’s fledging HandMade Films took over production of “Monty Python’s Life of Brian,” Python-member Eric Idle was complaining about how much he had to wait on set before he could do his scene. Quipped Harrison, “If you think this is bad, you should try getting studio time behind Lennon and McCartney.”

For most of his life, George Harrison was a peaceful man. Never comfortable with the fame that accompanied him, he nevertheless used the spotlight to promote the things he felt necessary. Harrison was deeply influenced in Eastern philosophy and religion, and whether or not you agreed with his beliefs, it can be said that he truly aimed to make the world a better place.

Even after John Lennon’s death, there had always been hope that the remaining Beatles would reunite and record one more time. Now, with the death of George Harrison, even that hope is gone. George Harrison was far more than a member of the world’s most famous Rock band. He was a gentle man who enjoyed giving to the world his gift of music. It is sad to hear of his passing. But as he himself said, all things, even Rock legends, must pass.

Goodbye, Mr. Harrison. Your fans will miss you.

Comments (2)

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Tony Lama from St. Paul writes:
December 3, 2001
Perhaps the Beatles' sons should get together to do an album. I have heard that there are indeed four sons of the Beatles that are talented enough in their fathers' instruments and singing to do so. The Jr. Beatles?

S. E. Shepherd writes:
December 4, 2001
If the sons were capable, it would indeed be interesting. However, one needs to look no further than Julian Lennon to see the tremendous pressure of being the musical son of a Beatle, and the innability to escape a famous father's shadow. Even if all four sons were to form a band together, the expectations on them, no matter how unfair, would guarantee their failure.

George Harrison and the Beatles were a one time phenomenom - there was nothing like them before them, and there will never be anything like them after. This is why the Beatles are so endearing - you only get them once.

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