Wednesday, November 30, 2011

George Harrison: 10th anniversary of ‘quiet Beatle’s’ death

One decade ago, George Harrison, “the quiet Beatle,” died.

Harrison died at age 58 of cancer, and many critics thought he got the short shrift in the Beatles’ story. Though he wrote a few of the Beatles’ hits, his work was often overlooked in favor of his more outspoken bandmates, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Once Harrison died, talk immediately turned to his songwriting. Ten years later, his legacy is still being debated.

According to his Post obituary, by Adam Bernstein, Harrison was an impulsive songwriter: “Mainly the object has been to get something out of my system, as opposed to ‘being a songwriter.’ ”

Harrison’s songs, which included “Within You, Without You,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something,” were “among the gentlest and most meditative of the Beatles’ output,” Bernstein wrote.

“Here Comes the Sun,” for example, was written on a beautiful spring day in 1969 when Harrison left the Beatles business office feeling frustrated by nitty-gritty accounting details. He walked over to his friend Eric Clapton's house and strolled around the garden with a guitar. The result was one of the most buoyantly joyful of his songs: “Little darling, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter/Little darling it feels like years since it’s been here/Here comes the sun. Here comes the sun/And I say ... It’s alright.”

In October, Martin Scorcese released his documentary, “George Harrison: Living in the Material World.” Though the long-awaited examination of Harrison gave the slighted artist his due, it may have been too kind, says TV critic Hank Stuever:

Certainly no one is clamoring for a George Harrison movie that seeks dirt or shakes the Beatle firmament. But we do like organization and clarity, even if the subject was prone to such nonlinear acts as running off with a maharishi. Strangely, on the matter of Harrison’s spiritual quests, the movie becomes less inquisitive.
For his reputation as a maker of unflinchingly tough feature films about dark-hearted men, Scorsese makes documentaries as one would pet a kitty.

As for Harrison’s nickname? Although Harrison might have been less outspoken than his bandmates, he was hardly quiet, his sister Louise revealed in an interview.

“The weekend they flew into New York to do ‘Ed Sullivan,’ George was very sick. They were staying at the Plaza Hotel, and we got him to see the hotel doctor, Dr. Gordon. Dr. Gordon said, ‘This is a very sick kid. He’s got a 104-degree temperature and has strep throat.’
“He was given some shots and vaporizer treatments, and I was in charge of watching over him. George was told to use his voice as little as possible. That’s why at all the press conferences he was so quiet, and so the press thought he was the quiet one. George used to have a good laugh about it.”

Today, Liverpool celebrates Harrison’s legacy with two concerts, and Hollywood will light candles in his honor (in another, less-auspicious tribute, the musician’s amp is being auctioned off for as much as $109,000). Fans are also invited to a ceremony at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and are invited to bring a paper flower or dove, or another symbol of peace, which would have suited Harrison. He wrote in his autobiography, “I, Me, Mine”: “I don’t want to be in the business full-time, because I’m a gardener. I plant flowers and watch them grow. I don’t go out to clubs and partying. I stay at home and watch the river flow.”

By Maura Judkis Washington Post

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