The following are some thoughts and reflections about George Harrison from some of Rooftop Sessions' regular contributors and readers. If you would like to contribute, please send your thoughts to Susan Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Thanks to Cheryl Mortensen for the beautiful banner above.)
George Harrison was not only a fine guitar player, but he was more than that. He was a man who had made his peace with God. In his music he would often show that there was a better way to handle things, that a belief in God was not silly, but it added strength and meaning to a person's life. He was a light in this world that shone through the fakery often attributed to the Rock and Roll lifestyle. He was cool and he will be missed.
One of the many things I admired about former Beatle George Harrison was his cool, aloof demeanor. In watching the Beatle dubbed "The Quiet One" during the post-Beatle 70s, one got the sense that George had risen above his immediate surroundings and had his mind on a higher plane. I remember absolutely LOVING George during my silly adolescent years and cheered (not "Cheered Down") his releases. To this day, I remember cheering my heart out in early 1979 when "Blow Away" first got radio airplay on New York's WNEW-FM. The Beatles have certainly had a long established cultural influence on the masses; their clothing, hair and musical styles have spawned countless efforts at duplication at best, simulation at worst. Their nonpareil musical lyrics and distinct personalities blended or "Came Together" beautifully; each song and each exchange shows the unique, distinct and very individual style each Beatle had. George Harrison, to his credit, capitalized on his individuality. His entire adult life appeared to be a quest for spiritual answers; he gave in depth, highly intelligent arguments regarding matters spiritual and this is a theme he revisited in his post Beatle works.
George Harrison will sorely be missed. Although he, too, has passed and is no longer living in the material world, his influence will certainly remain permanent. I just wish I could write this with dry eyes.
Cheer Down, George. We'll always love you.
I knew there was a reason I didn’t want to get up this morning.
I normally exercise in the morning, but this morning I didn’t want to. I finally forced myself to, though, and I turned on the news. Music was playing as they displayed a weather graphic. Since this was about five in the morning, my thoughts went something like this: “Ooh, cool, Beatles music… ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ … George… OH NO!” A story about his life immediately came on, confirming the bad news.
I’d been half-expecting something like this, but I didn’t think it would come so quickly. With all the conflicting reports and rumors in the air, it’s been difficult to decide what to believe. Even in the face of the darkest rumors, I tried to hope for the best. Alas, sometimes even thoughts and prayers of millions of fans aren’t enough.
Those of you who have read my stories here on Rooftop Sessions already know John is my favorite Beatle, but George is my next favorite. All Things Must Pass, Cloud Nine, and the Traveling Wilbury albums are just a few examples of his great talent, with lyrics that range from poignant to spiritual to humorous – and, of course, elegant music. George had a keen sense of humor, which is best seen in the early interviews before he wearied of Beatlemania. He exemplified the value of tenacity and endurance. He was as solid as a rock, but his thoughts always led him skyward, to something beyond the material world. The more you learned about him, the more you liked him. I’m grateful now that I sent him a card early last year telling him how I feel about him and his music.
I’ve always regarded the Beatles as lights of hope and inspiration. In a world already horribly darkened by the events of September 11, losing George is like seeing the candle you were using in a blackout flicker and die. We can only take comfort in thinking that like John, George has now been lifted to a level where his light can reach more people.
Rest in peace, dear George; you’ve earned it. Whatever lies beyond this life, we hope that you now drink from the fountain of perpetual mirth.
As the media threatens to bury us in a set image of George Harrison attached to labels as thick as the hardening cement for a National Historic Site memorial, I can’t help but recall my own discovery about George. When I was researching Yavana, part of the process to help get into the head of George as a character, to try and guess what he might do in that situation, involved my playing all of his Beatles songs chronologically, from “Cry for a Shadow” right through to “I Me Mine”, to better understand his evolution and motivations on a subliminal level.
I was shocked as I listened to his entire catalog, because the set image given to George didn’t really apply. The man whose name evoked snatches of music along the lines of “Love to You” and “Within You Without You” had also given us the very self-centered “Don’t Bother Me” and the materialistic and biting “Taxman.” The man whose remembered for being overshadowed during the Beatles by John and Paul took two of their compositions, “Do You Want to Know a Secret” and “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You,” and by doing the lead vocals made their songs distinctly his. The man who supposedly had “gone native” after meeting Ravi Shankar and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was writing “Old Brown Shoe” and “For Your Blues” for the ‘Get Back’ sessions. This was not the man who had that popular image stamped upon him by others.
The point to be made, before the mass consensus gets it wrong for good, is that George Harrison was a very complex individual, capable of far more than what others expected. People who only remember “My Sweet Lord” and the unfortunate copyright suit forget his other outstanding solo material, which as we hear it now in memoriam we find has held up better over the ages than most of his contemporaries’ efforts released in those years. People who think of him as a starry-eyed philanthropist lost in his organizing the concert for Bangladesh and his other charity work don’t always remember his founding of Handmade Films, which was a serious money venture that insisted on quality product under tight budget. In fact, through his producing financially successful films like The Life of Brian, Time Bandits, The Missionary, Privates on Parade and Nuns on the Run, George’s claim to being the “seventh Python,” the additional member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, flies in the face of all the accouterment attached to his image as “the Quiet One.”
Probably the fault in misreading George came from his self-depreciation. His willingness to allow others to take the light off of him, such as Eric Clapton’s guitar work on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” his self-relegation to back-up for Bonnie and Delaney and Harry Nilson, and the entire Traveling Wilburys experience, left him open to being a tabula rasa for anyone with a pen and an agenda. It could be argued that had he behaved more like what we expect of rock stars, such as insisting on longer solo rifts on lead or using the press to promote himself along with his cause, he would have told us what to think of him instead of leaving it in our miserable hands.
And that right there, in essence, is what made George so unique: He would rather get on with it and just do it and leave all the rest aside. The last century, with it’s emerging sense of image and creation of celebrity, and with that differing degrees of the cult of personality, could never understand a man who cared only about the job and really didn’t give a damn about what it might look like. Other celebrities might have claimed not to be concerned about their image (often through their press agent), but George really wasn’t. And in our media-obsessed culture with buzz as its currency (making George’s observation of gossip being “the Devil’s radio” all the more apt), having a talented artist with a genuine hard work ethic mean so much to so many is a victory of honesty and value over image and empty noise.Perhaps George Harrison deserves to be called “the Quiet One” after all, although those wishing to post the label best watch themselves lest it come back to impale them…
When life was hard to live
You helped us start anew
Clever and witty, guitar at your side
The world fell in love with you
When times were harsh and cruel
You helped us dry our tears
The songs you wrote showed us you cared
During those lonely years
You gave us the courage we needed
Your spirit and soul were strong
You added fuel to our fire of hope
With every heartfelt song
You brightened our skies with your music
And lit up our days with your smile
Everyone knew that your time to pass
Shouldn't have been for a while
We prayed every night for your health
But it wasn't for us to decide
When fate stabbed the world in the back
And gave you your Ticket to Ride
We were blinded by our pain and fear
When the summer night air turned cold
But you were brave and simply smiled
Embraced by friends of old
Our sadness and sorrow is everywhere
Your time came way too fast
But then we remember you said years ago
All Things Must Pass
By now you've all read the tributes, the articles, the testimonials. You've heard it on the radio, seen it on TV, read it on the Net. You've heard the deejays blithely tossing off the news before putting one of his CD's in the player (usually one they haven't played in ages). You've seen the newspeople reporting the news with their Official Somber Faces, relating things the rest of us have known for decades as if they were brand-spanking-new.
I'd like to do better than that. I'd like to add something meaningful, something profound, something that will make it all make sense and make the hurt go away.
But I don't think I can.
There are things I can tell you. I can tell you how, when I heard the news on my way to work, my heart plunged right into my stomach and I spent the next five minutes frantically punching the dial, desperately hoping it wasn't true. I can tell you that I spent the rest of the day wandering around like a zombie, feeling like somebody'd punched a gaping hole in my chest. And playing the music, of course. Over and over and over again. But that's probably not news to you, either.
Or I could tell you how, and why, he was always my favorite Beatle. But that would go on for pages, so maybe I'll just keep it to myself. We all have our own reasons, anyway.
There's only one way I can drag something positive out of this, one way I can hope to make my token blithering worth your while. And it's a hopeless cliche, but it's the best I can do: He's never gone as long as we remember him. It's the truth! George will live on, right here, right with us. God willing, he'll have more adventures in our stories, with people like D. Aviva Rothschild, Susan Ryan, Lisha Goldberg...maybe even you, maybe even me. But he'll never leave you, and he'll never leave me.
That's the only truth I can give.
Thank you all; and George, you'll always be my favorite, and nothing will ever change that. Be at peace, and God bless.
George, George, George. What can you say about a world-famous celebrity who called himself "The Economy Beatle?" How do you begin to understand a G-d fearing, spiritual person who obsessed over an earthly sport like car racing? My relatives describe George as a "mystic," a "weirdo," and a "hermit." If that's true, how did he end up with a lovely, intelligent wife and the only Beatle child to graduate college?
As fate would have it, Paul received the knighthood, but George did all the fighting. Harrison faced the knife of an assailant, the knives of countless surgeries, and the cutting remarks of a trial judge who decreed that George wasn't sick enough to postpone his court case. George met all of these hardships head on, and fought back with his own sharp wit.
You might think I'm stepping off the edge here, but I refuse to think of George as "gone." I prefer to say that George has "gone elsewhere." I firmly believe that some personalities are strong enough to reach us from wherever they are.
Ready for a couple of bizarre stories? But first, a disclaimer. I make no claims that George had any hand in these stories. But it does seem like somebody somewhere was trying to get some attention.
Before the George news broke, I went for a walk on the beach. I stopped short when I discovered the embodiment of one of my favorite George songs, a "Fish on the Sand." A second fish had lodged itself, head-first, into the mouth of the first. Two fish locked together, yet heading in opposite directions represent the Zodiac sign Pisces. My sign. And George's. The next morning, I discovered that my path had crossed the doomed Pisces on the exact day and the exact minute that George left us.
That wasn't the only weirdness that happened to me on November 29. After I saw the fish, I got into the car to go home. Nearly gave myself whiplash as I spun around to make sure I wasn't hallucinating. (Don't worry, I wasn't the driver!) I shouted to my friend, "I just saw a life-sized, yellow submarine! It was in somebody's flower garden. And it's perched on a pole, so it looks like it's leaping towards heaven!"
Can you take one more "somebody is trying to tell Lisha something" story? I happen to be on an extended vacation right now, so I sent all my plants to live with a friend. (Okay, I confess. I lost my job, and I ran away from home. For those of you familiar with my comedy stories, let's say that I'm temporarily living in Cottonhead Country).
Anyway, on November 29, my plant sitter sent me an email. "Remember how we laughed when you called that tall, stick-thing an orchid? Well, the darned thing bloomed today."
Okay. Enough over-the-edge stuff from me. How about a lesson from George. Remember when he sent out the "Please don't worry about me" statement? At the time, I thought he meant "Please don't worry because I won't die on you." But looking back, I realize that I completely misunderstood him. What he really meant was, "Please don't worry because I know I'm going to be alright, no matter what happens."
Paul reported that George cracked jokes from his hospital bed. Anoushka Shankar said that George laughed when he saw her on November 28, and he prayed throughout her visit. Both his oncologist and his family confirmed that George did not fear death. Clearly, he believed that he was not facing an ending, but rather, a new beginning.
My gut tells me that Mr. Harrison is doing just fine. Betcha anything that gentle George has got a twinkle in his eye, a guitar in his hand, and a Lennon by his... um... well, I'm sure Mr. Epstein will sort it all out.
We love you Georgie. You're a beautiful man and we miss you like crazy. Thank you for sharing yourself with us and for giving us so much joy. We will always cherish you, and we will pray for you and your family.
But please don't worry about us. We'll be okay, too.
Copyright 2001 respective authors as noted.
Click Here For More George Tributes At Rational Magic
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