Sunday, July 20, 2008


Olivia Harrison

GEORGE HARRISON was one of the most adored and accomplished musicians of the rock & roll era. His brilliant, understated guitar playing helped define the sound of the Beatles, and his songs - including "Something," "Here Comes the Sun" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" - are among the group's finest. Harrison's lifelong quest for new sounds had a profound influence on the Beatles; he introduced the sitar and other Eastern instruments into the group - and to rock & roll. In the late sixties he also led the Beatles to explore Eastern religion and embarked on a personal spiritual journey that continued for the rest of his life. In 1970, following the Beatles' breakup, Harrison released a solo masterpiece, All Things Must Pass, and the next year he pioneered rock's first large-scale charity event with the Concert for Bangladesh. Harrison launched a solo tour in 1974 and made a series of wonderful solo albums and side projects with friends like Eric Clapton, Ravi Shankar and fellow Beatle Ringo Starr. In the late eighties he formed the Traveling Wilburys with his friends Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne, but Harrison spent most of that decade and the nineties at home in England and Hawaii, tending to his garden, playing the ukulele and enjoying a quiet life with his wife, Olivia, and son, Dhani.

ROLLING STONE featured George Harrison on its cover three times for his post-Beatles work and eight times as a Beatle. He was also featured on the cover of a special commemorative issue, as well as on the magazine's regular edition, following his death from cancer at age fifty-eight, on November 29, 2001. Now, in a definitive tribute that features a new foreword by Olivia Harrison, the editors have drawn on their archives and hundreds of photographs, both the iconographic and the rarely seen, to celebrate the life and career of one of the most important musicians in rock & roll history.

COMPILED by the editors of ROLLING STONE, Harrison chronicles the guitarist's life before, during and after the Beatles. Contributing editor Mikal Gilmore offers an expansive, thoughtful new essay, "The Mystery Inside George." ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award winner and ROLLING STONE senior editor David Fricke tells the stories behind Harrison's best-known songs, and offers a guide to twenty-five essential Harrison recordings. Harrison also features news stories and interviews with the guitarist from throughout ROLLING STONE's history - from his first Q&A with the magazine, in 1968, to his last, a 1987 interview with ROLLING STONE contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis.

Harrison also collects more than one hundred photographs - from intimate, never-before-seen family photos to iconic images of Harrison as a member of the world's most photographed band. The work of nine renowned photographers is featured in a stunning sixty-page gallery. Included among them are German photographers Max Scheler's and J├╝rgen Vollmer's early photos of the band's wild days in Hamburg. There is also the deeply personal work of Astrid Kirchherr, who shot the Beatles' earliest formal portraits in a Hamburg fairground and became a close friend of George's. P.J. Griffiths photographed the band for a newspaper article in 1963 on the Liverpool scene. David Hurn shot the filming of A Hard Day's Night and Help! Curt Gunther was one of the few photographers allowed to travel with the group during their 1964 North American tour. And Mark Seliger shot what became the definitive late-period portrait of Harrison for ROLLING STONE's twenty-fifth anniversary issue in 1992.


A Few Words About George


THE SILENCE of George's absence in our lives is deafening. Although he often renounced his role as an entertainer, my life with him was never boring. There were many comedies and a few tragedies but, most of all, deep love for all living things. He was a warrior who faced life's battles with extraordinary courage. In the words of Bob Dylan, "He had the strength of a hundred men." The power of his convictions was as strong as a hundred men, all right. As Arjuna asked Krishna for guidance on the battlefield, so George faced the many battles before him with spiritual courage and unwavering conviction.

Our son, Dhani, and I, like George's friends, were spoiled by his rich and loving presence: from the morning wake-up call, which could have been (depending on our location and mood) a morning raga, a Vedic chant, a Mozart concerto, Cab Calloway's "Bugle Call Rag," or Hoagy's earliest instrumental version of "Stardust," to the day's final tune, maybe whistled on his way to bed and which I would wake up in the morning singing. He loved planting the seed of a song and would sometimes whistle a tune I disliked just to see if he could get it rolling around in my head. After I would complain about it, he'd say, "Okay, here's one to replace it," and whistle another.

All senses were satisfied as incense blew in the morning breeze, mingling with the steam from hot cups of tea. If he stepped out the door for a breath of morning air, he always returned with a flower or leaf that would have gone unnoticed by everyone else, in the same way many among us would have gone unnoticed were it not for his ability to "see" the true person inside the bodily form. He always went straight to the heart of a person, and that ability extended to any subject or matter or work before him. His ability to penetrate to the core gave him, as he put it, "a different slant, a different patter," than anyone I ever knew.

George said he felt closest to God in nature, and some may assume his passion as a landscape gardener was founded solely on his immense love and knowledge of plants as well as his extraordinary vision. But the driving force was his desire to know God. "If there is a God, we must see Him; if there is a soul we must perceive it. Otherwise it is better not to believe. It is better to be an outspoken atheist than a hypocrite," as he used to remind us! Though he often quoted spiritual greats in this way, George did not, contrary to popular belief, "belong" to any spiritual organization, although many claimed him as their own. George also said, "He who tells all that he knows, tells more than he knows." This usually applied to those who declared they knew the very private George's innermost beliefs. In fact, his spiritual knowledge and experience was many faceted. Still, he managed to dive deep to the heart of each practice, never content to skim the surface. He embraced the essence of all religions although he had little patience for organized religions or dogma that espoused guilt, sin or mystery. For George, there was no mystery, and he would gladly spend hours discussing God with an interested person - and some not so interested!

He was so deep, and I for one was at times guilty of indolence - probably because I knew that the tide of his devotion was so strong that I cold ride those currents with him toward our shared goal of God consciousness. Now, without him, we all have more paddling to do.

George left the world his uniquely beautiful melodies, and some of them were barely born, played once, maybe. Every Dictaphone or tape machine in the house was found with a cassette inside bearing the beginning of a new song, some on piano, ukulele or guitar, some with hysterically funny words, some with fiercely serious lyrics, but all crafted from creativity he knew to be a divine gift.

Besides the company, conversation and wisdom of my beloved friend, I already long for the live background music to our lives. If I began singing a song - any song - he would accompany and encourage me. If I played three chords on the uke (compulsory instrument in our home), he would be my band. George was so generous and "grateful to anyone that is happy or free." A good moment to him was always worth making better.

I love you, George. The joys, sorrows, lessons and love we shared are more than enough to fill my heart until we meet again.

-January 2002

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