Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Guitarist of the Beatles
Currently Known For:
1960 - 2001
February 25, 1943
Guitarist of the Beatles
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If any group is going to be successful in rock ‘n roll, you’re going to have to have a guitarist that can create some great riffs. While the Beatles had the songwriting and vocal harmonies already in hand, they wouldn’t have found the type of fame that they did without guitarist George Harrison. Being the youngest member of the group at the time, Harrison is said by some Beatles fans to have had the most overall musical talent. Not only could he play the guitar masterfully, but he also wrote and sang some of the group’s most famous songs.
Harrison was born in Liverpool, England on February 25, 1943 where he had a fairly normal upbringing where his family was supportive of his early love for music. He took classes at a young age in school, but there weren’t guitars available so Harrison had to learn on his own when he entered his teenage years. Harrison joined his first local group during this time, but met Paul McCartney while on a bus en route to school when they started talking and became friends.
When McCartney joined forces with John Lennon to form a group called the Quarrymen, he convinced Lennon to let Harrison audition to be part of the band. Harrison, of course, impressed the young songwriter and became the third man. Over the next few years, they started to make waves and became the Beatles, adding drummer Ringo Starr (who replaced Pete Best) as the fourth member, establishing the legendary lineup.
The Beatles quickly found fame in their native United Kingdom during the early 1960s and then around the world, with each member having a bit of their own identity. Harrison was known as the quiet reserved one, who was more interested in the music itself instead of being a star. “George was a reluctant rock star,” said Jeff Lynne (more on him later), “But he loved to play rock ‘n’ roll...He didn’t like the bull**** that goes with being famous. But he loved to make music and he loved recording.”
The Beatles released albums from 1963 to 1970, many of which had reached the top of the charts in the major tracking countries. Harrison played lead guitar on most every song, and had his own hits with the group which included “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Here Comes the Sun” and “Within You Without You”. He certainly didn’t resemble his early years toward the end of the Beatles run, with Harrison saying “People say I’m the Beatle who changed the most, but to me, that’s what life’s about.”
During the final years of the Beatles, Harrison had worked on some music outside of the group, releasing a pair of compilation albums called “Wonderwall Music” and “Electronic Sound”, released in 1968 and 1969, repsectively. After the group split following their 1970 album “Let It Be”, Harrison had his first solo album later in the year with “All Things Must Pass”, reaching number one in both the UK and US. The album proved to be a hit thanks to the songs “My Sweet Lord” and “Isn’t It a Pity”.
Harrison released five more albums throughout the 1970s, including “Living in the Material World”, “Dark Horse” and “Extra Texture (Read All About It)”. He added another number one hit in the US during this time with “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)”, as well as songs like “You”, “Blow Away” and “Crackerbox Palace”.
There was a bit of a resurgence for Harrison’s solo career during the 1980s as he had another trio of albums with “Somewhere in England”, “Gone Troppo” and “Cloud Nine”, the final solo album released during his life (he had a posthumous release with “Brainwashed” in 2002). He scored a couple more big hits with “All Those Years Ago” and “Got My Mind Set On You”, the latter of which was a chart topper in the United States.
The later 1980s also included Harrison rejoining a group for the first time. He formed a supergroup alongside Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra fame called the Traveling Wilburys. The group released two hit albums that went platinum in 1988 and 1990 thanks to songs like “She’s My Baby”, “Handle with Care” and “End of the Line”.
Throughout much of the 1990s, Harrison sadly wasn’t able to record much music. That’s because health problems had started to surface with Harrison being diagnosed with throat cancer during the middle of the decade. He had gone through multiple surgeries, and had another tragedy when he was stabbed in his home multiple times, though he had survived that attack.
It was a rough final few years for Harrison, though he was able to reunite with the surviving members of the Beatles before his death. On November 29, 2001, Harrison passed away in his southern California home at 58 years old, leaving Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney as the surviving half of the iconic music group. In the years since, Harrison has been remembered as a legendary guitarist, with some of the most memorable riffs in music history.
“Anytime I see anything to do with George it brings back more memories than you can believe,” McCartney said. “He was a lovely guy and a very brave man and had a wonderful sense of humor. He is really just my baby brother.” He was also a very loving person according to Petty. “George was the kind of guy who wasn’t going to leave until he hugged you for five minutes and told you how much he loved you.”
“In the end, you’re trying to find God,” Harrison said. “That’s the result of not being satisfied. And it doesn’t matter how much money, or property, or whatever you’ve got, unless you’re happy in your heart, then that’s it. And unfortunately, you can never gain perfect happiness unless you’ve got that state of consciousness that enables that.”