George Harrison was born in Liverpool, England, on February 25, 1943. A little less than 15 years later — on February 6, 1958 — the young Harrison took the suggestion of his friend and schoolmate, a boy named Paul McCartney, and went to see a local rock and roll group called The Quarrymen at a place known as Wilson Hall in Liverpool. He later played his guitar for the band’s leader, a somewhat older Liverpool teen named John Lennon, rocking out a note-perfect rendition of the instrumental hit “Raunchy,” by American rock-and-roller Bill Justis. The 17-year-old Lennon was so impressed that he overcame his reluctance to invite a 14-year-old into his group — and as The Beatles Bible records, the rest became not just musical history, but a cultural legend.
With Harrison joining Lennon and McCartney, the group soon renamed themselves The Beatles and went on to become the most important and iconic rock band in history. Though Lennon and McCartney wrote most of The Beatles’ songs and worked as a team, Harrison took up songwriting as well, writing on his own but steadily developing into what the Disc Makers Blog called “one of popular music’s great artists.”
With The Beatles, Harrison was best known for penning the classics “Here Comes The Sun,” “Something,” which was called by no less a figure than Frank Sinatra, “the best love song for the last 50 years” (per The Guardian), and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
As a solo artist, following the 1970 Beatles breakup, Harrison continued to develop as a songwriter. Below are five Harrison classics that perhaps do not receive as much attention as they should.
George Harrison was born today 1943—selfie taken at Taj Mahal, 1966: pic.twitter.com/QjjcSFn5p8— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) February 25, 2019
“All Things Must Pass”
Harrison told Billboard magazine in 2001, several months before his death from cancer, that “the great thing about splitting up” with The Beatles was his newfound ability to record the stockpile of songs he had written for the group, but which Lennon and McCartney would not allow him to record. “All Things Must Pass” was recorded by The Beatles, but only as a demo, and went on to become the title track of Harrison’s first post-Beatles solo album in 1970.
“Awaiting on You All”
Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album was where he unloaded that stockpile of songs, so many that the album contained not just one or two, but three vinyl discs — the first triple album of all original, studio-recorded music in rock history, according to Pitchfork. “Awaiting on You All” is a rousing rocker notable for the then-controversial lyric,
“The Pope owns 51 percent of General Motors / And the stock exchange is the only thing he’s qualified to quote us.”
The title track of Harrison’s largely overlooked third post-Beatles album is notable not only as one of his iconic tunes but for the severe vocal issues that Harrison struggled through in 1974 — a time of great personal turmoil for the ex-Beatles. His first marriage to model Pattie Boyd was ending, and The Beatles’ breakup was entangled in legal issues, as Ultimate Classic Rock recounts. But Harrison endured this tumultuous phase and managed to record at least one immortal song — though it never reached higher than No. 15 on the charts, and features an uncharacteristically raspy Harrison vocal.
As the 1970s went on, Harrison settled into his post-Beatles life, remarried, and became a father, as UCR recounts. His music began to reflect his more lighthearted, relaxed approach to life, as evidenced in this track from his 1979 album, simply entitled George Harrison.
Though he began writing the song “Any Road” in 1988, according to The Spark, by the time it was released in 2002 — one year after Harrison’s death — on his final album Brainwashed, the song could be seen as Harrison’s reflections on his own life, and his immersion with Eastern religions. Lyrics such as “There was no beginning, there is no end / It wasn’t born and never dies / there are no edges, there is no sides,” were clearly inspired by Eastern themes regarding the transience of physical existence and the immortality of the soul.
Harrison died in Los Angeles, California, on November 29, 2001, after a lengthy battle with throat and brain cancer. His single, “Any Road,” was released in 2003 and nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance category.