[sixties-l] GEORGE HARRISON / 1943-2001 (fwd)

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    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: GEORGE HARRISON / 1943-2001


      December 1 2001

          GEORGE HARRISON / 1943-2001

          'Quiet Beatle' Sought Spirituality, Privacy


          By GEOFF BOUCHER

      George Harrison, the shy lead guitarist of the Beatles who added a
      spiritual pilgrim's sensibility to the band's massive cultural impact,
      has died. He was 58.

      Harrison died at 1:30 p.m. Thursday reportedly at the Los Angeles home of
      Gavin de Becker, a friend and noted security expert in the celebrity
      world. Harrison had battled in recent years with various forms of cancer,
      and earlier this year underwent radiation treatment for a brain tumor.
      His wife, Olivia Arias Harrison, and son, Dhani, were with him at the
      time of his death, which was not announced until early Friday morning.

      Harrison had come to Los Angeles two weeks ago to be with the family of
      his wife, a Southern California native, and he had taken deliberate moves
      recently to pare down his circle of confidants in a quest for privacy--a
      quest that had been a defining characteristic through much of his career.
      Keeping with that, Harrison's family issued a statement Friday that
      focused on Harrison's spiritual life, not the details of his death. "He
      left this world as he lived in it, conscious of God, fearless of death,
      and at peace, surrounded by family and friends," the family said in the
      release carried by the Associated Press. "He often said, 'Everything else
      can wait but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another.' "

      The two remaining members of the Beatles grieved Harrison's passing.

      "I am devastated and very, very sad," Paul McCartney told reporters
      outside his London home Friday. "He was a lovely guy and a very brave man
      and had a wonderful sense of humor. He is really just my baby brother."

      In a statement, Ringo Starr, in Vancouver, Canada, said: "George was a
      best friend of mine. I loved him very much and I will miss him greatly.
      Both [wife] Barbara and I send our love and light to Olivia and Dhani. We
      will miss George for his sense of love, his sense of music and his sense
      of laughter."

      John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, said Friday: "George has given so much to
      us in his lifetime and continues to do so even after his passing, with
      his music, his wit and his wisdom."

      Harrison's passing has a cultural resonance that goes beyond one star
      musician's death: Coupled with Lennon's murder in 1980, it leaves
      one-half of the Beatles dead before many of their original fans have
      reached their 60th birthday. The group credited with teaching life
      lessons to the baby boomer generation is now a reminder of mortality.

         Lennon-McCartney Overshadowed Songs

      The songwriter and singer of such Beatles songs as "While My Guitar
      Gently Weeps," "Something," "Here Comes the Sun" and "Taxman," Harrison
      struggled for his own spotlight in the celebrated company of Lennon and

      The youngest member of the quartet, his was the least defined persona
      during the group's frenetic rise to world fame, and in the band's peak
      creative years he chafed as the prolific songwriters McCartney and Lennon
      became the rock icons of the group. Still, Harrison's fascination with
      Indian philosophy and music laced through the band's albums as the
      Beatles matured into more sophisticated artists.

      After the Beatles broke up in 1970, Harrison embarked on a solo career
      that was viewed as spotty even by fans and intriguing even by his
      critics. The most acclaimed chapter of his post-Beatles career remains
      the first: the 1970 three-LP epic "All Things Must Pass," which included
      the humanistic hits "My Sweet Lord," "Isn't It a Pity" and "What Is
      Life." A year later, he burnished that success by engineering the
      landmark charity effort "The Concert for Bangla Desh." The two-night show
      in New York featured Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and others and became a
      template for the now-familiar concept of the all-star rock fund-raiser.

      In the glow of those accomplishments, Harrison was perceived as a star
      with humility who finally rivaled McCartney and Lennon in public acclaim.
      The triumph, though, would be somewhat tainted.

      Harrison endured an embarrassing courtroom loss in 1976 when he was found
      to have "subconsciously plagiarized" the Chiffons song "He's So Fine" for
      the melody and composition of "My Sweet Lord." Harrison had also stumbled
      badly with the logistics of the Bangladesh effort, which was not
      technically set up as a charity. The proceeds would be tied up for a
      decade before they reached the impoverished refugees in the troubled
      South Asian country.

      Those setbacks, along with his less than heralded 1974 concert tour, his
      1977 divorce from actress-model Patti Boyd and Lennon's murder in 1980,
      fed Harrison's desire for privacy. He repeatedly stepped away from the
      music world for extended stretches, including a 17-year absence from the
      tour circuit and a five-year hiatus from recording following the 1982
      album "Gone Troppo." In the interim he turned to his film production
      company, Formula One auto racing and gardening to fill his days. The most
      reserved member of the world's most famous band did not regret any days
      spent out of the spotlight.

      "I've never been that good at being a promoter of myself, doing TV
      interviews or whatever," he told The Times in 1987. In the same
      interview, he reflected on his Beatles years as a time of confinement by
      celebrity: "We had a great laugh, really, when we were good friends,
      though we were like caged animals most of the time."

      In the post-Beatles years, McCartney thrived with solo hits and his band
      Wings, Lennon enhanced his role as an edgy cultural force and Starr rode
      his amiable persona into an erratic music and film career. Harrison,
      meanwhile, was again the least visible following his Bangladesh work. He
      did, however, have the first and final word among his bandmates when it
      came to solo chart hits: In 1971, his "My Sweet Lord" was the first No. 1
      hit by a former Beatle and his "Got My Mind Set on You" in 1987 stands as
      the most recent No. 1 single by any of the Fab Four.

      Harrison also joined another band--the informal and temporary recording
      collective called the Traveling Wilburys, with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison,
      Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne. The all-star group put Harrison in an
      interesting context: He was teamed with one of the heroes of his youth in
      Orbison, one of his 1960s contemporaries in Dylan and one of the Beatles'
      most obvious musical acolytes in Lynne, formerly of the Electric Light

      Harrison made a mark in the film world too, as co-founder of HandMade
      Films, the production company that brought a series of projects featuring
      members of the Monty Python comedy troupe to the silver screen, including
      "Life of Brian," "Time Bandits" and "The Missionary." His producing
      career would include critically acclaimed fare, such as "Mona Lisa" in
      1986, and a famous flop in "Shanghai Surprise," with then-couple Madonna
      and Sean Penn, in 1986. Still, the lasting glare of the Beatles' success
      overpowered any other Harrison pursuit or public identity, a fact he
      grudgingly acknowledged.

      "The Beatles exist apart from my self," he told Newsweek in 1995. "I am
      not really Beatle George. Beatle George is like a suit or a shirt that I
      once wore on occasion, and until the end of my life people may see that
      shirt and mistake it for me."

      Born in Liverpool in northwest England on Feb. 25, 1943, Harrison was one
      of four children growing up in the lower-middle-class home of Harold and
      Louise Harrison. His father, a seaman turned bus driver, had an extensive
      record collection that included the "singing brakeman," country singer
      Jimmie Rodgers. It was the guitar work on a Rodgers record that Harrison
      would later recall as his first impression of the instrument that would
      eventually define his life's direction.

      The young Harrison was remembered by family and friends as a taciturn and
      independent child. Even as a toddler he resented his mother dropping him
      off at school, according to "Shout!" a Beatles biography by Philip
      Norman. Harrison also showed a willful streak by wearing outlandish
      outfits to school or dozing off in class.

      The lad was a middling student with a fondness for sports, but by 1956,
      it was the sound of American rock 'n' roll by the likes of Fats Domino
      and Elvis Presley that dominated his attention. He would also recount
      later that the 1956 hit version of "Rock Island Line" by British skiffle
      singer Lonnie Donegan inspired a special plea to his mother: Could he
      have money to buy an acoustic guitar from a classmate at Dovedale Road
      Junior School? She agreed and soon the boy was diligently educating
      himself in chords.

      The same year of "Rock Island Line," Harrison started his first band, the
      Rebels, and also met a new friend on a school bus, an older student at
      Liverpool Institute named Paul McCartney. The two shared an interest in
      skiffle, a spirited folk-based sound that became a craze in the U.K.
      Harrison's home in the Speke district of Liverpool became their daily
      meeting place to practice and swap thoughts on skiffle and the intriguing
      rock 'n' roll imports. Eddie Cochran, Duane Eddy and Carl Perkins were
      among the players who would most inform young Harrison's style.

      In 1957, at age 14, Harrison was ushered by McCartney into a new band,
      the Quarrymen, which had been founded by another Liverpool youngster
      under the thrall of U.S. music: John Lennon.

         From Unknown Five to Fab Four in a Flash

      By 1960, the three would be joined by bassist Stuart Sutcliffe (who quit
      in 1961) and drummer Pete Best and be known as the Beatles, a moniker
      inspired by Buddy Holly's band, the Crickets. That year they got their
      first major booking, a steady gig at the Indra Club in the red-light
      district of Hamburg, Germany. They played marathon shows--six, seven
      hours or longer--and honed their sound in the gritty setting in front of
      boozy, unforgiving crowds.

      Their success moved them to larger clubs but their Hamburg career was cut
      short when Harrison, still a minor, ran afoul of local labor laws. They
      returned to Liverpool a leaner, sharper band and, by 1962, had a
      recording contract with Parlophone/EMI Records. They also had a new
      drummer, Richard Starkey, who went by the stage name Ringo Starr.

      Amazingly, the Beatles were soon stepping onto the global stage as a pop
      music force. Their fresh, energetic music and new fashion made the U.S.
      pop of the day seem sleepy and sappy.

      In 1963 the group also recorded its first Harrison composition, "Don't
      Bother Me," and the guitarist would later say he was more intimidated by
      bringing his song into the studio then he was walking onto arena stages.
      And with good reason: McCartney and Lennon were already established as
      the group's songwriting machine with such hits as "Love Me Do," "Please
      Please Me" and others.

      As fans and the press began to size up these new stars in the U.S. in
      1964, Lennon and McCartney would be front and center while Starr would
      become the cartoonish hound dog. Harrison, gaunt and stilted, was, almost
      by default, labeled "the quiet Beatle." Harrison was the least
      comfortable with screaming fans and the first in the group to champion
      the full-time shift to the recording studio as the touring life became
      less and less satisfying.

      The Beatles films "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!" only reinforced the
      image of Harrison as the shy one in the witty quartet. It was on the set
      of "Help!" in April 1965, during the filming of a scene in an Indian
      restaurant, that Harrison first picked up an intriguing new
      instrument--the sitar. That random moment would send Harrison on a new
      path as he became fascinated with the exotic stringed instrument, just as
      he had been mesmerized by a guitar during his childhood. In a matter of
      months, Harrison crossed paths with Indian sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar,
      who in short order became a mentor and new collaborator for the Beatle.

         Sitar, Ravi Shankar as Instruments of Growth

      Harrison memorably introduced the sitar into the Beatles catalog--and to
      the ears of many pop fans--on "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)," a
      haunting song Lennon wrote in 1965 as a dark essaying of an extramarital
      affair. The song on "Rubber Soul," acclaimed by many Beatles scholars as
      perhaps the band's finest album, served notice that the group was pushing
      into new musical territories. On their next album, "Revolver," Harrison
      composed "Love You To" entirely on the sitar.

      More than a novel sonic direction, the sitar was a doorway for Harrison
      into a spiritual journey. He traveled to India, immersed himself in
      Eastern philosophies and became a student of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. His
      conversion to Hinduism would not only help him deal with the
      disconcerting effects of celebrity life--he would be viewed by some as an
      almost ascetic rock star--it would infuse his music and worldview. The
      other Beatles joined in the mystic exploration in varying but lesser
      degrees and, coming at a time when the maturing band was experimenting
      with psychedelic drugs, their music took on new ambitions that tested the
      definitions of pop.

      For Harrison, his new mind-set, musically and spiritually, was first
      summed up in a recording with the song "Within You Without You" on the
      seminal album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." The song featured
      an array of instruments, including dilruba, tabla, surmandel, tamaboura
      drone and cello, and its lyrics implored that ego be set aside in the
      name of unity and love, a manifestation of Harrison's spiritual

      Harrison traveled regularly to India and became a champion of the
      nation's elite musical talents. Years before "world music" would become a
      staple genre at U.S. record stores, he was lending his considerable
      cachet to bringing the Indian sounds to Western pop audiences. While
      still a Beatle in late 1968, he became the first in the band to release a
      solo album, the sitar-heavy instrumental disc "Wonderwall Music," a film

      For all his growth, though, Harrison felt his role within the Beatles was
      unfairly stunted. His songs were confined to one or two tracks per album
      while Lennon and McCartney piled up hit after hit and Starr would be
      given an occasional track that highlighted his endearing but comical

      Beatles producer George Martin, famed mentor to the group, reflected
      Friday on Harrison's sometimes uncomfortable spot in the band's ranks.

      "He was the baby of the Beatles, and unlike Paul and John, he had a hard
      time developing his songwriting talent and making his music alone,"
      Martin said. "But he worked hard and with enormous patience, building his
      music meticulously."

      In a telling footnote, the first time a Harrison song even appeared on a
      Beatles single was in March 1968--just two years before the group
      split--when "The Inner Light" was included as the B-side to "Lady

      Through the Beatles years, the Harrison songbook grew to include "Think
      for Yourself," "I Want To Tell You," "If I Needed Someone," "You Like Me
      Too Much." "It's All Too Much," "Blue Jay Way," "I Need You," "I Me
      Mine," "Old Brown Shoe," "Savoy Truffle" and "For You Blue."

      It was in the darkest days of the Beatles that Harrison penned one of the
      band's most earnestly optimistic songs. During bitter feuds over its
      management and direction, Harrison fled the boardroom wranglings to the
      countryside to visit a friend, famed guitarist Eric Clapton. Walking in a
      garden with one of Clapton's acoustic guitars, Harrison felt a wave of
      relief from the summery weather and composed "Here Comes the Sun."

      "It was such a great release for me simply being out in the sun," George
      told interviewers at the time. "The song just came to me."

      A far less rosy attitude resulted in Harrison's "Only a Northern Song,"
      written in 1967 as an obvious jab at Lennon, McCartney and the Beatles
      business operations. Northern Songs was the name of the Beatles music
      publishing company and, at the time, Lennon and McCartney held 30% of the
      shares while Harrison and Starr had less than 2% each--meaning a far
      smaller slice of an extremely lucrative pie. The lyrics: "It doesn't
      really matter what chords I play/What words I say or time of day it is/As
      it's only a northern song."

      Originally intended for "Sgt. Pepper," "It's Only a Northern Song" was
      ultimately relegated to "Yellow Submarine," the animated film and
      soundtrack that depicted the Beatles on a psychedelic fairy tale.
      Tellingly, in the cartoon (which the Beatles had no meaningful creative
      involvement in making) Harrison was depicted as a bearded, levitating
      figure, a mod holy man of sorts. He was no longer the meek Beatle with
      the shy, toothy grin in "Help!" but he was no less enigmatic.

      Another Harrison song, "Piggies," off the 1968 collection popularly
      referred to as "The White Album," became a historical footnote to the
      notorious 1969 murder spree of the Manson "family." Harrison's lyrics
      were intended as commentary on class by comparing the bourgeoise to pigs,
      but cult leader Charles Manson would say he heard in the words a warning
      of looming race wars and a call to slaughter using knives and forks.
      Police linked the Manson family's eight Southern California murders by
      the use of victims' blood to write "pig," "pigs" or "piggies" at the
      three crime scenes.

      Harrison was aghast at the song's tangential infamy and the entire
      episode contributed to his deepening unease in public places. Years
      later, Lennon's murder by a mentally unbalanced fan in New York City
      heightened those anxieties. "After what happened to John," he said in
      1984, "I'm absolutely terrified." Harrison's fears, it turned out, were
      not unwarranted.

      In December 1999, a 33-year-old Liverpool man described as an obsessed
      Beatles fan broke into Harrison's 120-room mansion, Friar Park, a former
      nunnery in Henley-on-Thames, 25 miles west of London. Somehow the
      intruder got past the razor wire atop the home's fences and the high-tech
      security systems monitoring its corridors. Confronted by Harrison, the
      man attacked with a knife.

      Harrison, facing the potential fate he had feared since Lennon's slaying
      years earlier, grappled with the man. His wife rushed to his aid and the
      couple managed to fend off and subdue the intruder. Harrison suffered
      slashes and an inch-deep stab wound that collapsed his right lung and his
      wife sustained minor injuries.

      Olivia Arias Harrison was the Beatle's second wife. He had married
      British actress-model Patricia Anne Boyd in January 1966 and the
      relationship, along with Harrison's longtime friendship to guitarist
      Clapton, led to a love triangle that became part of rock lore. Clapton
      (who had memorably collaborated with Harrison on "While My Guitar Gently
      Weeps" and the Cream song "Badge") fell in love with Boyd and later
      conceded she was the subject of the classic rock torch song "Layla."
      Harrison and Boyd divorced in 1977 and, two years later, she married
      Clapton. The two men, however, remained close friends throughout.

         Fans Got False Hope From Final Recording

      In 1978, Harrison married Arias, an employee at his record label, shortly
      after the birth of their son, Dhani Harrison. The elder Harrison and his
      son, now 23, co-wrote a song titled "Horse to the Water" that the former
      Beatle recorded in October with Jools Holland, former keyboardist in the
      British pop group Squeeze.

      That recording session became a source of optimism for Harrison's fans
      who had been distressed in recent months with reports and rumors about
      the former Beatle's grave health. Harrison, a longtime smoker, in 1998
      had revealed his first bout with cancer--treated at the time by radiation
      and the removal of a lump on his throat--and that was followed with
      treatments for lung cancer. Earlier this year he acknowledged he was
      being treated at a Swiss clinic for a brain tumor.

      In July, a furious Harrison lashed out at a British newspaper's report
      that he was near death. The article quoted former Beatles producer George
      Martin saying that Harrison "knows he is going to die soon and he's
      accepting it perfectly happily."

      Martin adamantly disputed the quote and a journalist with the London Mail
      resigned amid the ensuing furor.

      The prying into his health offended Harrison's intensifying desire for
      privacy. The reported site of his death--the home of De Becker, famous in
      celebrity circles as head of a noted private security firm--was perhaps a
      fitting footnote to the most reluctant Beatle's desire for seclusion.

      Harrison had come to Los Angeles after intensive radiation therapy at the
      Staten Island University Hospital in New York. Dr. Gil Lederman, that
      hospital's director of radiation oncology, said his patient and friend
      headed west to be in the company of the Arias family. Lederman said he
      expects Harrison's confidants will keep a tight rein on information about
      the former Beatle's final days, a nod to his emphasis on privacy.

      "You won't get an answer from anyone in the entourage. . . . They don't
      want to see anything in the papers, quite frankly," Lederman said.

      But as news of Harrison's death spread in Los Angeles, people convened at
      a shrine assembled on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and at the Beatles'

      Wearing Beatles shirts, they carried flowers and incense, placards and
      candles. They brought their children.

      Passing cars played Beatles music, and a large banner with a peace symbol
      read: "George, You Gave to the World."

      Shrine visitor Stephen Gries, 49, who had read the news in the wee hours,
      said, "I thought, my God. . . . When all is said and done, every
      guitarist owes a debt of gratitude to George Harrison. He was the
      greatest pop guitarist, period."

      Harrison's hunger for privacy was also offended through the years by the
      endless speculation about the potential of a Beatles reunion.

      The guitarist's view of his former bandmates Lennon and McCartney veered
      through the years from cordial to bitter to sentimental, like stubborn
      siblings in a family torn apart by emotional betrayals.

      In 1989, Harrison shot down a reunion overture by McCartney by telling an
      interviewer, "As far as I'm concerned, there won't be a Beatles reunion
      as long as John Lennon remains dead." A few years later he added a dash
      of venom by saying that "every time Paul needs some publicity, he
      announces to the press that we're getting back together again. I wouldn't
      pay much attention to that."

      Other times Harrison softened. He memorably spoofed the reunion issue
      with a 1976 appearance on "Saturday Night Live" where he played along
      with a skit in which the show's producer, Lorne Michaels, offered
      Harrison and his old mates a whopping $3,000 to perform together.

      After Lennon's death, Harrison reflected on his Beatles friendships with
      the gentle song "All Those Years Ago," recalling the halcyon times with
      his mates, and in 1987 he elaborated on that with "When We Was Fab," a
      buoyant nod to the group's glory days. In 1995, Harrison joined
      McCartney, Starr and Yoko Ono, Lennon's widow, in releasing a project
      that was both commercially and archival minded: "Anthology."

      "Anthology" was an album of Beatles rarities and a newly recorded single,
      "Free As a Bird," which, in a sense, finally gave fans the Beatles
      reunion they so desired. It was an unfinished Lennon song, recorded in
      1977, that was grafted together with new contributions from the surviving
      trio and production by Lynne, Harrison's Wilbury compatriot. The
      "Anthology" project would lead to a total of six discs of unreleased
      material, a 10-hour video history and a large tome collecting photos and
      the reminiscences of Harrison, McCartney and Starr.

      Last year, any questions about the vitality of the Beatles legacy was
      answered by the huge success of "1," a new package of the Beatles' No. 1
      chart hits that became one of the best-selling albums of the year.

      The "1" disc features 27 tracks--26 credited to the Lennon and McCartney
      songwriting tandem, and one to Harrison, the 1969 hit "Something," an
      uncertain valentine of a song that is his best-known work. "You're asking
      me will my love grow/I don't know, I don't know/You stick around now it
      may show/I don't know, I don't know."

      "Something" would become a defining triumph for Harrison even as the
      Beatles were winding down. In just the first decade after its release,
      more than 150 different artists would record their own versions of
      "Something" and, to date, the only Beatles song available in more
      versions is McCartney's forlorn classic "Yesterday." Frank Sinatra, an
      unkind critic of the Beatles in their earlier years, was among the many
      artists who recorded "Something" and he praised it as "the greatest love
      song of the past 50 years." But, in an unintended but painful reminder of
      Harrison's struggle for acknowledgment, Sinatra would also introduce the
      song in concert as "one of my favorite Lennon and McCartney songs."

      Harrison is survived by his wife, Olivia Arias; his son, Dhani; and his
      siblings, Louise Caldwell and brothers Peter and Harry. His friend, De
      Becker, said a private ceremony has already taken place.

      More on George Harrison's life is available in a multimedia presentation
      on The Times' Web site. Go to latimes.com/harrison.

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