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|B i o g r a p h y|
(February 24, 1943 - November 29, 2001) was a popular
British songwriter and musician, best known as a member of The Beatles. Note: Until Harrison
was in his 40s, he believed that he was born on February 25.
Born in Liverpool, England, and raised as a child at 12 Arnold
Grove, he first attended school at Dovedale Infants, just off Penny
Lane. Later on, he attended the Liverpool Institute, a "smart school",
but was regarded as a poor student, and contemporaries described him as
someone who would "sit alone in the corner." In the mid-1950s he met
Paul McCartney (also a Liverpool Institute student) and later played
lead guitar in the band (initially called the Quarry Men) that
eventually became the Beatles.
At the height of the Beatles' popularity, he was often characterized
as the "Quiet Beatle", noted for his introspective manner and his
growing interest in Hinduism. In the mid 1960s he began playing the
sitar, which influenced the sound of the Beatles music in such songs as
"Norwegian Wood," "Love You To", and "Within You Without You". His
experimentation with the instrument brought him into contact with the
sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, who became a close friend and mentor.
It was his meeting with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi that led him first
into meditation. In the summer of 1969, the Beatles produced the single
"Hare Krishna Mantra", performed by Harrison and the devotees of the
London Radha-Krishna Temple that topped the 10 best-selling record
charts throughout UK, Europe, and Asia. The same year, he and fellow
Beatle John Lennon met Swami Prabhupada A.C. Bhaktivedanta, the founder
of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Soon after,
Harrison embraced the Hare Krishna tradition and remained a devotee
till his death.
While not the primary composer in the group (Lennon and McCartney
wrote most of the Beatles' material), as time went on his songs
improved greatly and his material earned respect from both his fellow
Beatles and the music-buying public. Notable examples include "Taxman",
"Here Comes the Sun", "Something", and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps",
which was strongly influenced by the music of his friend Roy Orbison
and featured a guitar solo by Eric Clapton.
After the Beatles split in 1970, Harrison released a number of
albums that were critically and commercially successful, both as solo
projects and as the member of other groups. After many years of being
limited in his contributions to the Beatles' catalog, he unleashed a
torrent of material in the first major solo work released after the
breakup, the triple album All Things Must Pass. The album included the
number one hit single, "My Sweet Lord", although Harrison was later
sued for copyright infringement over similarities between "My Sweet
Lord" and the 1963 Chiffons single "He's So Fine". Harrison denied
deliberately stealing the song, but he did lose the case in 1976; in
the ruling, the court accepted the possibility that Harrison had
unconsciously taken the Chiffons song as the basis for his own song.
Harrison was probably the first modern musician to organize a major
charity concert. His Concert for Bangladesh on August 1, 1971, drew
over 40,000 people to New York's Madison Square Garden, and raised
millions of dollars to aid the starving refugees of Bangladesh. The
concert included other popular musicians such as Bob Dylan, Leon
Russell, Badfinger and Billy Preston. Classical sitar maestro Ravi
Shankar opened proceedings.
Harrison continued to issue records throughout the 1970s but
successive releases met with dwindling interest and sales. He formed
his own record label, "Dark Horse Records" in 1974 and issued a limited
number of records by performers such as Splinter, Attitudes and Ravi
Shankar. He moved his own output to the label in 1976, once his
contract with EMI finished. Immediately following the murder of his
friend and former bandmate John Lennon, Harrison composed a tribute
song to Lennon, "All Those Years Ago," which found substantial radio
airplay and continues to be a staple of "classic rock" radio. But he
released no records for five years after Gone Troppo in 1982 was met
with apparent indifference. He returned in 1987 with the album Cloud
Nine, co-produced with Jeff Lynne and enjoyed a hit (#1 in the U.S.; #2
in the U.K) when his cover version of "Got My Mind Set On You" was
released as a single. The album got to #8.
During the 1980s, he helped form the Traveling Wilburys with Roy
Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty when they gathered in
Dylan's garage to quickly record an additional track for a projected
Harrison European single release. The record company realised the track
("Handle With Care") was too good for its original purpose and asked
for a separate album. This had to be completed inside 2 weeks, as Dylan
was scheduled to start a tour.
He was also involved in film production through his HandMade Films
company, providing financial backing for the Monty Python film Life of
Brian after the original backers (EMI Films) withdrew because of the
supposedly controversial subject matter of the film. Other films
produced by HandMade included Mona Lisa, Time Bandits, Shanghai
Surprise and Withnail and I.
Throughout the 1990s, Harrison, a former smoker, endured an ongoing
battle with cancer, having growths removed first from his throat, then
his lung. There was also a 1999 attempt on his life by a crazed fan who
stabbed him at his home, Friar Park in Henley-on-Thames, puncturing his
Harrison married twice. His first wife was the model, Patti Boyd,
for whom Harrison is supposed to have written the song, "Something".
Following their divorce, Boyd married Eric Clapton (said to have
written "Layla" for her after their earlier affair). Harrison married
for a second time to Olivia Arias, in September 1978. The ceremony took
place at their home, with Joe Brown acting as Best Man. They had one
son, Dhani Harrison, born the previous month.
George passed away at the home of a friend in Los Angeles,
California on Thursday, November 29, 2001, at the age of 58, death
being ascribed to a brain tumour. He was cremated and his ashes were
scattered in the River Ganges.
His final album, Brainwashed was completed by Dhani Harrison and
Jeff Lynne and released in November 2002.
On November 29th, 2002, the first anniversary of his death, the Concert For George saw the two remaining Beatles Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr join many of Harrison's friends for a special memorial concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London that benefitted the Material World Charitable Foundation. Ravi Shankar joined Jeff Lynne in a performance of "The Inner Light," Eric Clapton and Lynne performed "I Want To Tell You" and "Here Comes The Sun," Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers (with Jools Holland and Sam Brown) performed "Taxman" and "I Need You," Starr performed "Photograph", members of Monty Python (Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam) performed "The Lumberjack Song," and McCartney and Starr performed "For You Blue". For the finale, all of the artists went back on stage to end with "Something," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "My Sweet Lord," (with Billy Preston on keyboards), and "I'll See You In My Dreams".
Official site: www.georgeharrison.com
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