Fans Mark Anniversary of George Harrison's Death
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
A quiet note now on the anniversary of the death of a quiet man. Five years ago today, the musician George Harrison died of cancer at the age of 58. Harrison played lead guitar for the Beatles, the group that dominated pop music in the 1960s. While his older colleagues in the band wrote more songs, Harrison did have many loyal fans.
PAUL INGLES: George Harrison continues to be one of my favorite recording artists.
Unidentified Woman: George Harrison's music touched my soul.
Unidentified Man: I think the thing that stands out for me with George Harrison is how he was able to maintain his own identity and calm strength in midst of such larger than life figures as Lennon and McCartney.
Unidentified Woman: I listened to all of George's albums over and over again and it healed my heart.
Unidentified Woman #2: He made a tremendous contribution to music and he's brought me unlimited joy.
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. GEORGE HARRISON (Musician): (Singing) Each day just goes so fast. I turn around, it's past. You don't get time to hang a sign on me.
INGLES: Many of us of a certain age were swept up in the Beatlemania. And even in those mad early days, we were able to get a sense of George because the few times anyone did hear from him, you kind of got the idea he was trying to pull the whole wild spinning mess back a little bit closer to earth.
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. HARRISON: We didn't sit down and think we're going to be stars and we're going to do this and have funny haircuts. The only thing we had wanted to do is to make a record.
(Soundbite of music)
Unidentified Woman #3: One thing I remember really well from the movie “Hard Day's Night,” they were showing all the guys these shirts that they wanted to market.
(Soundbite from “Hard Day's Night”)
Unidentified Man: We'd like you to give us your opinion on some clothes for teenagers.
Unidentified Woman #3: George says.
Mr. HARRISON: I wouldn't be seen dead in that. They're grotesque.
Unidentified Woman #4: I was a sophomore in high school when the Beatles came over in, I think it was February of 1964, and George Harrison was the youngest Beatle. I believe he was 19 at that time, and I was 16, so he was the most like me. He had a bad complexion like me, relatively. He had bad teeth and he wasn't the most obnoxious. He seemed a little bit shyer than John and Paul and he wasn't the clown that Ringo was. He was very thoughtful and probably the most spiritual seeming.
Unidentified Man #2: George Harrison was the first guitarist I ever noticed. Except for his slide work, which is very distinctive, he sounds different on practically every song. He finds the combination of notes and tones that work for the song. It's all about the song.
INGLES: His guitar playing was to me just so tasteful. It was never over the top. It was never in the way of the song and they were just such nice phrases and they furthered the mood.
(Soundbite of song)
Mr. HARRISON: (Singing) If I needed someone to love. You're the one that I'd be thinking of. If I needed someone.
INGLES: Very memorable. I mean you can hum and sing George Harrison's guitar solos. “Picks in a Hole” comes to mind, a Paul McCarty song. When it breaks into hmm, hmm, hmm. Very memorable.
Unidentified Woman: In the early days, there was always the one George song that I recall and maybe I'm wrong about that, maybe there was two. The George song was always deeper and more spiritual and he talked about God, not just love. He talked about being close to it all. It sounds like such a hippie thing.
Mr. HARRISON: (Singing) When you me see me on your (unintelligible). And the time will come when you see where (unintelligible).
Unidentified Woman: What I like about George Harrison is that his lyrics express a search for the knowledge of God of even the (unintelligible) yearning to be released from the body. Some might say those songs are a bit naïve on the surface but I think they're actually more profound than like 99% of the Beatles lyrics.
(Soundbite of song “Here Comes the Sun”)
Mr. HARRISON: (Singing) Here Comes the sun. Here comes the sun. I say it's all right.
INGLES: “Here Comes the Sun” is one of my favorite songs. He uses a deceptively simple melody that comes from one of the basic cord shapes on the guitar. The song works if it's played on one guitar as well as in the highly produced arrangement that we all know.
Mr. HARRISON: Here comes the sun. Here comes the sun. And I say it's all right.
INGLES: The other George Harrison work that every George Harrison fan seems to mention without exception is the three record box set that he released in the wake of the breakup of the Beatles. Hearing it always sort of hits me in the heart and I have to say lately I can't hear “All Things Must Pass” without tearing up a bit.
Unidentified Male #3: Oh, that album just blew so many people away by how much there was and how much really great material there was. “What is Life,” “My Sweet Lord,” “All Things Must Pass” itself.
Unidentified Woman #5: His messages were that we are all suffering and we're hurting each other as a result of our suffering and that we're all connected. So if we can be aware of our own suffering and then deal with our own pain then possibly we won't be hurting other people and we'll be more connected.
Mr. HARRISON: (Singing) All things must pass. Nothing is as bad as you think. All things must pass. All things must pass (unintelligible).
NORRIS: Thoughts on George Harrison from Dorothy Best, Amy Brazier, Harriet Carter, Robin Duwise(ph), Florence Demingas(ph), Gary Esba(ph), Bonnie Holder, Douglas Jaife, Rachel Cobb, Susan Quiter(ph), Chris Martaine, Kay Puchariet(ph) and Tony (unintelligible). George Harrison died on November 29, 2001 at the age of 58 in Los Angeles.
Our appreciation was produced by Paul Ingles.