Everyone has their favorite Beatle, and the band’s two frontmen, John Lennon and Paul McCarteny tended to be most people’s. For all his theatrics, some may even like Ringo Starr above all others. But George Harrison, who spent most of his time being the introvert, largely remained on the sidelines, even though he was one of the most influential members of the group. And even responsible, for some major changes to their sound!
Born in Liverpool to a bus conductor and a shop assistant, Harrison claimed his first exposure to music was through Elvis Presley’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. The song had him drawing guitars in his schoolbooks until he bought his first one- a Dutch Egmond flat acoustic- which helped him form his first band. He met McCarteny early on, while on his way to school, thought it would be a while before Lennon would look past his age and let him join The Quarrymen. Harrison’s time with the Beatle’s was legendary, but few besides the most fascinated fans know that he was responsible for the brand’s understanding of Indian culture and classical music. It was this understanding that changed their sound by the time they released – Rubber Soul!
Harrison wanted to develop his talent as a music director, so he started veering the band off the traditional path. Rubber Soul featured folksy music and nods to the Indian classical music through the use of traditional instruments; Harrison played the sitar in ‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)’. The following album Revolver, marked Harrison’s peak as a songwriter, including three songs written by him: ‘Taxman’, ‘Love You To’, and ‘I want To Tell You’. Once again, Harrison swapped his guitar for a sitar on the parts of the recordings, which also featured the first use of the tambura and tabla.
As the Beatles reached the end of their ability to coexist, Harrison wrote two of Anney Road’s most acclaimed songs ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and ‘Something’. The latter went on to become the second most-covered song by The Beatles and Harrison’s first chart-topper. This foretold the stellar music he would continue to make after he parted ways with the band. His first album as a solo artist was All Things Must Pass, featuring chart-buster hits like “My Sweet Lord’ and “What Is Life”.
He enjoyed a remarkable solo career, but for the second time in his life, he and few friends formed a band. In 1988, Harrison co-founded the Traveling Wilburys with Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, releasing an album that would reach triple platinum success in the USA.
He continued to make music till he died because of lung cancer, leaving behind music that we all swing onto!