Seven years ago today, George Harrison died. Do you remember where you were when you found out? Just about everyone remembers where they were when they heard that John Lennon was dead; I wasn’t yet born. But I do remember where I was hearing about George.
I swear that it had been just a few days before that my mom was telling me about how she’d read in the paper that he was doing really, really well. More realistically, I’m sure that it had to be weeks or even months prior. I do know that we had gone from being worried about him to thinking that he was going to be okay. Then he was gone. It seemed to happen so quickly.
I was in my bedroom. I woke up for school (I was a senior) and turned on my TV to watch music videos while I got ready. But music videos weren’t on VH1. Instead, it was an interview with George Harrison. I believe it was from the 70s. He had a long beard and long hair. Ravi Shankar was there with him. I was confused for a moment.
And then, I just knew.
I watched him perform “All Things Must Pass,” quite fitting, and sat there in total shock. Then when he finished, I ran into my mom’s bedroom. “Mom! Did George Harrison die? I think George Harrison is dead!” She was surprised as I was. So we turned on the TV together, and watched. Eventually the interview ended, and they started playing the video clip for Strawberry Fields Forever. It’s the only time I’d ever seen Beatles music videos on TV. I don’t even remember us going online or anything for confirmation. It was just clear as day. There was no other explanation. He was gone.
I’ve shared most of these 5 songs before in other posts for other reasons. That’s because they’re not just great George Songs, but great Beatles songs, period. (Though I like much of what I know of George’s solo work, none of it makes my Top 5.) George, being in a band with Lennon and McCartney, just never gets his due credit either as a guitarist — one of the greatest to ever live — or a songwriter. He was a brilliant musician, a supremely witty guy, and is sorely missed. All of these songs make me so extremely happy every time I hear them.
1. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
I’ve said before that this is one of my favorite Beatles songs. It is. It’s also, in my opinion, the best song on the White Album. I fall in love with it every time I hear it. It’s a brilliant song, great lyrics, amazing vocals. And yes, bringing in Clapton was a stroke of genius.
Spectacular live version from George’s last concert:
One of the best love songs every written, utterly stunning melody, perfect guitar, and a spectacular bass line (whichever one of them wrote it). Also one of George’s finest vocals.
Such a great rock song, and really showing George’s wry sense of humor. I love singing along with this one. Excellent guitar part, and there could have been no better way to open up one of the Beatles finest albums than with George’s first truly great song.
Live, with some alternate lyrics (George, stop letting Clapton Bogart your solos!):
4. Here Comes the Sun
Simple, cheery, lovely. And absolutely gorgeous fucking harmonies, don’t you think?
Live, Concert for Bangladesh version:
5. I Want to Tell You
An excellent hook that gets me every time, with an equally great melody. As I’ve said before, this song coupled with Taxman should have left John and Paul pissing themselves over the kid who used to follow them home from school.
Live 1991 Japan version. And yes, I swear that each of the Beatles were completely incapable of remembering their own lyrics. Actually, maybe except Ringo:
And because it’s special for George, a bonus song:
6. I Need You
It’s a song that’s unlikely to make many other people’s list of favorite songs, but I love it. It’s so simple, yet so infectious. I think it’s deceptively simple, in fact. It’s a good little hook, and though very basic, I really like the melody. It was also only George’s second song — not bad at all.
[Proper video context for those who haven’t seen Help!: The Beatles are on a military base with all kinds of protection because some really offensive “Eastern” stereotypes are trying to kill them due to Ringo having their “sacrificial ring” stuck on his finger. Yeah.]
And there you have it. What are your favorite memories of George? What are your favorite George songs?