Top 5 George Harrison Songs

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:

2. Something

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.

A phenomenal but unfortunately unembeddable live version of Something here.

3. Taxman

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?

0 thoughts on “Top 5 George Harrison Songs

  1. Cara Post author

    Come on, people. I’m in mourning and this post went up automatically, but it’s okay to comment. Don’t hate on the Dark Horse, now. The friend I’m mourning for would have showed him some love, after all.

    Reply
  2. Bene

    I have a bootleg of my favorite guitarist ever (Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac) covering Here Comes the Sun in George’s honor on ABC that New Year’s Eve. Oddly, the beginning is announced by Peter Jennings, who is also no longer with us. May Lindsey himself keep going strong for a while longer.

    Anyway, my top five Harrison tracks:
    – Art of Dying
    – Taxman
    – Got My Mind Set on You
    – My Sweet Lord
    – End of the Line

    Reply
  3. Cara Post author

    Got My Mind Set on You

    Okay, so I REALLY don’t want to knock anyone’s musical taste, but . . . seriously?

    That is all I will say. My Sweet Lord was my #7.

    Reply
  4. Renee

    I don’t remember where I was when I heard that he had died. While I will say that I do like Beatles music I don’t think that I am quite the fan that you are. They did produce revolutionary music though and changed the face of rock and roll. My fav Beatles song is Eleanor Rigby.

    Reply
  5. Cara Post author

    While I will say that I do like Beatles music I don’t think that I am quite the fan that you are.

    Ah, now few are the fan that I am 😉

    Reply
  6. Mortality

    The way I remember finding out that he died was seeing a newspaper cut-out on a wall when I was in Chile, but that can’t be true cos I was there from December 25th to January 15th.

    I must’ve found out earlier since my mother is a George Harrison fan… I just can’t remember it.

    Reply
  7. Cara Post author

    Funny story about that song . . . I actually didn’t know that Got My Mind Set On You was George Harrison until the day he died. I came home from school and turned VH1 back on and they were up to showing music videos for all of his solo stuff by that point, like Fab, and All Those Years ago, which I hadn’t heard at the time. And then Got My Mind Set On You came on. And I was just in shock. Because I remembered the song well from when I was a kid, and I even remembered the video. Just as an (almost) adult Beatles fan, I’d never made the connection that the song was by George. And I was just crushed and screamed up the stairs “MOM????? GOT MY MIND SET ON YOU, THAT HORRIBLE SONG, IT’S BY GEORGE HARRISON????” And she was like “um, yeah” but I was just . . . devastated.

    To this day, I think that song is far, far beneath him (he didn’t write it), that the commercialism of it seems like much more of a Paul move, and the video is . . . oh my god, no excuses.

    I also think that This Song is Just Six Words Long, which I really loved as a kid (back before George Harrison meant anything to me!) is still perhaps Weird Al’s best and most biting parody. And I love that it has more lyrics than the original song.

    The weird thing is though that in that video, George is like the best looking I’d ever seen him. Like kind of sexy good looking.

    Reply
  8. eb

    Although I have more of an affinity for John’s work, George was really the ‘best’ Beatle. He just went about his life in a very steady and sure pace. I think it’s quite a testiment to George that all his friends got together to give a concert in his memory. Even though the world mourned John, he didn’t have the true friends that George had.

    I’ve Got My Mind Set On You would not be in my top five, but it has a catchy tune and there are far worse George songs out there.

    Besides the obvious George songs already cited (Crackerbox Palace is one of my favorites) here are five more:

    1. Here Comes The Moon
    2. If I Needed Someone
    3. Sunshine Life For Me
    4. The Inner Light
    5. Give Me Love

    Reply
  9. Pingback: I’m bravely going… « What a crazy random happenstance

  10. YogaforCynics

    A very nice list, though mine would probably read more like:

    All Things Must Pass
    It’s All Too Much
    Here Comes the Sun
    Only a Northern Song
    Something

    and, since you added a 6:

    I Me Mine

    Reply
  11. stompie

    i don’t remember where i was when i first heard, but i do remember losing it later the same night in the supermarket when i saw the newspaper headline “a generation gently weeps at beatle’s passing.” that just put me over the edge, and i had to sniffle my way back home crying over my groceries. oh dear.

    Reply
  12. The Quilter

    I don’t remember where I was when I heard George Harrison died, but my beloved doggie died the same day. I really miss my dog. I was not a huge Beatle fan, but George Harrison was my favourite Beatle. I remember thinking at the time that maybe it was auspicious that Belvedere died the same day.

    Reply
  13. jovan byars

    Wow, Cara, you graduated from high school in 2002, as well, huh? That makes two of us! I was watching my local morning news and read about it in The State newspaper during study hall at Williston-Elko High School and that’s when I learned about the death of Harrison.

    Reply
  14. Oblio

    I found your blog from a link at feministing.com and have read you daily now for months. Not only do I enjoy your prespective, but your Beatles-love has touched me deeply. I am 52 years old and was a Fab Four freak the first time I heard ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ on the AM radio. I missed a chance to see them with my Aunt at Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles) ‘cuz my dad thought I was too young… the bastid! For me, the Beatles have always been a bellweather for every other kind of music I love, whether punk, ska, reggae, pop, jazz, mariachi… whatever. George was always my fave because he seemed to be the ‘smart one’, and I agree he is/was a gutar god. He was also a serious motorsports fan, which endeared him to me even more. He was the signature sound of the group, perhaps even moreso than the voices of John and Paul, and his hooks will stay cemented into my psyche. Many, many thanks for this posting, and keep up the great work!!

    Reply
  15. Julian

    I remember the time well; I knew he wasn’t well. I was due to go on a trip in January and didn’t want to go, because, if George died while I was away, I’d be miserable: I’d want to be home, with friends who loved him too. When the news came, I called a dear friend at once, who was also a fan, and together we stayed up the whole night listening to GH tributes on the radio, solo music, and Beatles songs. It was a long, sad, wonderful night I will never forget.

    Top five George Harrison songs:
    1. My Sweet Lord
    2. Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)
    3. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
    4. What is Life?
    5. Here Comes the Sun, and Something (a tie: but we can count one of those as the sneaky sixth, although there’s at least a three-way tie for 6th, so I best stop here!)

    Reply
  16. ST

    anyone see the one of his last interviews where he was handed a guitar from a audience member ( he didnt plan on playing). i thought it was a VH1 or MTV event but i can not find a copy on the net.

    Reply
  17. DaisyDeadhead

    Of course I remember. He was MY favorite Beatle.

    “If I needed someone”
    “Within and Without you”
    and particularly!–“Don’t bother me”

    Solo: “What is Life” is one of the greatest songs in all of creation.

    I confess I still laugh over the lyrics “There’s people standing round/Who screw you in the ground” on “Love You To” … 🙂

    Ohhh, ain’t it the truth!?

    Reply
  18. Pingback: Top 5 Paul McCartney Vocals : The Curvature

  19. Mary

    I was living in Japan when George Harrison died. I remember it clearly because Crown Princess Masako went to the hospital that very same day to have her baby, so the Japanese news went crazy over that with very limited side mentions of “oh yeah, a Beatle died.” Which makes sense, I mean if I were a Japanese news producer that’s probably how I’d prioritize it too. Still, George Harrison was my favorite Beatle, so it was torture on my end.

    My favorite George songs are:

    1. While My Guitar Gently Weeps – the song that made me fall in love with the Beatles, no joke.

    2. Here Comes the Sun – NEVER fails to put a smile on my face.

    3. My Sweet Lord – The slide guitar solo in the middle is love.

    4. Sour Milk Sea – I have no idea which album George’s recording of this song is from (one of the anthologies?), but his rendition is really simple and beautiful. His voice was very underrated IMHO.

    5. I Me Mine – Possibly my favorite track on that album.

    6. Bonus: “Piggies,” because dang, George had a sick sense of humor when he wanted to. I mean that in a good way.

    I also have to say that George’s solo on “Run For Your Life” is one of my all-time favorites. It starts out kind of light and wheedling, but moves down the scale to sound downright menacing – it’s like meeting one of those people who is very charming, but your gut just tells you to RUN. Very fitting with the theme of the song itself. I love that he hit so many emotional notes with such a relatively simple solo. To me, THAT was his true gift as a guitarist. Lots of people can whammy up and down the scales, but George Harrison knew the power of a well-placed single note.

    Reply
  20. Wesley

    no one said Be Here Now?

    the chordal harmony is excellent,
    as well as his voice right before he says “now” every time, makes my heart skip.

    Reply
  21. Mary Lou

    Wow. This is such a wonderful little blog. It’s neat to see so many folks who share my admiration for a nice but incredibly talented man. Yeah, you often figure incredibly talented people aren’t nice, you know, nice the way you’d like your best friend to be. But very talented people are usually real jerks. Not George, though.

    I was living in Turkey when I heard George died. I was teaching American Culture and Literature at a Turkish university. I went in and told my students that I was so sad over George’s passing. They started giving me gifts. Some of them cut out stories about George’s death from the Turkish press. They didn’t understand fully why I was so moved, but they determined it had something to do with a cultural icon so deeply embedded that it moved me like the passing of an important politician. They were right.

    Since returning to the States, I’ve returned to listening to those artists I loved so deeply in my youth, and I’m so impressed by how good they are! Especially George. He’s become like a friend to me. Recently, I’ve been listening to his “George Harrison” album, which I really believe includes some of his best and most mature works after the Beatles.

    Dark Sweet Lady — obviously, he was documenting his love with Olivia around the time of this album! The man who wrote this song was deeply in love, and it’s a thoughtful, respectful love of a unique woman

    Soft Touch — an extension of the previous, and an extraordinary love song!

    Here Comes The Moon – A really wonderful counter-melody to his earlier “Here Comes The Sun,” and reveals a maturing mysticism that is intensely in touch with the natural world that the material world masks for most of us.

    Blow Away – sing this as a mantra, especially if you’re in love. It’ll put you in a good mood every time.

    OK — I haven’t chosen five, only four from this album alone that deserve serious attention. The other place I’ve noticed a similar maturity is in the Traveling Wilbury’s first albun, especially “Handle With Care,” “Heading for the Light,” and “End of the Line”

    Thanks for letting me share!

    Reply
  22. Pingback: Happy Birthday, George Harrison « Try A Lil' Bite

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