It has been 16 years since we woke up to the sad news that George had passed.
According to the Beatles producer George Martin, George Harrison was “the Beatles’ Third Man, always there yet somehow elusive”. As well as being the “quiet Beatle”, he was the rock guitarist who introduced the sitar to British pop music, a stalwart devotee of transcendental meditation, a film producer and an underrated songwriter – his composition Something was recorded by dozens of singers and was the only Beatles song featured in concert by Frank Sinatra.
His contribution was considerable. He designed guitar breaks and riffs to suit the range of song genres used by John and Paul, although he had less opportunity than he would have liked to cut loose.
He also got to sing at least one number on each album, beginning with Do You Want To Know A Secret? on the debut album. But probably his most important influence on the group concerned the new sound textures he introduced. Chief among these was the sitar. George was intrigued and he contrived a meeting with the sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar at the home of the leader of the Asian Music Circle in London. He briefly studied with Shankar, to be able to use the sitar in Beatle music. Eventually, too, the Beatles agreed to record his compositions, of which Within You Without You (from Sgt Pepper- True genius) While My Guitar Gently Weeps (from the White Album) and Here Comes The Sun and Something (from Abbey Road) were among the most memorable.
He held many strong opinions-on Beatlemania, on global want, on his right to privacy, on his God-and gave firm voice to most of them. But George Harrison was certainly the most reluctant Beatle, wanting out almost as soon as he was in. He often said that his luckiest break was joining the band and his second luckiest was leaving it. The standard line is that George was transparent: a terrific guitarist, a fine songwriter, a wonderer, a seeker and, overriding all, a celebrity who hated and feared celebrity.
George died in Los Angeles 16 years ago, losing his last battle with cancer. He was beloved, and had been for a long time. He had thrived in the aftermath of the band’s breakup, becoming a recording artist on the level of his former mates Paul and John.
He is sorely missed and was greatly loved all over this planet. He came to stand for something very large, and beautiful. George, we love and miss you.