, MBE (25 February 1943
– 29 November 2001
was an Academy Award and Grammy Award-winning English rock guitarist, singer,
songwriter, author and sitarist best known as the lead guitarist of The Beatles.
Following the band's demise, Harrison had a successful career as a solo artist
and later as part of the Traveling Wilburys super group where he was known as
both Nelson Wilbury and Spike Wilbury. He was also a film producer, with his
production company Handmade Films, involving people as diverse as Madonna and
the members of Monty Python. From an initial exposure whilst a member of the
Beatles, he maintained a high public profile regarding his religious and
During The Beatles' heyday, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were its main
songwriters though Harrison generally wrote or sang lead on one or two songs for
each album. His compositions earned him growing admiration as a talent in his
own right. Despite his artistic growth he remained overshadowed by the
Lennon/McCartney duo. After the band's breakup it was Harrison who achieved the
first #1 single ("My Sweet Lord") and #1 album (All Things Must Pass) by
any ex-Beatle. Besides his notable talents as a singer, songwriter, guitarist,
and sitarist, he was also a record producer.
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While still a Beatle, Harrison became attracted to Indian music and Hinduism.
Both would subsequently play a prominent role in Harrison’s life and music. His
use of the sitar introduced the instrument to millions of Western listeners.
After The Beatles' breakup Harrison had a successful solo career, scoring
hits with "My Sweet Lord" (1970), "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)"
(1973), "What is Life","All Those Years Ago" (1981), and "Got My Mind Set on
You" (1987). Harrison's landmark triple album, All Things Must Pass,
currently holds the distinction of being the best selling album by a solo
Beatle. He also organized
the first large-scale benefit concert, The Concert for Bangladesh, which
took place on 1 August 1971. Harrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame as a solo artist in 2004.
Harrison was also a film producer and founded Handmade Films in 1979. The
company's films include Monty Python’s The Life of Brian (in which he had
a very minor cameo), Time Bandits, Withnail and I, and Mona
Lisa. Harrison also has a cameo role in the Rutles parody film All You
Need Is Cash. Harrison died of cancer on November 29, 2001 at the age of 58.
Early years: 1943–1958
Harrison was born to Louise and Harold Harrison in Liverpool, England into a
Catholic family with deep roots in Ireland. His maternal grand-parents hailed
from Ireland's County Wexford, and his father's lineage can be traced back to
County Sligo. A good deal of confusion as to his real birthday arose from a
family birth record which noted him as being born around 12:10am on 25 February
but there is no middle name listed on his birth certificate. Harold was the name
of his father, as well as an elder brother.
He later confirmed his birthday was 24 February 1943 at 11:42pm. Some sources
assert that his middle name was Harold,
Harrison's childhood home was located at 12 Arnold Grove, Wavertree,
Liverpool until 1950, when the family moved to 25 Upton Green, Speke. He first
attended school at Dovedale Road Infants & Juniors School, just off Penny Lane.
Harrison would play guitar all night until his fingers bled. There he passed his
Eleven-plus examination and was awarded a place at the Liverpool Institute for
Boys (in the building now housing the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts),
in which he met Paul McCartney and attended from 1954 to 1959.
The Institute for Boys was an English grammar school and, despite his
qualification, Harrison was regarded as a poor student; contemporaries described
him as someone who would "sit alone in the corner".
He left school in the summer of 1959 without attaining any academic credentials
(or even being allowed to sit his O-levels).
|George Harrison visiting the Oval Office in 1974.
1958–1960: The Quarrymen and the Silver Beatles
Harrison got to know Paul McCartney, beginning in 1954, but they had other
things in common. Both had lived in Speke on an outer council (public housing)
estate and they also traveled on the same Corporation bus (sometimes with
Harrison's father at the wheel), secretly smoking cigarettes on the top deck
(which McCartney has said is the inspiration for some of his portion of "A Day
in the Life"
on the way to the Liverpool Institute. McCartney introduced Harrison to John
Lennon and to the group. Harrison's father, as chairman of the social committee
of the nearby Garston bus depot, helped them get bookings in social clubs
nearby. By early 1958 Harrison had begun playing lead guitar in the band
(initially called the Quarrymen, later the Silver Beetles), which in 1960 became
After leaving school in the summer of 1959, Harrison worked briefly as an
apprentice electrician at Blacklers Stores in Liverpool.
The training helped Harrison become the member who knew the most about rigging
their sound equipment.
By the mid-60's Harrison would set up his own multitrack recording gear at his
Esher home, Kinfauns, making song demos for himself and The Beatles.
Beatles songs written or co-written
1960–1970: The Beatles
In the early days of the group, when it was still called the Quarrymen,
Harrison was asked by McCartney to join. Harrison was the youngest member of the
group, initially looked upon as a kid by the others.
He was never officially asked to join the group, but hung out with the others
and filled in when he was needed, and was soon looked upon as one of the group.
During the early years of the group's rise to local fame, Harrison's mother
often cheered him on from the audience, much to the consternation of Lennon's
Aunt Mimi, who once complained to her that they could all have "lovely peaceful
lives" but for Mrs Harrison's encouraging the group. While McCartney was the
"cute Beatle" and Lennon the leader, Harrison was still a favourite of the
female fans. At some concerts, the group was occasionally showered with Jelly
Babies, which Harrison had said to be his favourite sweet (unfortunately
American fans could not get hold of this soft British confection, replacing them
instead with hard jelly beans, much to the group's discomfort).
Harrison was not at first regarded as a virtuoso guitarist, especially in the
early days of The Beatles' recording career. Several of Harrison's Beatles
guitar solos were recorded under specific directions from McCartney, who on
occasion demanded that Harrison play what he envisioned virtually note-for-note.
Other Harrison solos were directed or modified by producer George Martin, who
also vetoed several of Harrison's song and instrumental offerings. Martin
admitted years later, "I was always rather beastly to George."
Toward the end of the 1960s, however, Harrison became known as a fluent,
inventive, and highly accomplished lead and rhythm guitarist. In the 1970s and
thereafter, his skilled slide work became his signature sound.
Harrison was the first of The Beatles to arrive on American soil, when he
visited his sister, Louise, in Benton, Illinois in September 1963, some five
months before the group appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show.
During this visit, George browsed a record store and inquired about his group's
The store owner had not even heard of them, and British pop music was
conspicuously absent in the States: even top performer Cliff Richard's recent
movie, Summer Holiday, was relegated to second billing when it played.
Harrison returned to England, reporting to his band mates that it might be
difficult for them to succeed in America.
|Also known as
||25 February 1943(1943-02-25)
||29 November 2001 (aged 58)
Los Angeles, California, USA
||Rock, pop, psychedelic rock, experimental rock
||Musician, songwriter, record producer
||Guitar, vocals, bass, ukulele, mandolin, sitar,
sarod, keyboards, swarmandal
||Parlophone, Capitol, Swan, Apple
Vee-Jay, EMI, Dark Horse Records
||The Quarrymen, The Beatles, Traveling Wilburys, Dhani Harrison
Fender Stratocaster - "Rocky"
Gibson Les Paul - "Lucy"
During the era of Beatlemania, Harrison was characterised as the "quiet
Beatle", noted for his introspective manner and his tendency not to speak in
He could also wisecrack as well as anyone in the band; when a reporter asked
what they did in their hotel suite between shows, Harrison told him, "We
He studied situations and people closely, though, and was the most interested of
any Beatle in the group's finances, often quizzing Brian Epstein about them.
Despite his "quiet Beatle" image, George also had a slightly wild side. Once, at
a bar, a photographer got on Harrison's bad side. He got too close, and George
proceeded to throw his drink at the offending press member.
During The Beatles' first trip to the U.S., in February 1964, Harrison
received a new "360/12" model guitar from the Rickenbacker company; this was a
12-string electric made to look onstage like a 6-string. He began using the 360
in the studio on Lennon's "You Can't Do That" and other songs. Roger McGuinn
liked the effect so much that it became his signature guitar sound with the
Harrison wrote his first song, "Don't Bother Me", during a sick day in 1963,
as an exercise "to see if I 'could' write a song", as he remembered. "Don't
Bother Me" appeared on the second Beatles album (With the Beatles) later
that year, on Meet the Beatles! in the US in early 1964, and also briefly
in the film A Hard Day's Night. After that, The Beatles did not record
another Harrison song until 1965, when he contributed "I Need You" and "You Like
Me Too Much" to the album Help!.
Harrison was the lead vocal on all The Beatles songs that he wrote by
himself. He also sang lead vocal on other songs, including "Chains" and "Do You
Want to Know a Secret" on Please Please Me, "Roll Over Beethoven" and
"Devil in Her Heart" on With the Beatles, "I'm Happy Just to Dance with
You" , and "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" on Beatles for Sale. A
turning point in Harrison's career came during an American tour in 1965, when
his friend David Crosby of the Byrds introduced him to Indian classical music
and the work of sitar maestro Ravi Shankar.
Harrison quickly became fascinated with the instrument, immersed himself in
Indian music and was pivotal in popularising the sitar in particular and Indian
music in general in the West.
Buying a sitar himself as The Beatles came back from a Far East tour, he
became the first Western popular musician to play one on a pop record, on the
Rubber Soul track "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)". He championed
Shankar with Western audiences and was largely responsible for having him
included on the bill at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967. Shankar had not
admired Harrison's first Indian-influenced efforts, but the two became friends,
and Harrison began his first formal musical studies with Shankar.
A personal turning point for Harrison came during the filming of the movie
Help!, on location in the Bahamas, when a Hindu devotee presented each
Beatle with a book about reincarnation. Harrison's interest in Indian culture
expanded to his embracing Hinduism. A pilgrimage with wife Pattie to India,
where Harrison studied sitar, met several gurus and visited various holy places,
filled the months between the end of the final Beatles tour in 1966 and the
commencement of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band sessions.
It was through his wife (and when back in England) that Harrison met
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who introduced The Beatles, their wives and girlfriends
to Transcendental Meditation.
While they parted company with the Maharishi some months afterwards, Harrison
continued his pursuit of Eastern philosophy.
In the summer of 1969, he produced the single "Hare Krishna Mantra",
performed by the devotees of the London Radha Krishna Temple. That same year, he
and fellow Beatle John Lennon met A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-acharya
of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Soon after,
Harrison embraced the Hare Krishna tradition (particularly japa-yoga
chanting with beads; a meditation technique similar to the Roman Catholic
rosary), and remained associated with it until his death.
When, during his lifetime, Harrison bequeathed to ISKCON his Letchmore Heath
mansion (renamed Bhaktivedanta Manor) north of London, he redoubled speculations
that he would leave ISKCON a large sum in his will.
others report he did leave a sum of 20 million pounds.
Whilst some sources indicate he left nothing to the organisation,
Harrison formed a close friendship with Eric Clapton in the late 1960s, and
they co-wrote the song "Badge," which was released on Cream's Goodbye
album in 1969. Someone — variously reported as Harrison, Starr, or Clapton —
misread Harrison's handwritten "bridge" (a term for a middle section of a song
distinct from the usual verse-chorus parts) as "badge", and this became the
title. Harrison also played rhythm guitar on the song up until the bridge. For
contractual reasons, Harrison was required to use the pseudonym "L'Angelo
Misterioso." One of Harrison's compositions for The Beatles' Abbey Road
album, "Here Comes the Sun", was written in Clapton's back garden. Clapton also
guested on the Harrison-penned Beatles track "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
Harrison's songwriting improved greatly through the years, but his material
did not earn respect from his fellow Beatles until near the group's breakup
(McCartney told Lennon in 1969: "George's songs this year are at least as good
as ours"). Harrison later said that he always had difficulty getting the band to
record his songs.
Notable 1965–70 Harrison compositions include the much live played: "If I
Needed Someone", "You Like Me Too Much", "I Want to Tell You", "Think for
Yourself", the Indian-influenced "Love You To", "Taxman", "Within You Without
You", "Blue Jay Way", "Flying", "Only a Northern Song", "Old Brown Shoe, "I Need
You", "Don't Bother Me", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (featuring lead guitar
by Eric Clapton), "Piggies" (later featured inadvertently in the notorious
Charles Manson murder case), "Sour Milk Sea", "Long, Long, Long", "Savoy
Truffle", "Something", "The Inner Light", "Here Comes the Sun", "I Me Mine" (the
last Beatles recording and the title of a book Harrison published a decade
later), and "For You Blue" (about his ex-wife Patti Boyd, featuring lap steel
guitar by John Lennon).
Friction among Harrison, Lennon, and McCartney increased markedly during the
recording of The Beatles, as Harrison threatened to leave the group on
Between 1967 and 1969, McCartney on several occasions expressed dissatisfaction
with Harrison's guitar playing. Tensions came to a head during the filming of
rehearsal sessions at Twickenham Studios for what eventually became the Let
It Be documentary film. Conflicts between Harrison and McCartney appear in
several scenes in the film, including one in which Harrison retorts to
McCartney, "OK, well, I don't mind. I'll play whatever you want me to play or I
won't play at all if you don't want me to play. Whatever it is that'll please
you, I'll do it." Frustrated by ongoing slights, the poor working conditions in
the cold and sterile film studio, and Lennon's creative disengagement from the
group, Harrison quit the band on 10 January. He returned on 22 January after
negotiations with the other Beatles at two business meetings.
The group's internal relations were more cordial (though still strained)
during recordings for the album Abbey Road. The album included
"Something" and "Here Comes the Sun", probably Harrison's two best-known Beatles
songs. "Something" is considered to be one of his best works and was covered by
both Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, who famously deemed it "the greatest love
song of the last 50 years." (However, Sinatra credited the song as "(his)
favourite Lennon/McCartney composition", rather than crediting Harrison when
making the compliment.) Harrison's increasing productivity, coupled with his
difficulties in getting The Beatles to record his music, meant that by the end
of the group's career he had amassed a considerable stockpile of unreleased
When Harrison was asked years later what kind of music The Beatles might have
made if they had stayed together, his answer was to the point: "The solo stuff
that we've done would have been on Beatle albums." Harrison's assessment is
confirmed by the fact that many of the songs on their early solo albums
premiered at various times during The Beatles' recording sessions but were not
actually recorded by the group.
Harrison was only 26 years old at the time of The Beatles' last recording
session on 4 January 1970 (Lennon, who had left the group the previous
September, did not attend the session).
After The Beatles split in 1970, Harrison released a number of albums, both
as solo projects and as a member of other groups, using his trademark slide
guitar. After years of being limited in his contributions to The Beatles, he
released a large number of the songs he had stockpiled in the first major solo
work released after the breakup, All Things Must Pass, the first triple
album by a single artist in rock history.
All Things Must Pass was a triumphant entry into the solo market by
Harrison and marked by four full sides of excellent Beatle-worthy material,
followed by an additional two sides of extended rock jams by Harrison and other
musician friends. In terms of its breadth and virtuosity, it in some ways
resembled The White Album, but this work was the achievement of a sole
It certainly gave pause to many who considered George to be out of the league
of Lennon and McCartney as a performer and songwriter. Along with the John
Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album and Band on the Run by Paul McCartney
and Wings, All Things Must Pass is generally deemed one of the three
finest solo efforts by the ex-Beatles.
The album, which topped the charts, included the number-one hit singles "My
Sweet Lord" and "Isn't It a Pity" as well as the top-10 single "What Is Life."
Harrison was later sued for copyright infringement over "My Sweet Lord," because
of its surface similarity to the 1963 Chiffons single "He's So Fine". Harrison
denied deliberately stealing the song, but he lost the resulting court case in
1976. In the ruling, the court accepted the possibility that Harrison had
"subconsciously copied" the Chiffons' melody as the basis for his own song.
Disputes over damages dragged on into the 1990s, with manager Allen Klein
changing sides by buying Bright Tunes, which published "He's So Fine", and
continuing the suit after parting with Harrison. Harrison ultimately wound up as
the owner of both songs (Huntley 2004).
"All Things Must Pass" was revived in early 2001, when a remastered version
was released. It peaked at #4 on Billboard's Pop Catalog chart, with Harrison
taking part in Internet chats to help promote it. It reappeared on that chart
following Harrison's death. Featured on the 30th Anniversary edition were five
bonus tracks, including the top-notch outtake "I Live For You" as well as a new,
updated version of "My Sweet Lord." ATMP has been certified by the RIAA as
having sold six million copies in the U.S. alone. In early 2007, it was
determined that "All Things Must Pass" indeed was a #1 album in the United
Kingdom when first released in the winter of 1970-71. Because some sales were
not properly counted, the album originally peaked at #4 in Britain.
Harrison was the first rock star to organise a major charity concert. His
Concert for Bangladesh on August 1, 1971, drew over 40,000 people to two
shows in New York's Madison Square Garden with the intention of aiding the
starving refugees from the war in Bangladesh. Ravi Shankar opened the
proceedings, which included such other popular musicians as Bob Dylan (who
rarely appeared live in the early 1970s), Eric Clapton, who made his first
public appearance in months (due to a heroin addiction which began when Derek
and the Dominos broke up), Leon Russell, Badfinger, Billy Preston and fellow
Beatle Ringo Starr. Unfortunately, tax troubles and questionable expenses tied
up many of the concert's proceeds (see ). Apple Corps released a newly
arranged concert DVD and CD in October 2005 (with all artists' sales royalties
continuing to go to UNICEF), which contained additional material such as
previously unreleased rehearsal footage of "If Not For You", featuring Harrison
In addition to his own works, during this time Harrison co-wrote and/or
produced two hits for Starr ("It Don't Come Easy" and "Photograph") and appeared
on tracks by Lennon "How Do You Sleep?", Harry Nilsson ("You're Breakin' My
Heart"), Badfinger ("Day After Day") on which he played slide guitar, Billy
Preston ("That's The Way God Planned It") and Cheech & Chong ("Basketball
Harrison's next album was Living in the Material World in 1973. "Give
Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)" was a big hit (it reached #1 in the U.S.), and
"Sue Me Sue You Blues" was a window into the former Beatles' miserable legal
travails, but overall the record was seen as too overtly religious, though it
did reach #1 on the U.S. album chart for 5 weeks. A reissue of the album, along
with fine bonus tracks "Deep Blue" and "Miss O'Dell" and a bonus DVD was
released in September 2006 and reached #38 on Billboard's Pop Catalog chart.
In 1974, Harrison released Dark Horse and at the same time launched a
major tour of the United States. The tour was panned for its long mid-concert
act of Ravi Shankar & Friends and for Harrison's hoarse voice. The album made
the Top 20 in the US album chart, but was a failure in the UK, because of a
combination of declining interest and negative reviews. The single "Ding Dong,
Ding Dong", a Top 40 UK hit, was criticised for its unadventurous lyric, though
it has since become a favourite record with radio programmers in the closing
moments of each year, and at New Year's Eve parties.
It was during this period while in Los Angeles, preparing for the 1974 tour,
that he also opened offices for his new Dark Horse Records on the A&M Records
lot, on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles. It was in those offices that he met
Olivia Trinidad Arias, who was assigned to work at his label with Terry Doran
from Apple and Jack Oliver who came over from London to run the label. The
relationship with Olivia progressed during the rehearsals, and she joined
Harrison on his 1974 tour, during which their relationship blossomed into
something more, resulting in her permanent relocation to Friar Park in
Henley-on-Thames, England, George's home.
Subsequent to the 1974 tour he returned to his home in the UK, and commuted
between there and Los Angeles for the next few years, while Dark Horse issued a
small number of records by performers such as Splinter, Attitudes, and Ravi
Shankar. He also planned to issue his own records through Dark Horse, after his
contract with EMI expired.
Amid a music media rife with Beatle-reunion speculation, Harrison was
probably the least accommodating of these theories, telling the press in 1974
that while he would not mind working with Lennon and Starr again, he could not
see himself being involved in a band with McCartney, who had limited his
contributions while in The Beatles. He told the press that if someone wanted to
hear Beatles-style music, they could "go listen to Wings," McCartney's new band.
George Harrison Discography
His final studio album for EMI (and Apple Records) was Extra Texture (Read
All About It), featuring a diecut cover. The album spawned two singles,
"You" and "This Guitar (Can't Keep From Crying)", which became Apple's final
original single release in 1975. (Schaffner 1977)
Following the former Beatles' departure from Capitol, the record company was
in a position to licence releases featuring Beatles and post-Beatles work on the
same album, and used Harrison for this experiment. The Best of George
Harrison (1976) combined his best Beatles songs with a slim selection of his
best solo Apple work. Harrison made plain his annoyance with the track listing
and the fact that he was not consulted. It did not chart in the UK.
Business and personal troubles took their toll on Harrison during 1976. When
his first Dark Horse album (Thirty Three & 1/3, his age at the time) was
due, Harrison was suffering from hepatitis
and could not complete the production. After A&M threatened to take him to
court, Warner Bros. Records stepped in, buying out Harrison's Dark Horse
contract with A&M, and allowing him time to regain his health.
Thirty Three & 1/3 was his most successful late-1970s album, reaching
#11 on the U.S. charts, and it featured the hits "This Song" (a satire of the
"My Sweet Lord" ruling) and "Crackerbox Palace" (a humorous and surrealistic
number, looking back on his life to date; the title was the name of comedian
Lord Buckley's former home in Hollywood, California,
which Harrison visited, while "Mr. Greif" was George Greif, Buckley's former
After his second marriage and the birth of son Dhani Harrison, Harrison's
next album was self-titled. 1979's George Harrison included the singles
"Blow Away", "Love Comes To Everyone" and "Faster".
In 1980, Harrison became the only ex-Beatle to write an autobiography, I
Me Mine. Former Beatles publicist Derek Taylor helped with the book, which
was initially released in a high-priced limited edition by Genesis Publications.
The book said little about The Beatles, focusing instead on Harrison's hobbies,
such as gardening and Formula One automobile racing. It also included the lyrics
to his songs and many rare photographs.
Harrison was deeply shocked by the December 1980 murder of John Lennon. The
crime reinforced his decades-long worries about safety from stalkers. It was
also a deep personal loss, although unlike former bandmates McCartney and Starr,
Harrison had little contact with Lennon in the years before the murder. Harrison
modified the lyrics of a song he had written for Starr to make it a tribute song
to Lennon. "All Those Years Ago" received substantial radio airplay, reaching #2
on the US charts. All three remaining Beatles performed on it, although it was
expressly a Harrison single. "Teardrops" was issued as a follow-up single, but
was not nearly as successful.
Both singles were taken from the album Somewhere in England, released
in 1981. The album was originally slated for release in late 1980, but Warner
Bros. rejected it, ordering Harrison to replace several tracks, and to change
the album cover as well. This was another professional humiliation.
In 1981 Harrison played guitar on one track of Mick Fleetwood's record The
Visitor. He played Lindsey Buckingham's song "Walk a Thin Line".
Aside from a song on the Porky's Revenge soundtrack in 1984, his
version of a little-known Bob Dylan song "I Don't Want To Do It", Harrison
released no new records for five years after 1982's Gone Troppo was met
with apparent indifference. Harrison returned in 1987 with the highly successful
album Cloud Nine, co-produced with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light
Orchestra, and enjoyed a hit (#1 in the U.S.; #2 in the U.K) when his cover
version of James Ray's early 1960s number "Got My Mind Set on You" was released
as a single; another single, "When We Was Fab", a retrospective of The Beatles'
days complete with musical flavours for each bandmate, was also a minor hit. MTV
regularly played the two videos, and elevated Harrison's public profile with
another generation of music listeners. The album reached #8 and #10 on the U.S.
and U.K. charts, respectively. In the U.S., several tracks also enjoyed high
placement on Billboard's Album Rock chart -- "Devil's Radio," "This Is Love" and
"Cloud 9" in addition to the aforementioned singles.
In 1985, Harrison made a rare public appearance on the HBO special Carl
Perkins and Friends along with Starr and Clapton among others. He only
agreed to appear because he was a close admirer of Perkins where The Beatles
covered three of his songs, one ("Matchbox") was recorded with Perkins in the
During the late 1980s, he was instrumental in forming the Traveling Wilburys
with Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty when they gathered in
Dylan's garage to quickly record an additional track for a projected Harrison
European single release. The record company realised the track ("Handle With
Care") was too good for its original purpose as a B-side and asked for a full,
separate album. This had to be completed within two weeks, as Dylan was
scheduled to start a tour. The album was released in October 1988 and recorded
under pseudonyms as half-brothers (supposed sons of Charles Truscott Wilbury,
Sr.), Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.
One of Harrison's most artistically successful ventures during this period
was his involvement in film production through his company Handmade Films. The
Beatles had been fans of the anarchic humour of the Goons, and Harrison became a
dedicated fan of their stylistic successors, Monty Python. He provided financial
backing for the Python film The Life of Brian after the original backers
(EMI Films) withdrew, fearing the subject matter of the film was too
controversial. Other films produced by Handmade included Mona Lisa,
Time Bandits, Shanghai Surprise and Withnail and I. He made
several cameo appearances in these movies, including appearing as a nightclub
singer in Shanghai Surprise and as Mr Papadopolous in Life of Brian.
He also appeared in an episode of the hit television series The Simpsons. One of
his most memorable cameos was as a reporter in the cult Beatles parody the
Rutles, created by ex-Python Eric Idle. Despite this string of successes,
Handmade Films fell into mismanagement in the 1990s, much like The Beatles'
Apple Corps, and the demands severely depleted Harrison's finances.
Early in 1989, Harrison, Lynne and another ex-Beatle Starr, all appeared on
Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down", where Harrison played electric guitar. The same
year also saw the release of Best of Dark Horse 1976-1989, a compilation
drawn from his later solo work. This album also included two new songs, "Poor
Little Girl", and "Cockamamie Business" (which saw him once again looking wryly
upon his Beatle past), as well as "Cheer Down" which had first been released
earlier in the year on the soundtrack to the Mel Gibson movie Lethal Weapon 2.
Unlike his previous greatest hits package, Harrison made sure to oversee this
The first year of the new decade saw a new Traveling Wilburys album, despite
the death of Roy Orbison in late 1988. The band reportedly approached Del
Shannon about filling the vacant slot, but Shannon committed suicide in February
1990. The second album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 was recorded as a
four-piece. It was not nearly as successful as the previous album, but still
managed to spawn the singles "She's My Baby", "Inside Out", and "Wilbury Twist".
In 1991, Harrison staged a tour of Japan along with Eric Clapton. It was his
first tour since the ill-fated 1974 U.S. tour, and, although he seemed to enjoy
it, there were to be no others. The Live in Japan recording came from
these shows. In October 1992, Harrison played three songs ("If Not For You",
"Absolutely Sweet Marie", and "My Back Pages") at a huge Bob Dylan tribute
concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
In 1994-1996, Harrison reunited with the surviving former Beatles and
Traveling Wilburys producer Jeff Lynne for The Beatles Anthology project, which
included the recording of two new Beatles songs built around solo vocal tapes
recorded by Lennon in the 1970s, as well as the lengthy interviews on The
Beatles' history. The project was spurred on in part by Harrison's financial
difficulties at the time, stemming from problems with his Handmade Films
In 1995, at the height of the britpop movement—which was heavily influenced
by Harrison's music—he became embroiled in a feud with Oasis' Gallagher
brothers. Devoted fans of The Beatles, the brothers were offended when Harrison
referred to them as "silly" and "a passing fad". Noel Gallagher responded by
saying "George was always the quiet Beatle—maybe he should keep that up" whilst
Liam Gallagher described him as a "nipple" and threatened to play golf off
Harrison's head should they ever meet. Apparently, the feud was short lived, and
when Noel Gallagher and Harrison actually met, they got on well.
In 1996, Harrison recorded, produced and played on "Distance Makes No
Difference With Love" with Carl Perkins for his "Go-Cat-Go" record.
Harrison's final television appearance was not intended as such; in fact, he
was not the featured artist, and the appearance was to promote Chants of
India, another collaboration with Ravi Shankar released in 1997, at the
height of interest in chant music. John Fugelsang, then of VH1, conducted the
interview, and at one point an acoustic guitar was produced, and handed to
Harrison. When an audience member asked to hear "a Beatles song," Harrison
pulled a sheepish look and answered, "I don't think I know any!" Harrison then
played "All Things Must Pass" and "Any Road", a song which subsequently appeared
on the 2002 "Brainwashed" album.
In January 1998 Harrison attended the funeral of his boyhood idol, Carl
Perkins, in Jackson, Tennessee. Harrison played an impromptu version of Perkins'
song "Your True Love" during the service.
A former heavy smoker, Harrison endured an ongoing battle with cancer
throughout the late 1990s, having growths removed first from his throat, then
In late 1999 Harrison survived a knife attack by an intruder in his home,
which in some ways mirrored John Lennon's murder. On the evening of 30 December
1999, Michael Abram broke into the Harrisons' Friar Park home in
Henley-on-Thames and stabbed George multiple times, ultimately puncturing his
lung. Harrison and his wife, Olivia, fought the intruder and detained him for
the police. 35-year-old Abram, who believed he was possessed by Harrison and was
on a "mission from God" to kill him, was later acquitted on grounds of insanity.
Harrison was traumatized by the invasion and attack and afterward severely
limited his public appearances.
In 2001, Harrison appeared as a guest musician on the Electric Light
Orchestra album Zoom, played slide guitar on the song "Love Letters" for
Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings, remastered and restored unreleased tracks from the
Traveling Wilburys, and wrote a new song, "Horse to the Water." The latter song
ended up as Harrison's final recording session, on October 2, just 58 days
before his death. It appeared on Jools Holland's album Small World, Big Band.
Harrison was a great fan of the ukulele and usually had one with him, while
travelling, in his later years.
Harrison's cancer recurred in 2001 and was found to have metastasised.
Despite aggressive treatment, it was soon found to be terminal. He set about
getting his affairs in order and spent his final months with his family and
close friends. He also worked on songs for an album with his son Dhani, which
was released after his death.
Harrison died in a Hollywood Hills mansion that was once leased by McCartney
and was previously owned by Courtney Love.
(Reuters reported that the house had been leased in the name of Gavin de Becker,
a security consultant working for Harrison).
Harrison died on 29 November 2001. He was 58 years old.
Harrison's death was ascribed to lung cancer that had metastasised to the brain.
He was cremated and, although it was widely reported that his ashes were
scattered in the Ganges River, the ceremony was not conducted at the expected
time. The actual
disposition of the ashes has not been publicly disclosed.
After his death, the Harrison family released the following statement: "He
left this world as he lived in it: conscious of God, fearless of death and at
peace, surrounded by family and friends. Harrison had often said, "Everything
else can wait, but the search for God cannot wait; and love one another."
Harrison and Aaliyah made UK chart history when they scored the first (and so
far the only) pair of back-to-back posthumous number one hits as Aaliyah's "More
than a Woman" (released on 7 January 2002 and topped the chart on 13 January
2002) was followed by Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" (re-released on 14 January 2002
and topped the chart on 20 January 2002).
Harrison's final album, Brainwashed, was completed by Dhani Harrison
and Jeff Lynne and released on 18 November 2002. It received generally positive
reviews in the United States, and peaked at #18 on the Billboard charts. A
media-only single, "Stuck Inside a Cloud", was heavily played on U.K. and U.S.
radio to promote the album (#27 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart), while
the official single "Any Road", released in May 2003, reached #37 on the British
Personal and family life
Harrison was the youngest of four children (his older siblings were sister
Louise and brothers Peter and Harry). His father, Harry, had been a sailor until
the children came along; he then changed careers, becoming a city bus driver to
stay close to home. His mother Louise taught ballroom dancing at home. The
family always encouraged George; his mother lent him the money for his first
guitars and kept him company (sometimes until late hours) as he taught himself
to play. Harrison paid his mother back by making deliveries for the local
butcher; Lennon's family were among those along his route. His next job (after
leaving school) was his apprenticeship at Blacklers, while playing nights with
the early Beatles; to meet their first tour commitments, Harrison had to take
his summer holiday early.
George's father, Harry, was disappointed that George had to quit at Blacklers
to make the first Beatles trip to Hamburg in 1960, wanting him instead to have a
trade, but he reasoned that if things didn't work out, George was young and had
time to start over. Harrison himself had hopes of being a working musician for a
few years, then possibly trying to get into art school.
Harrison's family remained close, even as the children grew up and the
youngest became famous. Harrison bought his parents a new house with his Beatles
earnings and looked after their needs. His sister Louise became an unofficial
Beatles spokesperson, contributing memorabilia to display collections and
answering fan questions, while brothers Peter (who had briefly formed a band
called the Rebels with George) and Harry were among Harrison's co-gardeners at
his eventual home, Friar Park. Sadly, tensions with his siblings in his later
years strained the earlier family closeness, although Harrison made a point of
reconciling with them just before his death. 
Harrison married model Pattie Boyd on 21 January 1966 at Leatherhead and
Esher registry office, with Paul McCartney as best man, and is reputed to have
written the song "Something" for her in 1969, although he himself denied this,
saying he was actually thinking about a song for Ray Charles. In the late 1960s,
Eric Clapton fell in love with Boyd, and famously poured out his unrequited
passion on the title song of the landmark Derek and the Dominos album Layla
and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970). Some time after its release Boyd left
Harrison, and she and Clapton subsequently married. Despite this, the two men
remained close friends, calling themselves "husbands-in-law."
Harrison's mother died of cancer in 1970; his song "Deep Blue" (which
appeared as a 1971 single B-side), came from his hospital visits to her and his
awareness of the pain and suffering all around. His father also died of cancer,
eight years later, and his older brother died in the 1990s.
Harrison married for a second time, to Olivia Trinidad Arias (born 18 May
1948), in 1978. The ceremony took place on 2 September at their home, with
guitarist and singer Joe Brown acting as best man. They had one son, Dhani
Harrison, born the previous month (the only child of a Beatle to be born out of
wedlock). Dhani looks so remarkably like his father that McCartney quipped on
stage at Concert for George: "Olivia told me that it looks like George stayed
young and we all got old." After the 1999 stabbing incident in which Arias
subdued Harrison's assailant nearly single-handedly, Harrison was sent a fax by
close friend Tom Petty that simply read, "Aren't you glad you married a Mexican
Harrison was a huge fan of Monty Python, forming his Handmade Films company
for the purpose of financing the group's film The Life of Brian. It was through
his love of the comedy group's work that he met Python member Eric Idle. The two
became close friends, with Harrison appearing on Idle's Rutland Weekend
Television series and in his Beatles spoof, The Rutles' All You Need Is Cash.
Idle also performed at the Concert for George, held to commemorate Harrison.
Idle writes at length about his love for and friendship with Harrison, and his
fond memories of the singer, in his memoir The Greedy Bastard Diary.
Harrison was a fan of sports cars and motor racing; even before becoming a
musician, he collected photos of racing drivers and their cars. He was often
seen in the paddock areas of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone as well as
other motor racing venues. He credited Jackie Stewart with encouraging him to
return to recording in the late 1970s, and he wrote "Faster" as a tribute to
Stewart (who also appeared in the accompanying promotional video) and Niki Lauda.
Proceeds from its release went to the Gunnar Nilsson cancer charity, set up
following the Swedish driver's death from the disease in 1978.
Harrison was a huge fan of the small British racing car, the Mini Cooper.
Throughout the 60's he drove his Minis to shows and clubs around London. In
The Beatles Anthology, there is a story of a drug-induced trip involving his
Mini Cooper, and footage of Harrison driving his Coopers around race tracks at
Also in The Beatles Anthology, Harrison, McCartney, and Starr are
shown sitting around a table at Friar Park with a colour poster of the late
Brazilian Formula 1 World Champion Ayrton Senna behind them. Harrison also owned
a $1 million McLaren F1 road car. The 3-seater McLaren can be seen carrying
Harrison, McCartney, and Starr in segment of The Beatles Anthology, prior
to the video for the single "Free As A Bird" and also in that of "Any Road".
On 12 June 1965 Harrison and the three other Beatles were appointed Members
of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), and received their insignia from the
Queen at an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 26 October.
The minor planet 4149, discovered on 9 March 1984 by B. A. Skiff at the
Anderson Mesa Station of the Lowell Observatory, was named after Harrison.
In December 1992, Harrison became the first recipient of Billboard's Century
Award -- presented to music artists for significant bodies of work. Fellow
Traveling Wilbury Tom Petty introduced Harrison, who made a rare public
appearance to receive the prestigious honor.
On 29 November 2002, on the first anniversary of Harrison's death, McCartney,
Starr, Eric Clapton, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Jeff Lynne, Billy Preston,
Joe Brown, Jools Holland, Sam Brown, Olivia Harrison, and Dhani Harrison were
among many others that attended the Concert For George at the Royal Albert Hall
in London. McCartney played "Something", and started the song by playing a
ukulele unaccompanied. He explained this by saying that when he and Harrison got
together, they would often play Beatles songs (and their own) on a ukulele.
McCartney, Clapton, and Starr reunited on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" for the
first time since the song was recorded. The profits from the concert went to
Harrison's charity, the Material World Charitable Foundation.
In 2003, Harrison was ranked number 21 in Rolling Stone's list of The 100
Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
Harrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist on
15 March 2004.
The career and legacy of George Harrison were the featured cover story for
the 10 December 2001, issue of Time magazine. This marked the first issue of
Time magazine published after 11 September 2001 that had as its featured cover
story a person or topic that was totally unrelated to the September 11, 2001
Harrison was inducted into the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame on 1 August
In June 2007, it was announced that Harrison would receive a star on the
Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2008. Meanwhile, that same month, portraits of
Harrison and John Lennon were unveiled at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, where
they will be on permanent display.