“I think people who can truly live a life in music are telling the world, “You can have my love, you can have my smiles. Forget the bad parts, you don’t need them. Just take the music, the goodness, because it’s the very best, and it’s the part I give”– George HarrisonGeorge Harrison was born on this day in Liverpool, England in 1943. today is the 70th anniversary of his birth.
Harrison was the youngest of four children born to Harold, a school bus driver, and Louise as shop assistant and stay a home mother. He went to school at Dovedale Primary School until he was 11 when he transferred to the prestigious Liverpool Institute.
By his own admission, Harrison was not much of a student and what little interest he did have for his studies washed away with his discovery of the electric guitar and American rock ‘n roll. [Biography.com]
He was riding his bike through the streets of Liverpool one day when he heard Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel coming through a window. Harrison said it was an epiphany. His father bought him an acoustic guitar and he taught himself how to play. He formed a pop, jazz, blues, folk, roots band with his older brother Peter and their friend Arthur Kelly called the Rebels.
Harrison knew Paul McCartney from school and in 1958 he auditioned for McCartney and John Lennon’s band The Quarrymen. Lennon was reluctant to bring on the 14-year-old Harrison, but after a second audition — this on the upper deck of a bus — he was sufficiently wowed by Harrison’s rock and roll guitar that the younger guitarist began to fill in with the group.
By 16 Harrison had left school and was working as an apprentice electrician as well as a musician both for the Quarrymen and for the Les Stewart Quartet.
By 1960 Harrison’s music career was in full swing. Lennon had renamed the band the Beatles and the young group began cutting their rock teeth in the small clubs and bars around Liverpool and Hamburg, Germany. Within two years, the group had a new drummer, Ringo Starr, and a manager, Brian Epstein,… Before the end of 1962, Harrison and the Beatles recorded a top 20 U.K. hit, Love Me Do. [Biography.com]
They followed that with Please, Please me and produced an album (also called Please, Please Me.) Harrison sang lead on two songs, Chains, a cover of the Little Eva hit by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and Do You Want to Know a Secret by Lennon and McCartney. The album (literally) rocked the UK charts
Given that the UK album chart in those days tended to be dominated by more ‘adult’ tastes such as film soundtracks and easy listening vocalists, it was a surprise when Please Please Me hit the top of the chart in May 1963 and remained there for thirty weeks before being replaced by With The Beatles. [TheBeatles.com]
The 1963 UK release of With The Beatles, hosted the first Harrison penned song to make it to vinyl; Don’t Bother Me.
It wasn’t until Help! that another Harrison song made it onto a Beatles album. He contributed “I Need You” and “You Like Me Too Much” to Help!
Harrison’s influence grew in the band with the release of Rubber Soul. Again he has two songs on the album, Think For Yourself and If I Needed Some One. He brought both a folk rock flavor to the group and an interest in classical Indian music.
Harrison soon developed a deep interest in Indian music.He taught himself the sitar, introducing the instrument to many western ears on John Lennon’s song, “Norwegian Wood.”” [Biography.com]
By bringing sitar player Ravi Shankar to the attention of the Western World Harrison introduced the instrument to other rock groups (like the Rolling Stones.) And his willingness to stray from the traditional western rock instruments (guitar, bass, drums, piano) helped “pave the way for such groundbreaking Beatles albums as Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” [Ibid]
He scored with three singles on Revolver, “Taxman,” “Love You To” and “I Want to Tell You.” You can really hear the Eastern influence on “Love You To”
He only contributed one song to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, “Within You Without You.” He’s the only Beatle to play on the song.
[Continued in PART TWO]