Today (February 25th) would have been George Harrison’s 75th birthday. Harrison, the first of the Beatles to embrace Eastern philosophies and culture, will also be remembered for his humanitarian efforts, such as his 1971 Concert For Bangladesh for famine relief. Harrison died of cancer in 2001 at the age of 58.
Over the course of the group’s recording years — 1962 to 1970 — Harrison wrote such Beatles classics as “Don’t Bother Me,” “I Need You,” “Think For Yourself,” “If I Needed Someone,” “Taxman,” “I Want To Tell You,” “Within You, Without You,” “Blue Jay Way,” “Only A Northern Song,” “It’s All Too Much,” “The Inner Light,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Piggies” “I Me Mine,” “For You Blue,” “Old Brown Shoe,” “Something,” and “Here Comes The Sun,” among others.
Other solo hits included “What Is Life,” “Bangla Desh,” “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth),” “Dark Horse,” “You,” “This Song,” “Crackerbox Palace,” “Blow Away,” “All Those Years Ago,” and his 1987 comeback single “Got My Mind Set On You,” which is the last solo Number One single by any former Beatle to date.
In 1971, Harrison produced Ringo Starr’s initial solo singles “It Don’t Come Easy” and “Back Off Boogaloo,” as well also co-writing Starr’s first Number One hit “Photograph” with him in 1973. In 1974, Harrison became the first solo Beatle to tour North America. Shortly after his return to the spotlight in 1987, Harrison co-founded the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, and Tom Petty. In 1991 he undertook a brief tour of Japan with Eric Clapton and his band.
Released today in several deluxe packages is the 2002 tribute show, Concert For George. The set will be reissued as a four-LP box set — as well as a “Limited Edition Deluxe,” 10-disc box set. The star-studded Concert For George took place on November 29th, 2002 — one year to the day of George Harrison’s death. The concert, which took place at London’s Royal Albert Hall, was organized by Eric Clapton and featured heartfelt performances by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Jeff Lynne, and Billy Preston, among many others.
The four-LP box set includes the complete sound recordings from Concert For George, on 180-gram audiophile vinyl, featuring a special, mandala-design etched on side-8. This is the first time that all songs from the performance have been available on an audio configuration. The album is also newly available on CD and via streaming platforms, with the tracklisting mirroring that of the vinyl. The two-disc DVD and Blu-ray sets also include the complete filmed concert on the first disc, with a second disc containing the original theatrical version featuring concert highlights, interviews with the performers, rehearsals and behind-the-scenes footage. Exclusive to the Blu-ray format is the second disc, which includes an interview segment featuring Ringo Starr, Jim Keltner, and Ray Cooper, entitled “Drummers.” All profits from the sale of Concert For George products will go to The Material World Charitable Foundation, founded by Harrison in 1973.
Abramorama Films is now presenting the theatrical realease of Concert For George across North America no. For a full list of theaters and times, log on to: concertforgeorge.com/theatrical-listings/
Released last year was the multi-disc box set George Harrison – The Vinyl Collection. According to the official press release, “The vinyl box set includes all 12 of George’s studio albums with exact replicas of the original release track listing and artwork. Also included in the box set are George’s classic live album Live In Japan — on a double-LP — and two 12-inch single picture discs of ‘When We Was Fab’ and ‘Got My Mind Set On You’. All the discs are 180-gram heavyweight vinyl and are housed in a high-quality two-piece rigid slipcase box. The original analogue master tapes were used for the new re-masters and were cut at the legendary Capitol studios to ensure exceptional audio quality throughout.”
2017 also saw an expanded edition of Harrison’s autobiography, I, Me, Mine, which was originally released through Genesis Publications in 1980. The new extended version of the book now spans the complete length of Harrison’s career in music, told in his words and through 141 songs with hand written lyric sheets faithfully reproduced in full color. Now stretching to 632 pages it features lyrics to more than 50 songs not previously included, as well as new photographs, many unpublished until the new edition. Unlike the previous high-end version of the book, the new trade edition of I, Me, Mine prices out at around $40.
Out now on CD and DVD/Blu-ray is the live Harrison tribute, A Night To Celebrate: George Fest – The Music Of George Harrison. The concert, which was sanctioned by the Harrison family and featured son Dhani Harrison, took place on September 28th, 2014 at L.A.’s Fonda Theatre and included performances by Dhani, Beach Boys Brian Wilson and Al Jardine, Heart’s Ann Wilson, Norah Jones, Perry Farrell, the Cult’s Ian Astbury, Conan O’Brien, “Weird Al” Yankovic, the Strokes’ Nick Valensi, the Flaming Lips, Ben Harper — and many more.
In 2015, Harrison, the Bee Gees, and others were honored with the Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award just prior to the annual Grammy Awards. Harrison’s birthday in 2015 coincided with the release of his Apple Records-era albums box set, chronicling his solo releases between 1968 and 1975.
In September 2012, the Martin Scorsese HBO documentary George Harrison: Living In The Material World snagged two awards at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony held at L.A.’s Nokia Theatre. The doc won the prizes for Outstanding Nonfiction Special and Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming.
Living In The Material World, which is out now on DVD, originally aired on HBO over two nights in October 2011. The three-and-a-half hour life-spanning documentary includes interviews with Harrison’s widow and son Olivia and Dhani Harrison, his brothers Harry and the late Pete Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, the late-George Martin, Eric Clapton, first wife Pattie Boyd, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector, Jeff Lynne, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Tom Petty, and Jackie Stewart, among others.
Also available in the Living In The Material World DVD package — and sold separately — is Early Takes, Volume 1 – George Harrison. The majority of songs on 10-track CD are either demos or early alternate takes of tracks from his 1970 album, All Things Must Pass. Highlights also include a demo version of Bob Dylan’s “Mama You’ve Been On My Mind” and the Everly Brothers’ “Let It Be Me” — as well as early versions of such post-Beatles classics as “All Things Must Past,” “My Sweet Lord,” “Awaiting On You All,” along with the Dylan co-write, “I’d Have You Anytime.” Early Takes peaked at Number 20 on the Billboard 200 charts.
HARRISON ON HARRISON
George Harrison admitted that he felt that it was all downhill for the Beatles as a band following their early Hamburg days: “In the Beatles, I think the sad bit came when we got famous. Because before that, we played all them clubs, little clubs all over the place and in — particularly in Germany, we played months and months in these nightclubs. We played eight hours a night. Then it was good, cause you were just. . . everybody was just dancing and drinking, the band was up there just drinking and playing and, y’know, there was no big emphasis on how groovy you were.”
Photo Courtesy of Umlaut Corporation