Today (February 25th) would have been George Harrison’s 73rd 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.
Coming to CD and DVD/Blu-ray tomorrow (February 26th), 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, 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.
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,” “It’s 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.
His widow Olivia Harrison has lead a successful reissue campaign of the Harrison solo catalog, including a recent box set of the Traveling Wilburys material. A future collection featuring highlights of Harrison’s sole North American solo tour from 1974 is said to be in the works for the near future.
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 Apple Corps LTD