On this day, a decade ago, George Harrison, lead guitarist of famed rock band Beatles, passed away after battling with cancer. Let us take a look back at the life and work of the multi-faceted English musician.
While most of the songs by the phenomenal English rock band The Beatles were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the band’s lead guitarist George Harrison was also able to make significant contributions to the group’s albums. Some of his best loved and remembered compositions include “Here Comes the Sun,” “Something,” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
Harrison was the youngest member of The Beatles, officially joining the band when he was only 15. Because of this, the rest of the members thought of him as a kid for a few more years. He eventually left school and took a job as an apprentice electrician, and also played with rest of the band at the Kaiserkeller. This musical apprenticeship and guitar lessons from guitarist and singer-songwriter Tony Sheridan established the band’s distinct sound, as well as Harrison’s role in the group as “the quiet Beatle.”
Harrison shared an extremely close and intimate relationship with his bandmates, with Lennon acting as his mentor and McCartney referring to him as his “baby brother.”
During the 1960s, Harrison became a lover of Indian culture, mysticism, and Hinduism, and became instrumental in expanding the awareness of the West on sitar music and the Hare Krishna movement. His meeting with sitar master Ravi Shankar through David Crosby in 1965 led to Harrison’s incorporation of the sitar for “Norwegian Wood,” a track from The Beatles’ Rubber Soul album in 1965. This proved to be a ground-breaking move for both Harrison and the band, marking their progression towards a less traditional form of rock music.
After The Beatles split in 1970, Harrison remained an active and successful musician for many years. He also went on to found the English-American supergroup Traveling Wilburys along with Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty.
In 1997, Harrison was successfully treated with radiotherapy for throat cancer, which he attributed to heavy smoking in his younger years. Later in 2001, he went through an operation to remove a cancerous growth from one of his lungs. A few months later, reports claimed that the aged ex-Beatle was seriously ill from the cancer, which he denied.
In November of the same year, Harrison once again started undergoing radiotherapy treatments for lung cancer, which by then had already spread to his brain. Despite these treatments and operations, his condition continued to worsen, leading to his death on November 29, 2001. His second wife, Olivia, and their son, Dhani, were with him when he passed away. He was 58.
Now, let’s take time to remember George, the quiet one, and watch one of his most memorable performances of his own song, “Here Comes the Sun”. George performed for the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, two benefit concerts he organized in response to Ravi Shankar’s call for help.