Happy birthday to George Harrison who was born on this day, 25th February, 1943. George’s family were of Irish descent, they had cousins in Drumcondra and would often hop on the ferry from Liverpool and come visit.
In 2001 the world lost a great musician, songwriter, film maker but above all a great humanitarian who’s Concert for Bangladesh started it all. George Harrison’s songs, which included “Within You, Without You,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something,” were among the gentlest and most meditative of the Beatles’ output.
“Here Comes the Sun,” for example, was written on a beautiful spring day in 1969 when George Harrison left the Beatles business office feeling frustrated by nitty-gritty accounting details. He walked over to his friend Eric Clapton’s house and strolled around the garden with a guitar. The result was one of the most buoyantly joyful of his songs:
“Little darling, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter/Little darling it feels like years since it’s been here/Here comes the sun. Here comes the sun/And I say … It’s alright.”
The Concert for Bangladesh was the first benefit concert of its kind in that it brought together an extraordinary assemblage of major artists collaborating for a common humanitarian cause – setting the precedent that music could be used to serve a higher cause.
“It was early in April 1971 that news reached me of an unfolding humanitarian crisis in my homeland of Bengal. My heart went out to the Bengali speaking people of Bangladesh and it was natural for me to reach out and want to help the refugees and the hundreds of thousands of little children.”
On Sunday 1 August 1971, Shankar, Harrison and those “friends” – among them Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell and Ringo Starr – staged rock’s first mass act of philanthropy, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Harrison, whom Shankar lovingly describes as “my student, my brother, my son, all combined,” was enjoying his peak years as a solo superstar. His presence alone ensured that the concert was more than just a worthy cause, in accordance with what we might call Geldof’s First Law of the Charity Gig: “The only responsibility the artist has is to create good art,” says the man behind Live Aid. “They only fail when they create bad art.”
He was the diffident Beatle, a quiet and unassuming figure beside the towering egos of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. But, after his innate creativity was allowed to flourish, George Harrison made his own mark as a great songwriter, with works such as Here Comes The Sun, While My Guitar Gently Weeps holding their own beside those of his colleagues. And Something was hailed by Frank Sinatra as “the greatest love song ever written”.
The son of a bus driver, George Harrison was born in the Hunts Cross area of Liverpool on 25 February 1943. Harrison was the youngest of four children of Harold Hargreaves Harrison and his wife Louise (née French). He had one sister, Louise, and two brothers, Harry and Peter. His mother was a shop assistant from a Catholic family with Irish roots, and his father was a bus conductor who had worked as a ship’s steward on the White Star Line.
Although he appeared onstage at a benefit concert for the Natural Law Party during the 1992 British General Election, George Harrison’s lifestyle became more and more reclusive, the success of The Beatles’ Anthology, for which he teamed up again with Paul and Ringo for, having made him financially secure. In December 1999 he was nearly killed when stabbed by an intruder in his Henley mansion and repeated treatment for cancer kept him in the headlines. George Harrison once quipped, “I guess if you’re going to be in a rock group it might as well be The Beatles”.
Following his youthful success, he spent the second half of his life in a love/hate relationship with the memories of the days when he and John, Paul and Ringo changed the sound of pop music forever. George was just 27 when he arrived at Friar Park above Henley on Thames in Oxfordshire and the 120 room mansion and its spectacular gardens were to become a grand obsession for the rest of his life. It was 1970 and not long after the Beatles had split. The garden had gone into a serious decline under the Catholic nuns who were previous owners. The lawns were grown over and torn at the edges by encroaching brambles and the lakes were dry. Its creator, Sir Frank Crisp, who had been there between 1875 and 1919, had made Friar Park his grand project.
May the many hands of Shiva continue to fill his pockets with goodies! As for George, his guitar still gently weeps.
George Harrison, MBE, Musician, Songwriter, Film Producer, Humanitarian,
Born: February 25, 1943, Liverpool – Died: November 29, 2001, Beverly Hills, California, United States
Concert for Bangladesh;
A Day in the Life of Abbey Road
From Abbey Road to Luggala
Today, powered by its readers and contributors, from its cyber eyries in Ireland and the centres of the Irish Diaspora The Eagle casts its Cold Eye on Life and Death and much in between.