Saturday, November 19, 2011

"The Private Life of George Harrison"

After doing two George-heavy posts in the past couple days, I decided to reread Rolling Stone's September 15th cover story (unavailable online, sadly) about the "Quiet Beatle." Penned by Brian Hiatt, it explores George's life outside the glow of Beatles stardom. I don't think it contains much that's new or surprising, but Hiatt does a fine job of underscoring how little The Beatles eventually factored into George's vision of a fulfilling life. From the mid-'60s onward, he pursued an existence of inner spiritual richness... that is, except for when he partied, slept around, and engaged in other acts that satisfied the flesh. Much like John, George abounded with the most human contradictions.

Rolling Stone, I hope that posting these excerpts is permissible.

- But his bandmates never quite shook their idea of him as a junior partner - an "economy-class Beatle," in Harrison's sardonic formulation - and he soon began pushing for an upgrade.

- He was an escape artist, forever evading labels and expectations. Harrison challenged Lennon and McCartney's songwriting primacy; almost single-handedly introduced the West to the rest of the world's music through his friendship with Ravi Shankar; became the first person to make rock & roll a vehicle for both unabashed spiritual expression and, with the Concert for Bangladesh, large-scale philanthropy; had the most Hollywood success of any Beatle, producing movies including Monty Python's Life of Brian; and belied a rep as a solitary recluse by putting together the Traveling Wilburys, a band that was as much social club as supergroup.

- As a small boy, Dhani (George's son) says, "I was pretty sure he was just a gardener" - a reasonable conclusion, since Harrison would work 12-hour days out there, missing family dinners as he pursued his vision, planting trees and flowers. "Being a gardener and not hanging out with anyone and just being home, that was pretty rock & roll, you know?" says Dhani, who understood his father's affinity: "When you're in a really beautiful garden, it reminds you constantly of God."

- The Wilburys recorded two albums (Dhani remembers hanging with Jakob Dylan and playing Duck Hunt on his Nintendo while the band worked on the second one downstairs), but never managed a live show.

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