All right, let's talk about George Harrison

The Beatles were big.  Huge, as DJT might say.  They were too big for one little blogger to cover in four-hundred odd words.  George Harrison is much loved by those who were there at the time and many who weren't.  These are opinions; I'm not presenting anything as absolute fact.

Those of us who are musical were aware of George early because he sang a lot of hits — "Chains," "Do You Want to Know a Secret," and "Roll Over Beethoven."  I don't have to look it up to know that George wrote "Don't Bother Me" — it says "George" with every minor chord and blue sentiment.

In contrast, I think he was the funniest of the four; his was a dryly sarcastic style that aged well in conversation but took odd turns in his music.  I loved it when he went on the old Dick Cavett Show soon after John Lennon and Yoko Ono had been interviewed and said, "There was one thing they forgot to plug..." but didn't care for "Look at all the little piggies stirring up the dirt."

Honestly, three of them were excellent guitarists in their own way.  It's hard to tell from this distance who played exactly which riff, and I couldn't pretend to know who came up with any of them.  Most seem built into the composition; "Day Tripper" comes to mind, but I know that that is George's solo from the crispness of new strings to the deft touch.  "Tax Man" — what a great riff, and it is all George.

He said he stopped practicing guitar around 1966, but I probably define "practice" in a much broader sense from what he intended.  I think if you're sitting with it, you're practicing; I bet Harrison rarely sat without it. 

As a composer, he grew and grew.  Probably stifled during the early years, his catalogue began to burst forth with "Here Comes the Sun," a most idiomatic and fun guitar part to play.  It's also a great example of terrific production; it flashes brightly and effortlessly when entering your ears.  "Something" was so good that Frank Sinatra sang it; I leave it to you whether he sang it well or if it just didn't suit Frank's style.

There's a scene in Let It Be in which George tells Paul, "I'll play it the way you like it or I won't play at all if that is what you'd like."  The Beatles seemed to end sadly for him.  You can tell he was not interested at all in what Paul heard; George was hearing things of his own.

So this large catalogue of ignored songs led to All Things Must Pass.  "Isn't it a Pity" and "Wah-Wah" exemplify Harrison's love of a sustained diminished seventh chord.  "My Sweet Lord" begins with a beautiful acoustic guitar orchestra driven by Harrison; it remains stunning, and I don't care about the business aspect because there are a lot of close calls in music.

I suspect that the band George loved most was The Travelling Willburys.  Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty filled out that lineup.  Check out "End of the Line"; George seems at his very happiest just playing and singing good ol' boy songs with all those really good ol' boys. 

I'm glad he had that moment; he'd earned that joy a long time ago when he was fab.

Michael James has been a professional guitarist and public school music educator for over forty years.