One of the perks of parenthood is sharing all the things you love with your children. My five year old daughter has been introduced to many of my obsessions: chocolate, sweatshirts, leggings as pants, Han Solo, classic movies, The Andy Griffith Show, Fredric March (or as she calls him “that guy you work for, Fredmitch March”), and various genres and eras of music. We started her off listening to great music when she was in human parasite form. When she was a teensy, wrinkled, old man-looking newborn (we called her Guy Kibbee) all of that music soothed her during those long, restless nights. When we couldn’t queue up the music on our stereo, we’d settle for a little a cappella; she didn’t seem to mind too much. From Sinatra and Wilco, to James Brown and Daft Punk, to The Beach Boys, and The Beatles, our little one knew great music from the very start. However, it’s only been the past year or so that she has really become interested in different types of music, often asking for specific albums or songs. Right now we are in major Beatles mode, even making their music an integral part of the bedtime routine. Everything in their extensive catalog has been played again and again, and now we are venturing off into Beatle solo territory. When asked for her favorite Beatle, she quickly offers up, “Ringo, Paul, John…I like all The Beatles.” Even my little Beatlemaniac, who sings along to Revolution 9 as she falls asleep, forgets George Harrison.
We always overlook the quiet ones. Growing up I was a major Paul fan. I thought he was absolutely dreamy, and his collaboration with Michael Jackson didn’t hurt. In my teen years I went through an intense John phase. His music was a cathartic outlet for my moody, peace-loving, establishment-questioning pubescent self. Nothing like singing “Power to the People” under my breath during boring assemblies and classes led by the most sanctimonious of teachers. “Instant Karma, man. It’s a bitch.” And Ringo. I mean, bless him. I’ve never been a big fan of his solo work, but he was possibly the most likable of the group in terms of personality. He was also the standout in all of the Beatles’ films, mastering deadpan expressions and precise comedic timing.
And then there’s George.
Although much of the Eastern sound introduced into the Beatles’ music can be attributed to Harrison, his songwriting was often stifled; he was lucky to get one of his penned songs on each album. When Harrison released All Things Must Pass, his first solo album following The Beatles’ break-up, it was a major creative breakthrough. His music is meditative, introspective, spiritual, and achingly filled with both hope and despair. I don’t know why, but it took until my early 20’s to really hear George’s music for the first time. I suppose before then I just wasn’t mature enough to appreciate his lyrical and musical depth. I suspect the same goes for many of George’s fans.
George’s brilliance wasn’t long for this world, as his life was tragically cut short by throat cancer at the age of 58. On the occasion of what would’ve been his 73rd birthday, February 25th, here’s a playlist of what I consider to be his best work, essential listening to honor the unsung Beatle, the Dark Horse– George Harrison.