George Harrison, MBE (25 February 1943 – 29 November 2001) was an English musician, guitarist, singer-songwriter, actor and film producer who achieved international fame as lead guitarist of The Beatles. Often referred to as "the quiet Beatle", Harrison became over time an admirer of Indian mysticism, and introduced it to the other Beatles, as well as their Western audience. Following the band's break-up he was a successful solo artist, and later a founding member of the Traveling Wilburys. Harrison was also a session musician and a film and record producer. He is listed at number 11 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".
Although most of The Beatles' songs were written by Lennon and McCartney, Beatle albums generally included one or two of Harrison's own songs, from With The Beatles onwards. His later compositions with The Beatles include "Here Comes the Sun", "Something" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". By the time of the band's break-up, Harrison had accumulated a backlog of material, which he then released as the triple album All Things Must Pass in 1970, from which two hit singles originated: a double A-side single, "My Sweet Lord" backed with "Isn't It a Pity", and "What Is Life". In addition to his solo work, Harrison co-wrote two hits for former Beatle Ringo Starr, as well as songs for the Traveling Wilburys—the supergroup he formed in 1988 with Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Roy Orbison.
Harrison embraced Indian culture and Hinduism in the mid-1960s, and helped expand Western awareness of sitar music and of the Hare Krishna movement. With Ravi Shankar he organised the first major charity concert with the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh. In addition to his musical accomplishments, he was also a record producer and co-founder of the production company HandMade Films. In his work as a film producer, he collaborated with people as diverse as the members of Monty Python and Madonna.
He was married twice, to model Pattie Boyd from 1966 to 1974, and for 23 years to record company secretary Olivia Trinidad Arias, with whom he had one son, Dhani Harrison. He was a close friend of Eric Clapton. He is the only Beatle to have published an autobiography, with I Me Mine in 1980. Harrison died of lung cancer in 2001.
Harrison was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, on 25 February 1943, the last of four children to Harold Hargreaves Harrison and his wife Louise, née French.
He had one sister, Louise, born 16 August 1931, and two brothers, Harry, born 1934, and Peter, born 20 July 1940. His mother was a Liverpool shop assistant, and his father was a bus conductor who had worked as a ship's steward on the White Star Line. His mother's family had Irish roots and were Roman Catholic; his maternal grandfather, John French, was born in County Wexford, Ireland, emigrating to Liverpool where he married a local girl, Louise Woollam.
Harrison was born in the house where he lived for his first six years: 12 Arnold Grove, Wavertree, Liverpool, which was a small 2 up, 2 down terraced house in a cul-de-sac, with an alley to the rear. The only heating was a single coal fire, and the toilet was outside. In 1950 the family were offered acouncil house, and moved to 25 Upton Green, Speke.
His first school was Dovedale Primary School, very close to Penny Lane, the same school as John Lennon who was a couple of years ahead of him. He passed his 11-plus examination and achieved a place at the Liverpool Institute for Boys (in the building that now houses the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts), which he attended from 1954 to 1959.
Harrison said that, when he was 12 or 13, he had an "epiphany" of sorts – riding a bike around his neighbourhood, he heard Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" playing from a nearby house and was hooked. Even though he had done well enough on his 11-plus examination to get into the city's best high school, from that point on, the former good student lost interest in school.
When Harrison was 14 years old, he sat at the back of the class and tried drawing guitars in his schoolbooks: “I was totally into guitars. I heard about this kid at school who had a guitar at £3 10s, it was just a little acoustic round hole. I got the £3 10s from my mother: that was a lot of money for us then.” Harrison bought a Dutch Egmond flat top acoustic guitar. While at the Liverpool Institute, Harrison formed a skiffle group called the Rebels with his brother Peter and a friend,Arthur Kelly. At this school he met Paul McCartney, who was one year older. McCartney later became a member of John Lennon's band called The Quarrymen, which Harrison joined in 1958.
Harrison became part of The Beatles when they were still a skiffle group called The Quarrymen. McCartney told Lennon about his friend George Harrison, who could play "Raunchy" on his guitar. Although Lennon considered him too young to join the band, Harrison hung out with them and filled in as needed. By the time Harrison was 15, Lennon and the others had accepted him as one of the band. Since Harrison was the youngest member of the group, he was looked upon as a kid by the others for another few years.
Harrison left school at 16 and worked as an apprentice electrician at local department store Blacklers for a while. When The Beatles were offered work in Hamburg in 1960, the musical apprenticeship that Harrison received playing long hours at the Kaiserkeller with the rest of the group, including guitar lessons from Tony Sheridan, laid the foundations of The Beatles' sound, and of Harrison's quiet, professional role within the group; this role would contribute to his reputation as "the quiet Beatle". The first trip to Hamburg was shortened when Harrison was deported for being underage.
When Brian Epstein became The Beatles' manager in December 1961 after seeing them perform at The Cavern Club in November, he changed their image from that of leather-jacketed rock-and-rollers to a more polished look, and secured them a recording contract with EMI. The first single, "Love Me Do", with Harrison playing a Gibson J-160E, reached number 17 in the UK chart in October 1962, and by the time their debut album, Please Please Me, was released in early 1963, The Beatles had become famous andBeatlemania had arrived.
After he revealed in an interview that he liked jelly babies, British fans inundated Harrison and the rest of the band with boxes of the sweets as gifts. A few months later, American audiences showered the band with the much harder jelly beans instead. In a letter to a fan, Harrison mentioned jelly babies, insisting that no one in the band actually liked them and that the press must have made it up.
The popularity of The Beatles led to a successful tour of America, the making of a film, A Hard Day's Night (during which Harrison met his future wife Pattie Boyd), and in the 1965 Queen's Birthday Honours, all four Beatles were appointed Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). Harrison, whose role within the group was that of the careful musician who checked that the instruments were tuned,by 1965 and the Rubber Soul album, was developing into a musical director as he led the others into folk-rock, via his interest in The Byrdsand Bob Dylan, and into Indian music with his exploration of the sitar. Harrison's musical involvement and cohesion with the group reached its peak on Revolver in 1966 with his contribution of three songs and new musical ideas. By 1967, Harrison's interests appeared to be moving outside the Beatles, and his involvement in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band consists mainly of his one song, "Within You Without You", on which no other Beatle plays, and which stands out for its difference from the rest of the album.
During the recording of The Beatles in 1968, tensions were present in the band; these surfaced again during the filming of rehearsal sessions at Twickenham Studios for the albumLet It Be in early 1969. Frustrated by ongoing slights, the poor working conditions in the cold and sterile film studio, and Lennon's creative disengagement from the group, Harrison quit the band on 10 January. He returned on 22 January after negotiations with the other Beatles at two business meetings.
Relations among The Beatles were more cordial (though still strained) during recordings for the album Abbey Road. The album included "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something", "Something" was later recorded by Frank Sinatra, who considered it "the greatest love song of the past fifty years". Harrison's increasing productivity, coupled with his difficulties in getting The Beatles to record his music, meant that by the end of the group's career he had amassed a considerable stockpile of unreleased material. Harrison's last recording session with The Beatles was on 4 January 1970. Lennon, who had left the group the previous September, did not attend the session.
For most of The Beatles career, the relationships in the group were extremely close and intimate. According to Hunter Davies, "The Beatles spent their lives not living a communal life, but communally living the same life. They were each other's greatest friends." Harrison's wife Pattie Boyd described how The Beatles "all belonged to each other" and admitted, "George has a lot with the others that I can never know about. Nobody, not even the wives, can break through or even comprehend it."
Ringo Starr also stated, "We really looked out for each other and we had so many laughs together. In the old days we'd have the biggest hotel suites, the whole floor of the hotel, and the four of us would end up in the bathroom, just to be with each other." and added "There were some really loving, caring moments between four people: a hotel room here and there – a really amazing closeness. Just four guys who loved each other. It was pretty sensational."
John Lennon stated that his relationship with George was "one of young follower and older guy", and admitted that "[George] was like a disciple of mine when we started." The two would often go on holiday together throughout the 1960s. Their relationship took a severe turn for the worse after George published his autobiography, I Me Mine. Lennon felt insulted and hurt that George mentioned him only in passing. Lennon claimed he was hurt by the book and also that he did more for George than any of the other Beatles. As a result, George and John were not on good terms during the last months of Lennon's life. After Lennon's murder, George paid tribute to Lennon with his song "All Those Years Ago" which was released in 1981, six months after Lennon's murder. It contains the lyric "I always look up to you", suggesting implicit agreement with Lennon's appraisal of their relationship.
Paul McCartney has often referred to Harrison as his "baby brother", and he did the honours as best man at George's wedding in 1966. The two were the first of The Beatles to meet, having shared a school bus, and would often learn and rehearse new guitar chords together. McCartney stated that he and George usually shared a bedroom while touring.
Although not fast or flashy, Harrison's guitar work with The Beatles was solid and typified the more subdued lead guitar style of the early 1960s. The influence of the plucking guitar style of Chet Atkins and Carl Perkins on Harrison gave a country music feel to The Beatles' early recordings. Harrison explored several guitar instruments, the twelve-string, thesitar and the slide guitar, and developed his playing from tight eight- and twelve-bar solos in such songs as "A Hard Day's Night" and "Can't Buy Me Love", to slide guitarplaying, first recorded during an early session of "If Not for You" for Dylan's New Morning in 1970. The earliest example of notable guitar work from Harrison was the extended acoustic guitar solo of "And I Love Her", for which Harrison purchased a José Ramírez nylon-stringed classical guitar to produce the sensitivity needed.
Harrison's first electric guitar was a Czech built Jolana Futurama/Grazioso, which was a popular guitar among British guitarists in the early 1960s., The guitars Harrison used on early recordings were mainly Gretsch played through a Vox amp. He used a variety of Gretsch guitars, including a Gretsch Duo Jet – his first Gretsch, which he bought in 1961 second hand off a sailor in Liverpool; a Gretsch Tennessean, and his (first out of two) Gretsch Country Gentleman, bought new for £234 in April 1963 at the Sound City store in London, which he used on "She Loves You", and on The Beatles' 1964 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
During The Beatles' trip to the US in 1964, Harrison acquired a Rickenbacker 360/12guitar. He had tried out the 12-string electric guitar during an interview with a Minneapolis radio station, and was given the guitar either by the Rickenbacker company or the radio station. The 360/12 was an experimental 12-string guitar with the strings reversed so that the lower pitched string was struck first, and with an unusual headstock design that made tuning easier. Harrison used the guitar extensively during the recording of A Hard Day's Night, and the jangly sound became so popular that the Melody Maker termed it "the beat boys' secret weapon".Roger McGuinn liked the effect Harrison achieved so much that it became his signature guitar sound with the Byrds.
He obtained his first Fender Stratocaster in 1965 and used it for the recording of the Rubber Soul album, most notably on the "Nowhere Man" track, where he played in unison with Lennon who also had a Stratocaster. Lennon and Harrison both had Sonic Blue Stratocasters, which were bought second hand by roadie Mal Evans. Harrison painted his Stratocaster in a psychedelic design that included the word "Bebopalula" painted above the pickguard and the guitar's nickname, "Rocky", painted on the headstock. He played this guitar in theMagical Mystery Tour film and throughout his solo career.Harrison listed his early influences as Carl Perkins, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and the Everly Brothers.
After David Crosby of the Byrds introduced him to the work of sitar master Ravi Shankar in 1965, Harrison—whose interest in Indian music was stirred during the filming of Help!, which used Indian music as part of its soundtrack—played a sitar on the Rubber Soul track "Norwegian Wood", expanding the already nascent Western interest in Indian music. Harrison's sitar playing on "Love You To" represented an "astonishing improvement" over "Norwegian Wood" and has been termed "the most accomplished performance on sitar by any rock musician.".
Harrison wrote his first song published with the Beatles, "Don't Bother Me", while sick in a hotel bed in Bournemouth during August 1963, as "an exercise to see if I could write a song", [emphasis in original] as he remembered. "Don't Bother Me" appeared on the second Beatles album With The Beatles later that year, then on Meet the Beatles! in the US in early 1964, and also briefly in the film A Hard Day's Night. The group did not record another Harrison composition until 1965, when he contributed "I Need You" and "You Like Me Too Much" to the album Help!. One of his more enduring early works is 1965's "If I Needed Someone".
Harrison's songwriting improved greatly through the years, but his material did not earn respect from his fellow Beatles until near the group's break-up. McCartney told Lennon in 1969: "Until this year, our songs have been better than George's. Now this year his songs are at least as good as ours". Harrison had difficulty getting the band to record his songs. The group's incorporation of Harrison's material reached a peak of three songs on the 1966 Revolver album and four songs on the 1968 double The Beatles.
Harrison performed the lead vocal on all Beatles songs that he wrote by himself. He also sang lead vocal on other songs, including "Chains" and "Do You Want to Know a Secret" onPlease Please Me, "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Devil in Her Heart" on With The Beatles, "I'm Happy Just to Dance with You" on A Hard Day's Night, and "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" on Beatles for Sale.
Before The Beatles split up in 1970, Harrison had already recorded and released two solo albums, Wonderwall Music and Electronic Sound. These albums were mainly instrumental.Wonderwall Music was a soundtrack to the Wonderwall film in which Harrison blended Indian and Western sounds; while Electronic Sound was an experiment in using a Moog synthesiser. It was only when Harrison was free from The Beatles that he released what is regarded as his first "real" solo album, the commercially successful and critically acclaimed All Things Must Pass.
After years of being restricted in his song-writing contributions to the Beatles, All Things Must Pass contained such a large outpouring of Harrison's songs that it was released as atriple album, though only two of the discs contained songs—the third contained recordings of Harrison jamming with friends. The album is regarded as his best work; it was a critical and commercial success, topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, and produced the number-one hit single "My Sweet Lord" as well as the top-10 single "What Is Life". The album was co-produced by Phil Spector using his "Wall of Sound" approach, and the musicians included Eric Clapton, Dave Mason, Gary Wright, Billy Preston, and Ringo Starr.
Harrison was later sued for copyright infringement over the song "My Sweet Lord" because of its similarity to the 1963 Chiffons song "He's So Fine", owned by Bright Tunes. Harrison denied deliberately plagiarising the song, but he lost the resulting court case in 1976 as the judge deemed that Harrison had "subconsciously" plagiarised "He's So Fine". When considering liable earnings, "My Sweet Lord"'s contribution to the sales of All Things Must Pass and The Best of George Harrison were taken into account, and the judge decided a figure of $1,599,987 was owed to Bright Tunes. The dispute over damages became complicated when Harrison's former manager Allen Klein purchased the copyright to "He's So Fine" from Bright Tunes in 1978. In 1981, a district judge decided that Klein had acted improperly, and it was agreed that Harrison should pay Klein $587,000, the amount Klein had paid for "He's So Fine", so he would gain nothing from the deal, and that Harrison would take over ownership of Bright Tunes, making him the owner of the rights to both "My Sweet Lord" and "He's So Fine" and thus ending the copyright infringement claim. Though the dispute dragged on into the 1990s, the district judge's decision was upheld.
Responding to a request for help by longtime friend Ravi Shankar, Harrison organised a major charity concert, The Concert for Bangladesh, on 1 August 1971, drawing over 40,000 people to two shows in New York's Madison Square Garden. The aim of the event was to raise money to aid the starving refugees during the Bangladesh Liberation War. Ravi Shankar opened the proceedings, which included other popular musicians such as Bob Dylan (who rarely appeared live in the early 1970s), Eric Clapton, who made his first public appearance in months (due to a heroin addiction which began when Derek and the Dominos broke up), Leon Russell, Badfinger, Billy Preston and fellow Beatle Ringo Starr. Tax troubles and questionable expenses tied up many of the concert's proceeds. Apple Corporation released a newly arranged concert DVD and CD in October 2005 (with all artists' sales royalties continuing to go to UNICEF), which contained additional material such as previously unreleased rehearsal footage of "If Not for You", featuring Harrison and Dylan.
Harrison would not again release an album that came close to the critical and commercial achievements of All Things Must Pass. Although 1973's Living in the Material World initially did well, holding number one spot on the US album chart for five weeks and reaching number two in the UK, and the album's single, "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)", was also successful, reaching number one in the US and the top ten in the UK, neither could match the sales of All Things Must Pass and "My Sweet Lord". The album was lavishly produced and packaged, and its dominant message was the power of Harrison's Hindu beliefs. The one fully secular song, "Sue Me, Sue You Blues", expressed Harrison's disgust with the endless legal squabbling that had overtaken all of the former Beatles. The Dark Horse album of 1974 written after Harrison's break-up with his wife Pattie Boyd and when he was suffering from laryngitis received harsh reviews, as did the accompanying tour of North America. Harrison was criticised for poor songwriting and poor vocals on the album, and for over-indulging his love for Indian music during the tour. The album and single "Dark Horse" did briefly make an appearance near the top of the US charts, but both failed to chart in the UK.
His final studio album for EMI (and Apple Records) was Extra Texture (Read All About It), featuring a diecut cover. The album spawned two singles, "You" which reached the Billboard top 20 and "This Guitar (Can't Keep From Crying)", which became Apple's final original single release in December 1975. Following the former Beatle's departure from Capitol, the record company was in a position to licence releases featuring Beatles and post-Beatles work on the same album, using Harrison for this experiment. The Best of George Harrison(1976) combined his Beatles songs with a selection of his solo Apple work.
Thirty Three & 1/3 his first Dark Horse release, was his most successful late-1970s album, reaching number 11 on the US charts in 1976, and producing the singles "This Song" (a satire of the "My Sweet Lord"-"He's So Fine" court case ruling) and "Crackerbox Palace", both of which reached the top 25 in the US. With an emphasis on melody, musicianship, and subtler subject matter rather than the heavy orchestration and didactic messaging of earlier works, he received his best critical notices since All Things Must Pass. With itssurreal humour, "Crackerbox Palace" also reflected Harrison's association with Monty Python's Eric Idle, who directed a comic music video for the song. After his second marriage and the birth of son Dhani Harrison, Harrison's next released a self-titled album. 1979's George Harrison included the singles "Blow Away", "Love Comes to Everyone" and "Faster". Both the album and "Blow Away" made the Billboard top 20.
In addition to his own works during this time, between 1971 and 1973 Harrison co-wrote or produced three top ten US and UK hits for Ringo Starr ("It Don't Come Easy", "Back Off Boogaloo", and "Photograph"). Harrison played electric, slide and dobro guitars on five songs on John Lennon's 1971 Imagine album ("How Do You Sleep?", "Oh My Love", "I Don't Want to Be a Soldier", "Crippled Inside" and "Gimme Some Truth"), with his stinging slide guitar work on the first of these indicating that he took John's side of the intense Lennon-McCartney feud of the time. Lennon later said of Harrison's work on the album, "That's the best he's ever fucking played in his life!" Harrison also produced and played slide guitar on the Apple band Badfinger's 1971 top ten US and UK hit "Day After Day".
During the decade, Harrison also worked with Harry Nilsson ("You're Breakin' My Heart", 1972), as well as Billy Preston ("That's the Way God Planned It", 1969 and "It's My Pleasure", 1975) and Cheech & Chong ("Basketball Jones", 1973). He also appeared with Paul Simon to perform two acoustic songs on Saturday Night Live.
Harrison was deeply shocked by the 8 December 1980 murder of John Lennon. The crime reinforced his decades-long worries about safety from stalkers. It was also a deep personal loss, although unlike former bandmates McCartney and Starr, Harrison had little contact with Lennon in the years before the murder. Their estrangement had been marked by Harrison's longstanding dislike of Yoko Ono, his refusal to allow her participation in the Concert for Bangladesh, and his omission of any mention of Lennon in his autobiography, I Me Mine, published the year of Lennon's murder. The omission had upset Lennon greatly, which Harrison had regretted, leading him to leave a telephone message for Lennon, but Lennon had declined to return the call and they had not spoken again. Following the murder, Harrison said, "After all we went through together I had and still have great love and respect for John Lennon. I am shocked and stunned. To rob life is the ultimate robbery in life."
Harrison modified the lyrics of a song he had written for Starr to make it a tribute song to Lennon. "All Those Years Ago" received substantial radio airplay, reaching number two on the US charts. All three surviving ex-Beatles performed on it, although it was expressly a Harrison single. "Teardrops" was issued as a follow-up single, but was not nearly as successful. Both singles came from the album Somewhere in England, released in 1981. Originally slated for release in late 1980, Warner Bros. rejected the album, ordering Harrison to replace several tracks, and to change the album cover as well. The original album cover that Harrison wanted was used in the 2004 reissue of the album. In 1981, Harrison played guitar on one track of Mick Fleetwood's record The Visitor and Lindsey Buckingham's song "Walk a Thin Line".
Aside from a song on the Porky's Revenge soundtrack in 1985 (his version of a little-known Bob Dylan song "I Don't Want to Do It"), Harrison released no new records for five years after 1982's Gone Troppo received apparent indifference.
In October 1985, Harrison made a rare public appearance on the Cinemax Channel 4 live concert TV special in a tribute to Carl Perkins. He appeared along with Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton among others. The show was called Blue Suede Shoes: A Rockabilly Session. He performed "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby", "Your True Love", "That's Alright Mama" (including the guitar solo), "Glad All Over" (including the guitar solo), "Gone Gone Gone" and "Blue Suede Shoes". He only agreed to appear because he had been a close admirer and friend of Carl Perkins for over 20 years.
In 1987, Harrison returned with the critically acclaimed platinum album Cloud Nine, co-produced with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra, and enjoyed a hit (number one in the US; number two in the UK) when his rendition of James Ray's early 1960s number "Got My Mind Set on You" was released as a single; another single, "When We Was Fab", a retrospective of The Beatles' days complete with musical flavours for each bandmate, was also a minor hit. MTV regularly played the two videos, and elevated Harrison's public profile with another generation of music listeners. The album reached number eight and number ten on the US and UK charts, respectively. In the US, several tracks also enjoyed high placement on Billboard's Album Rock chart – "Devil's Radio", "This Is Love" and "Cloud 9" in addition to the aforementioned singles.
On 23 November 1971, Harrison appeared on an episode of The Dick Cavett Show in a band called Wonder Wheel performing a song written by Gary Wright called "Two Faced Man". Harrison played slide guitar in this band as a favour since Wright had played piano on Harrison's album All Things Must Pass. The episode can be viewed on DVD The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons Disc 3.
Harrison launched a major tour of the United States in 1974. Critical and fan reaction panned the tour for its long mid-concert act of Pandit Ravi Shankar & Friends and for Harrison's hoarse voice. Harrison had hired filmmaker David Acomba to accompany the tour and gather footage for a documentary. Due to Harrison's hoarse voice throughout most of this tour, the film was not released, but in 2007 Acomba placed a newly revised director's cut in the Harrison archive. It was the last time he toured in the United States.
In 1986, Harrison made a surprise performance at the Birmingham Heart Beat Charity Concert 1986 a concert event to raise money for the Birmingham Children's Hospital. Harrison played and sang the finale "Johnny B. Goode" along with Robert Plant, The Moody Blues, and Electric Light Orchestra, among others. The following year, Harrison appeared at The Prince's Trust concert in Wembley Arena, performing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Here Comes the Sun" with Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, and others.
In 1991, Harrison staged a tour of Japan along with Eric Clapton. It was his first tour since the 1974 US tour, but no other tours followed. The Live in Japan recording came from these shows.
On 6 April 1992, Harrison held a benefit concert for the Natural Law Party at Royal Albert Hall, his first London performance in 23 years and his last full concert. In October 1992, Harrison performed three songs ("If Not for You", "Absolutely Sweet Marie", and "My Back Pages") at a Bob Dylan tribute concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City. This was released on the album The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration in August 1993.
On 14 December 1992, Harrison took part in a memorial concert at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles for Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro. The concert consisted of an all-star line-up that included Boz Scaggs, Donald Fagen, Don Henley, Michael McDonald, David Crosby, Eddie Van Halen, and the members of Toto. The proceeds of the concert were used to establish an educational trust fund for Porcaro's sons.
Early in 1989, Harrison, Lynne and Ringo Starr all appeared in the music video for Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down", although Starr did not actually play on the track; Harrison played acoustic guitar. The same year also saw the release of Best of Dark Horse 1976–1989, a compilation drawn from his later solo work. This album also included two new songs, "Poor Little Girl", and "Cockamamie Business" (which saw him once again looking wryly upon his Beatle past), as well as "Cheer Down", which had first been released earlier in the year on the soundtrack to the film Lethal Weapon 2, which starred Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. Unlike his previous greatest hits package, Harrison made sure to oversee this compilation. In 1989 Harrison played slide guitar on the "Leave a Light On" and "Deep Deep Ocean" songs from Belinda Carlisle's third album Runaway Horses. "Leave a Light On" was successful worldwide.
In 1996, Harrison recorded, produced and played on "Distance Makes No Difference With Love" with Carl Perkins for his Go-Cat-Go record.
Harrison's final television appearance was not intended as such; in fact, he was not the featured artist, and the appearance had been intended to promote Chants of India, another collaboration with Ravi Shankar released in 1997, at the height of interest in chant music. John Fugelsang, then of VH1, conducted the interview, and at one point an acoustic guitar was produced and handed to Harrison. When an audience member asked to hear "a Beatles song", Harrison pulled a sheepish look and answered, "I don't think I know any!" Harrison then played "All Things Must Pass" and revealed for the first time "Any Road", which subsequently appeared on the 2002 Brainwashed album.
In January 1998, Harrison attended the funeral of his boyhood idol, Carl Perkins, in Jackson, Tennessee. Harrison played an impromptu version of Perkins' song "Your True Love" during the service. That same year he attended the public memorial service for Linda McCartney. Also that same year, he appeared on Ringo Starr's Vertical Man, where he played both electric and slide guitars on two tracks.
In 2001, Harrison performed as a guest musician on the Electric Light Orchestra album Zoom. He played slide guitar on the song "Love Letters" for Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings, and remastered and restored unreleased tracks from the Traveling Wilburys. He also co-wrote a new song with his son Dhani, "Horse to the Water". The latter song ended up as Harrison's final recording session, on 2 October, just eight weeks before his death. It appeared on Jools Holland's album Small World, Big Band.
Harrison's final album, Brainwashed, was completed by Dhani Harrison and Jeff Lynne and released on 18 November 2002. It received generally positive reviews in the United States, and peaked at number 18 on the Billboard charts. A media-only single, "Stuck Inside a Cloud", was heavily played on UK and US radio to promote the album (number 27 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart), while the official single "Any Road", released in May 2003, reached number 37 on the British chart. The instrumental track, "Marwa Blues" went on to receive the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance, while the single "Any Road" was nominated for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
In 1988, Harrison played an instrumental role in forming the Traveling Wilburys with Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty when they gathered in Dylan's garage to quickly record an additional track for a projected Harrison European single release. The record company realised the track ("Handle With Care") was too good for its original purpose as a B-side and asked for a full, separate album. This had to be completed within two weeks, as Dylan was scheduled to start a tour. The album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, was released in October 1988 and recorded under pseudonyms as half-brothers (supposed sons of Charles Truscott Wilbury, Sr.). Harrison's pseudonym on the first album was "Nelson Wilbury"; he would use the name "Spike Wilbury" for the Traveling Wilburys' second album.
After the death of Roy Orbison in late 1988 the group recorded as a four-piece. Though Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 was their second release, the album was mischievously titled Vol. 3by Harrison. According to Lynne, "That was George's idea. He said, 'Let's confuse the buggers.'" It was not as well received as the previous album, but did reach number 14 in the UK and number 11 in the US where it went platinum, while the singles "She's My Baby", "Inside Out", and "Wilbury Twist" got decent air play.
In 1994–1996, Harrison reunited with the surviving former Beatles, and Traveling Wilburys producer Jeff Lynne for The Beatles Anthology project, which included the recording of two new Beatles songs built around solo vocal and piano tapes recorded by John Lennon in the late 1970s, as well as the lengthy interviews on The Beatles' history. The single "Free as a Bird", was the first Beatles single since "The Long and Winding Road" in 1970.
Main article: HandMade Films
HandMade Films was a British film production and distribution company that Harrison formed in 1978 with his business partner, Denis O'Brien. It was created to help out his Monty Python friends by raising £2 million to finish their film Life of Brian after EMI Films, the original financiers, pulled out due to the film's satirical content. Harrison took the name from some handmade paper he had been given on a mill visit. Though the company was formed with the intention of funding just the one film (a scenario which became epitomised as Harrison's "world's most expensive cinema ticket", as the Python's Eric Idle put it), Harrison and O'Brien bought the rights to The Long Good Friday, which had been faced with various cuts, and released it in its original form.
The first film started under the company was Time Bandits, equipped with a soundtrack by Harrison, in 1981, a solo project by Python Terry Gilliam for whom HandMade originally also was to finance The Adventures of Baron Munchausen before several funding parties including HandMade dropped out of the project. Harrison produced twenty three films with HandMade, including Mona Lisa, Shanghai Surprise, and Withnail and I. He made several cameo appearances in these movies, including appearing as a nightclub singer in Shanghai Surprise and as Mr Papadopolous in Life of Brian. Handmade Films became a rarity in the British film industry, a production company that was both consistently successful and internationally known. The company was well regarded both for nurturing British talent and for most of its films having British settings or inspirations.
Harrison was involved in some creative decisions, approving projects such as Withnail and I and visiting sets as executive producer to sort out creative problems. On the whole, though, he preferred to stay out of the way: "[As a musician] I've been the person who's said of the people with the money, 'What do they know?' and now I'm that person. But I know that unless you give an artist as much freedom as possible, there's no point in using that artist."
The bulk of the financial and business decisions were left to O'Brien, who was tasked with making sure that films got made on time and on budget. This eventually resulted in disagreements and lawsuits between the pair as HandMade Films encountered reversals, and Harrison sold the company in 1994.
During The Beatles' American tour in August 1965, Harrison's friend David Crosby of the Byrds introduced him to Indian classical music and the work of sitar player Ravi Shankar.Harrison became fascinated with the instrument, immersed himself in Indian music and played a pivotal role in expanding the emerging interest in the sitar in particular and Indian music in general in the West.
Buying his own first sitar from a London shop called India Craft later that year (as he recalled during interviews for "The Beatles Anthology"), he played one on the Rubber Soul track "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)". In June 1966 Harrison met the sitar maestro Ravi Shankar at the home of Mrs Angadi of the Asian Music Circle, asked to be his student and was accepted. Shankar and Alla Rakha gave a private concert at Harrison's house which Starr and Lennon attended. Shankar influenced Harrison and the other Beatles not only musically, but spiritually. On 6 July 1966 Harrison travelled to India to purchase a top flight sitar from Rikhi Ram & Sons in New Delhi. After the Beatles final live tour performance in August, Harrison returned to India in September 1966 to study sitar with Shankar. Initially staying in Bombay, Harrison moved (to avoid crowding fans) to a houseboat on a remote lake in the shadow of the Himalayas where he was taught by Shankar for six weeks and read spiritual texts. Harrison was influential in the decision to have Ravi Shankar included on the bill at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967. After Shankar, Harrison received sitar tutelage from Shambhu Das.
During the filming of the movie Help!, on location in the Bahamas, the Beatles met Swami Vishnu-devananda, founder of Sivananda Yoga, who gave each member of the band a signed copy of his book The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga. During a pilgrimage to Bombaywith his wife, Harrison studied sitar, met several gurus and visited various holy places, filling the months between the end of the final Beatles tour in 1966 and the commencement of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band recording sessions. In 1968, Harrison travelled to Rishikesh in northern India with the other Beatles to study meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
In the summer of 1969, he produced the single "Hare Krishna Mantra", performed by the devotees of the London Radha Krishna Temple. That same year, he and fellow Beatle John Lennon met A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Soon after, Harrison embraced the Hare Krishna tradition (particularly japa-yoga chanting with beads), became a lifelong devotee, being associated with it until his death.
Harrison was a vegetarian from 1968 until his death.
While during his lifetime, Harrison bequeathed to ISKCON his Letchmore Heath mansion (renamed Bhaktivedanta Manor) north of London, some sources indicate he left nothing to the organisation, others report he did leave a sum of 20 million pounds.
Harrison respected people of other faiths and believed in a united holy cause; he once remarked:
All religions are branches of one big tree. It doesn't matter what you call Him just as long as you call. Just as cinematic images appear to be real but are only combinations of light and shade, so is the universal variety a delusion. The planetary spheres, with their countless forms of life, are naught but figures in a cosmic motion picture. One's values are profoundly changed when he is finally convinced that creation is only a vast motion picture and that not in, but beyond, lies his own ultimate reality.
Harrison was a devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda. The Self-Realization Fellowship gurus Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswar, and Yogananda himself appear on the cover of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and a quote by Harrison appears on the back cover of the Self-Realization Fellowship release of Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda's own autobiography.
Harrison married model Pattie Boyd on 21 January 1966, at the then Epsom Register Office, Upper High Street, Epsom, with McCartney asbest man. They had met during the filming for A Hard Day's Night, in which the 19-year-old Boyd was cast as a schoolgirl. After Harrison and Boyd split up in 1974, she moved in with Eric Clapton and they subsequently married.
Harrison married for a second time, to Dark Horse Records secretary Olivia Trinidad Arias on 2 September 1978. They had met at the Dark Horse offices in Los Angeles in 1974. They had one son, Dhani Harrison. After the 1999 stabbing incident in which Olivia subdued Harrison's assailant nearly single-handedly, Harrison received a fax from his close friend Tom Petty that read: "Aren't you glad you married a Mexican girl?"
Harrison formed a close friendship with Clapton in the late 1960s, and they co-wrote the song "Badge", which was released on Cream'sGoodbye album in 1969. Harrison also played rhythm guitar on the song. For contractual reasons, Harrison was required to use the pseudonym "L'Angelo Misterioso". Harrison wrote one of his compositions for The Beatles' Abbey Road album, "Here Comes the Sun", in Clapton's back garden. Clapton also guested on the Harrison-penned Beatles track "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". Through Clapton, Harrison met Delaney Bramlett, who introduced Harrison to slide guitar. They remained close friends after Pattie Boyd split from Harrison and married Clapton, referring to each other as "husbands-in-law".
Through his appreciation of Monty Python, he met Eric Idle. The two became close friends, with Harrison appearing on Idle's Rutland Weekend Television series and in his Beatles spoof, The Rutles' All You Need Is Cash. Harrison was also parodied as a Beatle as "Stig O'Hara", portrayed by Rikki Fataar. Idle also performed the famous Monty Python sketch, "The Lumberjack Song", at the Concert for George, held in 2002 to commemorate Harrison.
An accomplished gardener, Harrison restored the English manor house and grounds of Friar Park, his home in Henley-on-Thames. The house once belonged to Victorian eccentric Sir Frank Crisp. Purchased in 1970, it is the basis for the song "Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)". Several Harrison videos were also filmed on the grounds, including "Crackerbox Palace"; in addition, the grounds served as the background for the cover of All Things Must Pass. He employed a staff of ten workers to maintain the 36-acre (150,000 m2) garden, and both of his older brothers worked on Friar Park as well. Harrison took great solace working in the garden and grew to consider himself more a gardener than a musician; his autobiography is dedicated "to gardeners everywhere". Harrison also owned homes on Hamilton Island, Australia and in Nahiku, Hawaii.
That autobiography, I Me Mine, published in 1980, is the only full autobiography by an ex-Beatle. Former Beatles' publicist Derek Taylor helped with the book, which was initially released in a high-priced limited edition by Genesis Publications. The book said little about The Beatles, focusing instead on Harrison's hobbies, such as gardening and Formula One automobile racing. It also included the lyrics to his songs and some photographs with humorous captions.
Harrison had an interest in sports cars and motor racing; he was one of the 100 people who purchased the McLaren F1 road car, and would often attend Formula One races. He had collected photos of racing drivers and their cars since he was young; when he was 12 he attended his first race, the 1955 British Grand Prix at Aintree, in which Stirling Moss won his first Grand Prix. He wrote "Faster" as a tribute to the Formula One racing drivers Jackie Stewart and Ronnie Peterson. Proceeds from its release went to the Gunnar Nilsson cancer charity, set up following the Swedish driver's death from the disease in 1978. Harrison's first "important" car was recently sold at auction in Battersea Park, London. The 1964 Aston Martin DB5 was bought new and delivered to Harrison personally in 1965 at his Kinfauns estate in Esher, Surrey, England.
George Harrison had an interest in humanitarian involvement even when he was a part of The Beatles. The Beatles had a strong stance on human rights, with them showing support for the civil rights movement and the protest against the Vietnam War. However, it was not until the band's split that George Harrison became more involved in humanitarian work.
Harrison's friend, Ravi Shankar, consulted him regarding a means to providing help to the problems in Bangladesh, in the aftermath of the 1970 Bhola Cyclone and the Bangladesh Liberation War. With that, Harrison recorded "Bangla Desh", and pushed Apple Records to release his song alongside Shankar's "Joy Bangla" in an effort to raise funds. Shankar then asked for Harrison's advice about organising a small charity concert in The United States. Harrison took that idea and called up all his friends, organising The Concert for Bangladesh on 1 August 1971 in New York City, which featured other artists of the time like Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russell and former Beatle Ringo Starr.The concert ended up raising US$243,418.50.
The George Harrison Humanitarian Fund for UNICEF still contributes to humanitarian efforts. The fund is a joint effort between the Harrison family and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF that aims to support UNICEF programs providing lifesaving assistance to children caught in humanitarian emergencies. Every year, UNICEF identifies countries and territories where the children suffer from poverty. Much like Bangladesh in 1971, many of these problems are ignored by the media. The fund continues to support UNICEF programs in Bangladesh, while expanding its influence to include other countries in crisis where children are at risk. In December 2007, the fund made a donation of $450,000 to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF for relief and recovery efforts for the victims of Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh. On 13 October 2009, the first ever George Harrison Humanitarian Award went to Ravi Shankar for his unprecedented efforts in saving the lives of children, and his involvement with the Concert for Bangladesh.
In late 1999, Harrison survived a knife attack by an intruder in his home. At 3:30 am on 30 December 1999, 36-year-old Michael Abram broke into the Harrisons' Friar Park home and began loudly calling to Harrison. Harrison left the bedroom to investigate while his wife, Olivia, phoned the police. Abram attacked Harrison with a kitchen knife, inflicting seven stab wounds, puncturing a lung and causing head injuries before Olivia Harrison incapacitated the assailant by striking him repeatedly with a fireplace poker and a lamp. The attack lasted approximately 15 minutes. Abram, who believed he was being possessed by Harrison and was on a "mission from God" to kill him, was later acquitted of attempted murderon grounds of insanity, but was detained for treatment in a secure hospital. He was released in 2002 after 19 months' detention.
Harrison developed throat cancer, which was discovered in the summer of 1997 after a lump on his neck was analysed. He attributed it to smoking heavily from the 1960s until at least the late 1980s. He was successfully treated with radiotherapy. Early in May 2001, it was revealed that he had undergone an operation at the Mayo Clinic to remove a cancerous growth from one of his lungs. In July 2001, it was reported that he was being treated for a brain tumour at a clinic in Switzerland.
On 22 July 2001, media reports claimed that Harrison was close to death as a result of the cancer, but he denied that this was true.
In November 2001, by which time the Daily Mail had reported that Harrison may only have a month to live, Harrison began radiotherapy at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City for lung cancer which had spread to his brain.
On 25 November, it was reported in the Sunday People that Harrison's condition had continued to deteriorate in spite of the treatment, and that he was likely to die within days.
Despite the treatments and operations, Harrison died on 29 November 2001, at a Hollywood Hills mansion that was once leased by McCartney and was previously owned by Courtney Love. The cause of death was listed on his Los Angeles County death certificate as "metastatic non-small cell lung cancer". He was 58 years old. Harrison was cremated atHollywood Forever Cemetery and his ashes were scattered in the Ganges River by his close family in a private ceremony according to Hindu tradition. He left almost £100 million in his will.
In a complaint later brought on behalf of Harrison's estate, it was alleged that while under the care of Staten Island University Hospital, Dr Gilbert Lederman, a radiation oncologist, repeatedly revealed Harrison's confidential medical information during television interviews and forced him to autograph a guitar. The complaint alleged that Lederman and his family came to visit Harrison and began singing, and that, in laboured breaths, Harrison said, "Please stop talking." Later, Lederman allegedly had his son play the guitar for Harrison. The complaint alleged that after the performance, Lederman asked Harrison for an autograph on the guitar, and that Harrison responded, "I do not even know if I know how to sign my name any more." Lederman then allegedly took Harrison's hand and guided his hand along to spell his name while encouraging him by saying, "Come on, George. You can do this. G-E-O...". The suit was ultimately settled out of court under the condition that the guitar be "disposed of".
In 2002, on the first anniversary of Harrison's death, the Concert for George was held at the Royal Albert Hall; it was organised by Eric Clapton and included performances by many of Harrison's musical friends, including Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. The profits from the concert went to Harrison's charity, the Material World Charitable Foundation, which he established in 1973 “to sponsor diverse forms of artistic expression and to encourage the exploration of alternative life views and philosophies.”
Harrison's first official honour came as The Beatles were appointed Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1965 and received their insignia from the Queen at an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 26 October. Another award with The Beatles came in 1970 when they won an Academy Award for the best Original Song Score for Let It Be.
A significant music award as a solo artist was in December 1992, when he became the first recipient of the Billboard Century Award – presented to music artists for significant bodies of work. The minor planet 4149, discovered on 9 March 1984 by B. A. Skiff at the Anderson Mesa Station of the Lowell Observatory, was named after Harrison. Harrison is listed at number 11 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".
Harrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist on 15 March 2004 by his Traveling Wilburys friends Lynne and Petty. He was inducted into the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame on 1 August 2006 for the Concert for Bangladesh.
Harrison featured twice on the cover of Time magazine, initially with The Beatles in 1967, then on his own, shortly after his death in 2001. In June 2007, portraits of Harrison and John Lennon were unveiled at The Mirage Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, where they will be on permanent display.
On 14 April 2009, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce awarded Harrison a star on the Walk of Fame in front of the Capitol Records Building. (The Beatles also have a group star on the Walk of Fame.) Musicians Paul McCartney, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty were among those in attendance when the star was unveiled. Harrison's widow Olivia, actor Tom Hanks and comedian Eric Idle made speeches at the ceremony; Harrison's son Dhani uttered the Hare Krishna mantra. After the ceremony, Capitol/EMI Records announced that a new career-spanning CD entitled Let It Roll: Songs by George Harrison would be released in mid-June 2009.
In October 2011 a documentary titled Living in the Material World: George Harrison directed by Martin Scorsese was released.