George Harrison: Karma Chameleon
In 1966, an interviewer asked George Harrison an open-ended question: What is your personal goal? ”To do as well as I can at whatever I attempt,” Harrison answered. ”And someday to die with a peaceful mind.”
He seems to have come pretty close, in both cases. If there’s any truth to the stubborn cliche that George was the Quiet Beatle, blame it on his fondness for action (and reflection) over words. For all his cool-kid-brother modesty, Harrison was a paradigm-blasting pioneer and a catalyst for cultural change. Of all the Beatles, ironically, he’s the one who might’ve had the broadest impact on society at large. Consider the things Western civilization might still be waiting for, were it not for George’s wonderful life:
PAUL SIMON’S GRACELAND With a pluck of the sitar in 1965’s ”Norwegian Wood,” Harrison trial-ballooned the notion that rock and raga could share a flat. Upshot: an entire genre known as world beat.
THE DOWNWARD DOG POSE George’s ashram hopping sparked a Western vogue for all things Indian and mystic, from yoga to ayurveda to Deepak Chopra.
”WE ARE THE WORLD” When it came to global consciousness, George put his money where his mantra was. His 1971 Concert for Bangladesh was the blind date where rock and charity first met.
”BLESSED ARE THE CHEESEMAKERS” There was a charitable element to Harrison’s career as a movie producer, too. Without him, a handful of ”difficult” films like Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Withnail & I, and Mona Lisa would’ve been as endangered as a killer rabbit.
THE ONGOING PRESENCE OF LIAM AND NOEL GALLAGHER On this side of the Atlantic, Oasis was little more than a surly, unibrowed oddity until the blokes broke big with ”Wonderwall”—named after a 1968 George soundtrack.
VINYL SPRAWL Too many tunes for a single disc? How about…three? See All Things Must Pass.
”LAYLA” The volcanic apex of the Clapton canon, the song finds Slowhand in tormented thrall to his best friend’s wife. The wife: Pattie Boyd. The friend: George.
THE COKE-FRENZY SEQUENCE IN GOODFELLAS Impossible to imagine without ”Layla,” not to mention George’s own bouncy ”What Is Life.”
THE JAM’S ”START!” We assume Paul Weller paid the, ahem, ”Taxman” for that bass line.
THE P. DIDDY SONGBOOK Okay, maybe the ”My Sweet Lord”/”He’s So Fine” scuffle was a case of ”subconscious plagiarism.” Then again, maybe it was the dawn of…sampling.
GARDEN GNOME CHIC See cover of All Things Must Pass.