Forty Years Since George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” Released; Nine Years Since George Left Us
I hope this video succeeds. I snatched it from a Chinese source.
Yes, another Beatles anniversary has come. In fact, there are several. George Harrison’s third solo attempt, All Things Must Pass, was released November 27, 1970. One could say that it was his first real success; but many think that this was his first album.
George also died nine years ago today from the ravages of lung cancer in Los Angeles, California, two days after the 31st anniversary of his masterwork. It was a singular shock because he too was still relatively young at 58. Close friends said that when he received the diagnosis that what he had was terminal, he was ready and resolved in his own mind to face death. Yet he fought and staved off death for the sake of his wife, Olivia, and son Dhani.
John Lennon’s assassination on December 8 is coming soon. It has been thirty years since John was gunned down practically at his front door at The Dakota in New York. That’s why all the stuff on PBS about the time he spent in the U.S. and what made him leave Britain. And George Harrison had thought of John as a kind of older brother; they had a symbiotic relationship, though they were still estranged at the time of John’s shooting. By that time, Paul had reconciled with John; it is possible that had John lived, he and George would have patched up their differences as well. In 1999, Harrison himself barely survived an assassination attempt–a knifing–in his own home by an intruder in Britain.
I was sixteen and in high school when All Things Must Pass was released. You have no idea how much of an impact it had on the musical senses of Americans at the beginning of the Seventies. Everywhere one went it appeared, “My Sweet Lord” was playing from AM and FM radio and on turntables. Even two years later, DJs were still playing cuts on the radio; it was still viable on the
Top 100. The Seventies was also the beginning of the period of singer-songwriters, both male and female. Harry Nilsson, Joni Mitchell, Jim Croce, Carole King, James Taylor, etc. Et al.
But I digress. I think people were so astounded because George had contributed only a few songs to Beatles albums that hinted of his genius, but they never thought that he had it in him to even surpass the by-now iconic Lennon and McCartney.
When the group split in 1970, Harrison took a stockpile of songs — many of which he was unable to release with The Beatles due to the Lennon/McCartney stranglehold on the band’s songwriting — into the studio to record what turned out to be a triple album, All Things Must Pass. Aided by such legendary friends as Eric Clapton, Dave Mason, Billy Preston and Beatle pal, Ringo Starr, Harrison laid down such classics as “My Sweet Lord,” “What Is Life” and the gorgeous title track. The resulting album is considered by many to be the best solo record by any of The Beatles.
Yes, there were other songs on that album, and this is one of them: the title song itself, sung by Paul and backed up by Dhani Harrison, and Eric Clapton and the surviving “Traveling Wilburys” among the other guitar “mourners” during The Concert for George. There is also the likes of Ringo Starr on drums, and “Fifth Beatle” Billy Preston on keyboards (who appeared on The Beatles’ last albums, and who died five years later) in the video. I saw the tribute film on public television during a pledge night, and I could not help being moved. I put it in my mind to eventually buy it. Then, through a friend, I received a free copy of The Concert for George about a year or so ago. When I found time to play it, I found how once more how deep George’s life in music was. While John Lennon and Paul McCartney went through their Indian spirituality “phase,” George Harrison embraced Indian spirituality and never relinquished it.
George had been introduced to Indian music through, of all people, David Crosby. He learned and played the sitar for The Beatles’ Rubber Soul He realized early on that Indian music was connected with Hinduism, and that to simply incorporate the music without the religion or a sense of spirituality or consciousness or even gratitude was not enough.
George Harrison proved that one didn’t have to revert to gospel music, as Elvis did, to relay spirituality in rock. And it shows. I remember you, George. Please come back to us again.