george-harrison

George Harrison, the Beatles’ quiet lead guitarist and spiritual explorer who added both rock ‘n’ roll flash and a touch of the mystic to the band’s timeless magic, died on November 29, 2001. He was 58. Harrison died at a friend’s Los Angeles home following a battle with cancer, longtime friend Gavin De Becker told The Associated Press. Harrison’s wife, Olivia Harrison, and son Dhani, 24, were with him. ”He left this world as he lived in it, conscious of God, fearless of death, and at peace, surrounded by family and friends,” the Harrison family said in a statement. “He often said, Everything else can wait, but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another.”

With Harrison’s death, there remain two surviving Beatles: Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. John Lennon was shot to death by a deranged fan in 1980. ”I am devastated and very, very sad,” McCartney told The Press Association, a British news agency, early Friday. ”He was a lovely guy and a very brave man and had a wonderful sense of humor. He is really just my baby brother.”

The 58-year-old Harrison was no stranger to cancer treatment. In 1997, he discovered a lump on his neck that turned out to be cancerous. A malignant node from an oral cancer was treated with surgery and radiation. Of that incident, he said, “I got it purely from smoking. I gave up cigarettes many years ago, but had started again for a while and then stopped in 1997. Luckily for me they found that this nodule was more of a warning than anything else”. ”It reminds you that anything can happen,” he said at the time. He was correct when he said that years of heavy smoking likely precipitated his cancer. The links to this type of oropharyngeal cancer and heavy tobacco use have been well documented. The following year, Harrison survived an attack by an intruder who stabbed him several times. A man who sought privacy in his life, Harrison attempted to keep some of it, when a world of fans grew concerned about his ongoing encounters with cancer. In July 2001, he released a statement asking fans not to worry about reports that he was still battling cancer.

The Beatles were four distinct personalities joined as a singular force in the rebellious 1960’s, influencing everything from hairstyles to music. Whether dropping acid, proclaiming ”All You Need is Love” or poking fun at the squares in the film ”A Hard Day’s Night,” the Beatles inspired millions. Harrison’s guitar work, modeled on Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins among others, was an essential element in the Beatles mix. He could blend with the band’s joyous sound, or rock out wildly as on ”Long Tall Sally”, or turn slow and dreamy on ”Something.” His 12-string Rickenbacker, featured in ”A Hard Day’s Night,” was a major influence on the American band the Byrds. Although his songwriting was overshadowed by the great Lennon-McCartney team, Harrison did contribute such classics as ”Here Comes the Sun” and ”Something,” which Frank Sinatra covered. Harrison also taught the young Lennon how to play the guitar. ”As he said himself, how do you compare with the genius of John and Paul? But he did, very well,” rock star and activist Bob Geldof told BBC radio.

Harrison made his songwriting debut in 1963 with “Don’t Bother Me,” first available in the U.S. on 1964’s Meet The Beatles.

“It took me a while to pluck up the courage,”

-Harrison told Billboard’s Timothy White in 1992,

“Because we’d already had a bunch of hits–‘Love Me Do,’ ‘Please Please Me,’ ‘From Me to You’ with Lennon & McCartney songs.

They were getting what seemed like quite expert at it. I just had to try and write something that was acceptable that I wouldn’t get laughed out of the room with.” In fact, most of Harrison’s songs were anything but laughable; solidly constructed, often in minor keys not favored by Lennon & McCartney, they provided a valuable musical contrast that served to round out albums already brimming with brilliance. All told, the Beatles recorded 21 Harrison songs between 1963-70. Many are among the band’s best known, including “If I Needed Someone,” “Taxman,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Here Comes the Sun,” and, of course, “Something.”

He was known as the ”quiet” Beatle and his public image was summed up in the first song he wrote for them, ”Don’t Bother Me,” which appeared on the group’s second album. But Harrison also had a wry sense of humor that helped shape the Beatles’ irreverent charm, memorably fitting in alongside Lennon’s cutting wit and Starr’s cartoonish appeal.

At their first recording session under George Martin, the producer reportedly asked the young musicians to tell him if they didn’t like anything. Harrison’s response: ”Well, first of all, I don’t like your tie.” Asked by a reporter what he called the Beatles’ famous moptop hairstyle, he quipped, ”Arthur.” He was even funny about his own mortality. As reports of his failing health proliferated, Harrison recorded a new song – ”Horse to the Water” – and credited it to ”RIP Ltd. 2001.”

He always preferred being a musician to being a star, and he soon soured on Beatlemania – the screaming girls, the hair-tearing mobs, the wild chases from limos to gigs and back to limos. Like Lennon, his memories of the Beatles were often tempered by what he felt was lost in all the madness. ”There was never anything, in any of the Beatle experiences really, that good: even the best thrill soon got tiring,&#