All Things Must Pass: A tribute to George Harrison

All Things Must Pass: A tribute to George Harrison

When he died last November at the age of 58, George Harrison was hailed as "the quiet Beatle," the guy who successfully managed a graceful transition from the global megastardom of the 1960s to a second career as a movie producer (whose Handmade Films banked such Monty Python comedies as "Life of Brian" and 'Time Bandits," and did much to goose the British film industry to its 1980s renaissance); he never tilted at the zeitgeist, like the "martyred Beatle," John Lennon, or persisted in recording mediocre solo albums for years on end, like the "cute Beatle," Paul McCartney. And, well, he wasn't Ringo, either.

The thing was, Harrison found his own path, one that had less to do with being a former member of the 20th century's most fabulous pop act and a whole lot more to do with cultivating a separate artistic identity. He was, to paraphrase Walker Percy, "onto the search," and that sense of spiritual openness made his music as expansive in its reach for non-Western sounds and influences as it was ultimately devotional in focus. Maybe that made him the "metaphysical Beatle," as it was Harrison who introduced the group to the sitar (and Ravi Shankar) -- and played it on songs such as "Norwegian Wood" and "Within You Without You" -- and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

This, after all, was the guitarist who organized The Concert for Bangladesh, and titled his early solo efforts "All Things Must Pass" and "Living in the Material World," and whose hit "My Sweet Lord," triggered more than a controversy over the "subconscious" borrowing of the melody from the Chiffons 1962 hit "He's So Fine." Southern Baptist ministers were angered by the fact that the "Lord" Harrison sang to wasn't, in fact, Jesus, but Krishna, warning youthful flocks that humming along to the tune might be akin to devil worship. Which, at the time, only helped to make Harrison seem even more surpassingly hip. 
Even without such transitory tempests, Harrison was that. Just listen to his slide guitar! Gently weeping, of course -- he nailed that one for keeps -- but, truly, he played with a glimmering, vocal quality whose supple modulations were sublime. His musicianship overshadowed his contributions as a tunesmith -- which included songs like "Something," which will never go out of fashion -- difficult enough as it was to play third party to the songwriting team of Lennon-McCartney. But, in a way, Harrison's contributions had to count for more. 
- by Steve Dollar


This essay originally appeared in the program booklet for “All Things Must Pass: A Tribute to George Harrison," a September 26th, 2002 NYGF concert featuring Vernon Reid, Wolfgang Muthspiel,  the Joel Harrison Ensemble, Steve Bernstein's Sex Mob w/ special guest Dave Tronzo.


photo: harrison1.jpg

George Harrison. Photograph courtesy of Diamond Images.


photo: harrison2.jpg

Richard Barone and Vernon Reid rehearsing

“Think For Yourself” backstage at Merkin Hall.


photo: harrison3.jpg

Dave Tronzo rehearsing with Sex Mob.


photo: harrison5.jpg

Tronzo & Wolfgang Mouthspiel.


photo: harrison4.jpg

Steve Bernstein & Sex Mob at their soundcheck.


photo: harrison8.jpg

Joel Harrison making last-minute amp

adjustments before the concert.

photo: harrison7.jpg

Janet D’Addario, Vernon Reid, Jim D’Addario

and David Spelman backstage.


photo: harrison6.jpg  

Tony Cedras (accordian) and the Joel Harrison

Ensemble during their soundcheck.


photo: harrison5.jpg

Tronzo & Wolfgang Mouthspiel.


Bookmark and Share