by Greg Gargs Allard
Fourteen years ago yesterday, my worst fears of the four years since George Harrison had been first diagnosed with cancer appeared on the lobby TV screen at the Holiday Inn in Fort Lauderdale. While I was waiting in line to get my cash deposit back from the night before’s stay, a grim voice came on the news that matter-of-factly, almost anti-climatically said “George Harrison is dead.”
The picture above the news anchor was of George wearing a windbreaker from around the time Linda McCartney died, so his face was grave, with the finality of “1943-2001” stamped under it. George was one of my true heroes and I walked out of the hotel, forgetting to collect my deposit. The rest of the day seemed like a surreal blur, or a dream you keep on waking up to or from but which one wasn’t clear.
To me, George was one of the dearest spiritual mentors. He introduced me to Krishna consciousness through the song “My Sweet Lord,” as well as the album “Living in the Material World,” and through the medium of rock ‘n’ roll, which was all-important to me, continued through his songs to elucidate reality over illusion for the ultimate welfare of all. And being that he was lead guitarist for the greatest rock ‘n’ roll group of all time didn’t hurt either.
As the day progressed on, tributes from fellow artists and dignitaries from all over the world poured in, like this one from fellow Traveling Wilbury Bob Dylan, “He was a giant, a great, great soul, with all of the humanity, all of the wit and humor, all of the wisdom, the spirituality, the common sense of a man and compassion for people. He inspired love and had the strength of a hundred men. He was like the sun, the flowers and the moon, and we will miss him enormously. The world is a profoundly emptier place without him.”
Or this one from friend and also fellow Wilbury, Tom Petty, “I think (spirituality), probably, was the greatest gift he gave me. He gave me a way of understanding a higher power without it being stupid, or having tons of rules and books to read. But the best thing I can say to people that are curious about that is George was probably everything that you thought he was, and then some more. Very funny man; he could just kill me with his humor. He was a great guy and I miss him terribly.”
Over the last decade plus, a number of songs have been written about George as well, which we will showcase here.
The first song is from Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton from Ringo’s Ringo Rama LP (2003) called “Never Without You”
In 2005, Paul McCartney released “Friends to Go” from his Chaos and Creation in the Backyard”: “The funny thing about it was I felt as if I was almost George Harrison during the writing of that song,” said Paul “I just got this feeling, this is George. So it was like I was writing – I was like George – writing one of his songs. So I just wrote it – it just wrote itself very easily ’cause it wasn’t even me writing it.”
Tom Petty’s “Dreamville,” from 2002’s The Last DJ, a record that came out just after George’s death, seems to invoke George’s “Blue Jay Way” with the lines, “I keep waking up all by myself with a blue jay in my brain. He was flapping his wings, making me sing, it was just about to rain.” The song is about how the innocent days of rock ‘n’ roll influenced Petty in his hometown of Gainesville, Fla. George died during a rainy afternoon in Los Angeles, a rare occurrence and also the place the George penned Beatles’ song “Blue Jay Way.”
Of course, besides being close friends with Ringo, Paul and Tom, George was also friends with Bob Dylan. Although, Bob did write a song in honor of John Lennon called “Roll On John,” one would be hard-pressed to find a song that Dylan wrote with references to George after George’s death but I think there is one, however.
George Harrison often said that he was more of a gardener than a musician and that he liked to watch things grow. And as anyone who ever stepped on George’s property in England can attest, he was quite the gardener. The song “Ain’t Talkin'” by Bob Dylan seems to fit the bill in regards to George Harrison references with phrases like “mystic garden,” and at the end of the song, “The gardener is gone.”
Here’s a cover of it as Dylan’s is not available on the Internet for sharing purposes:
In April 2015, James McColl and the Supernaturals out of Scotland, who have scored a number of Top 40 hits across the pond, released a great Harrison tribute on their 360 album called “My Sweet George,” which comically refers to “smoking a fag” and “eating digestives” among other things.
Mike Love of the Beach Boys wrote a song called “Pisces Brothers” about his time spent with George Harrison in Rishikesh. Although it was meant for a solo project, the album was scrapped and Love decided to release the song ten years later. The line “Hare Krishna – gonna miss ya” is especially cute.
The Bossa Nova Beatniks wrote “Melancholy Day” in tribute to George Harrison about playing George’s songs on a lonely day.”I need you to fill this emptiness.”
Finally here George’s son Dhani covers George’s “For You Blue.”Share on social media