Tuesday, November 29, 2011
TEN YEARS GONE
Today marks the tenth anniversary of George Harrison’s passing. His musical accomplishments were considerable, though he had a tough time reconciling his role in the biggest group of the sixties. He was wont to speak about that period of his career through clenched teeth, preferring to focus on the present. Typically dry, upon accepting the Billboard Century Award in 1992 his first remark was telling.
"I'm sure that being in the Beatles has not been a hindrance to my solo career."
Forging his own path in the early seventies, Harrison was the first of his ex-colleagues to hit number one right out of the gate. Taking steps into territory that alienated longtime fans, singing about his personal beliefs and sharing the shimmering beauty of East Indian music with anyone who would listen, he remained unconcerned about replicating the past.
For the record, Dark Horse is an excellent album. Listen to it again!
Refusing to succumb to trivial audience pandering, he created on his own terms. When he was fed up with the bullshit that came with his trade, he retreated to his family and garden. The pleasure of music-making never disappeared from his radar, but he felt no compunction to reinvent himself every few years for the fickle masses.
Just dig what he was presenting live in '74.
Possessed of a dark sense of humor, when he heard that Neil Innes was reviving "The Rutles" in the mid 90s to parody The Beatles' Anthology with "Archaeology" he asked which one of them would get shot.
Slide guitar wizard, skirt-chaser, film mogul, lover of old scratchy records, ukelele virtuoso, racing enthusiast, spiritual seeker, philanthropist...lifelong smoker
He did kick the habit toward the end of his journey here in the material world. Sadly, it would not be in time.
My recollection of Nov 29, 2001 involves playing a lot of George’s music and drinking far too many beers. The following night I headed out to see Blue Oyster Cult at the Warehouse in Toronto with one of my best friends. BOC played “I Need You” as part of their set that evening, in fulsome tribute to a guy who likely inspired them to take up their instruments. It remains a very fond memory.
Late November 2002 brought two very pleasant surprises. Brainwashed, the record he had been working on in the last years of his life was posthumously completed (by his son Dhani and Jeff Lynne) and released. That and Tom Petty's Last DJ disc played constantly in my atmosphere for about a month afterward.
If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there...
Shortly after this, on Nov 29th, The Concert for George was held at the Albert Hall, featuring a band comprised of rock legends, all playing their friend on his way by performing his songs. When the DVD of this event was released the following year, it was yet another gift to those who continue to celebrate his legacy, winning new converts along the way.
Ten years on, the world still misses Nelson Wilbury. I’ll be playing his tunes tonight, drink in hand, wondering how a goddamn decade managed to slip by so quickly.
For your reading pleasure, check out this 1977