He was the Quiet One; Beatle George; The Dark Horse. He was a lead guitarist with a talent for instrumental melodic innovation, and economy. He was the one who brought in Indian music and instruments to the Beatles, and introduced them to Transcendental Meditation while he was at it. George invited both Billy Preston, and Eric Clapton, to play on Beatles sessions to the betterment of the group’s material.

And of course, he was a superlative songwriter, cutting his own path through the pop music jungle the same as his partners John Lennon and Paul McCartney did, showing an equal mastery of power pop, world music, psychedelia, and folk-rock. His guitar playing first paid tribute to heroes Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins, soon evolving into his signature mournful, and impossibly clean slide playing.

The slow trickle of his talent as a songwriter led to a great torrent of creativity that finally had him produce his first A-side with the band in “Something”, and later in co-writing a song, “If Not For You”,  with one of the group’s most admired peers – Bob Dylan. It was his 1970 solo album All Things Must Pass that set him up as the first solo Beatle with a number one album, with songs on display that  showcased his true stature as a writer on his own. He would be the last Beatle (to date) to score a number one single in “I Got My Mind Set On You”.

There are shining gems to be found through out Harrison’s career, from his days in the Beatles to his final album Brainwashed in 2002, the year after he succumbed to cancer. So, on the day he would have celebrated his 68th birthday, here are the George Harrison songs that have meant the most to you, the fans (many of them friends of mine represented here) and some of the musicians you’ve seen featured on this blog too. Here’s the list.

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“All Things Must Pass” (Feb 25, 1969 demo version) – George Harrison, more than anyone else, inspired me to play guitar! So creative and innovative, beautiful tone and feel; so much (rubber)soul! George wrote so many great songs, every bit as good as his fab pals, I dare say. “Here Comes The Sun” and “Something” stand among the greatest songs ever written! Having said that my personal favorite is the demo version of “All Things Must Pass”; Just George and a guitar…

All things must pass away. The seconds pass,the days pass, the seasons pass, life will pass; all things must pass away. It’s the bittersweet truth of being human, sang in a gentle way that somehow brings me great comfort. The night,the day, joy, sorrow, love, loss, life, death.  It’s all part of a big picture. The meaning of life in a 3-min song! Yeah, yeah, yeah! : ) – Bill Majoros, The Foreign Films

“Here Comes The Sun” – I thought of a few – “Not Guilty”, “Badge” with Cream or even “Piggies” but really it has to be “Here Comes The Sun”. Those high Capo’d guitars and the innovative use of Moogs are wonderful and yes its sugary, but I love it. It’s one of the few records I remember from being a kid, i suppose on local radio in the early ’80s and I was so happy to rediscover it when I got Abbey Road on CD all those years later. Wonderful arrangement too. – Matt Stevens, guitarist

“Dark Horse” Because despite not being 100% he still sings his everlovin’ heart out on that track! – Christy N.

“I Want To Tell You” – My favourite Harrison song is ‘I Want to Tell You’. I think it encapsulates everything I love about Harrison’s writing style: slightly awkward but beautiful with it. – Molony, singer-songwriter

“Cheer Down” – I played “Cheer Down” over and over when he died. I thought that was appropriate, as I was fighting back the tears. – GoogaMooga

“My Sweet Lord” – I was 12 years old, in grade 7, and it was the last week of November 1970. I was listening to the top 40 countdown on Hamilton radio station CKOC. Coming on the chart for its first week at number 29 was George Harrison’s first single from landmark recording All Things Must Pass, “My Sweet Lord” (and “Isn’t It A Pity” on the b-side, to make it a double single release). The song was infectious from the first few strums on the guitar; George’s vocals and lyrics struck a chord in my heart and soul.

One week later “My Sweet Lord” was number 1 where it remained through Christmas and into January 1971. No song has ever made an impact on me since, and it remains not only my favourite Harrison composition but also my all-time favourite song. Today the song sounds just as fresh, moving and spiritually lifting as it did some 40 years ago! – Jeffery C. Martin, The Caretakers.

“I’ve Got My Mind Set On You” – Can I plump for the (slightly) more recent “Got My Mind Set on You” simply because it never fails to make me smile. – Rob Langley

“Long, Long, Long” –  It’s the closest the world’s biggest act on one of their biggest records ever came to having “an invisible song”. Tucked away at the end of Side Three, following the massively loud “Helter Skelter”, and virtually mastered inaudible on the stereo LP. YET…it lingers there for decades waiting for someone, anyone to just listen. Probably George’s most “wooden” sounding guitar, and by far their most humble and modest sounding track.- John San Juan, Hushdrops

“Wah Wah” – Rocks like a mofo! – Snarfyguy

Just For Today” – It has a wonderful melancholy sound, and some wicked slide guitar. – Andrew Legge

“Isn’t It A Pity” – I think I’ll go with “Isn’t It a Pity”. It never fails to move me. – Davey the Fat Boy

“Old Brown Shoe” –  OBS has a driving rhythm which harkens back to the Beatles’ skiffle origins, a killer bass part and maybe George’s best guitar solo. Lyrically, there’s a sense of unbridled joy and optimism. – Bob Petterson

Only A Northern Song” – Northern Songs, Ltd. was the publishing company of Lennon/McCartney songs. George’s songs were published there, too. But, such were the contactual differences between his stake and that of John and Paul that they profited more from his own songs than he did. Small wonder, then, that this somewhat bitter composition was written. – Tom Treestman

“Beware of Darkness” – Some fine guitar playing and the worst Scouse-isms on record; ‘Watch out now, take cur, be-wur of shoft shoe shufflers’ – Dances With Difficulty

I think Harrison is/was a musician’s musician which is why all my friends who are guitarists adore him and why I don’t really care for him other than through nostalgic ties as “the Beatle my sisters used to fancy”. Having said that I must say that I adore “Beware of Darkness”. Very subtle, tender, understated, but quite immense. – Oscar48

“Beware Of Darkness” is his finest – it has a melancholy feel, yet the lyrics are conspiratorially cynical and acerbic. The sweeping majesty of the melody and the prosaic slide solo is classic Harrison of this era – all in all, a beautiful, heartfelt, poetic yet hauntingly resigned song – Pete ‘Diamond Dog’ Harris

“Handle With Care”As with Lennon, I like almost nothing he did outside the band. “Here Comes The Sun” is far and away my favourite of his Beatles compositions. I fucking HATE (with a passion) “Something”,  and my very favourite Harrrisong is “Handle With Care”. – Johnny “The Slider” Roussety

“What Is Life” –  This is a great blast of optimism. It would have made a great Beatles track; you can imagine Macca doing the backing vox on the ‘if it’s not love / that you need / then I’ll try my best to make everything succeed’ bit. The horns and strings are perfect. – Atomic Loonybin

“Let It Down” I really like this one. His voice is so elegant here. – Never/Ever

“???” – In Beatle days, probably “Long Long Long” for spooky beauty or “It’s All Too Much” for epic power and melody and being one of the few Beatle songs that truly takes you all the way rather than leaving you wanting more. It’s nice sometimes to hear a song and be totally satisfied and done afterward.

On solo albums, there are so many . Loads of great stuff from Wonderwall Music and All Things Must Pass. “Party Seacombe” is so close to me. “Wah Wah” is a sound from heaven and another song that truly satisfies. “Be Here Now” is as perfect as he ever got, and the bridge has just that Harrison-like change that only he really would ever do.

I really like “The Answer’s at the End” for that pious style, which a lot of people dislike and comment on but I have a soft spot for. I also love his thrashed voice on Dark Horse on stuff like “Simply Shady“. What a sound! I sometimes like to wallow in ’70s Harrison — “Far East Man“, stuff like that.

I really have no idea what my real favorite is. I think he is very consistent up through ’76 — I forgot “Beautiful Girl“; another gem. And the ’79 album has great stuff on it too. I could probably be make an argument for “Don’t Bother Me” .

You are asking the impossible. – Jim Mills, Extra

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Happy birthday, George!

Hari, Hari, Rama Krishna

Enjoy!

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8 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, George Harrison: Songs Chosen By The Fans

  1. Hi Rob, I like this one by George Harrison too…”While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. It has a sweet melancholy about it that I find appealing.

    1. It’s a good one, alright. That’s the one (on the White Album version) on which Eric Clapton plays the solo. Before this, there were no sessioners on Beatles albums.

      Actually, there’s a demo version of this song which I think I might like even better – just George singing and on an echoey guitar. It’s downrightghostly. It’s similar to the version of “All Things Must Pass” which Bill Majoros talked about at the beginning of this post.

  2. I’ve always like Harrison’s sense of humour – such as when he turned up on SNL to claim his portion of the $3000 the show offered the Beatles to reunite. The sarcasm of ‘This Song’ which he wrote after losing the My Sweet Lord lawsuit is hilarious, in the same vein as Taxman – ‘declare the pennies on your eyes.’

    1. Geoff, most people call Lennon the sarcastic one. But, I think George at least matches him. There’s actually a lot of nastiness on a lot of George’s material, although not overt as much as Lennon’s “How Do You Sleep”. For instance, “Piggies” is absolutely brutal, for black humour and sarcasm.

      1. He once dismissed Jagger in an interview as ‘Poor Mick, always a day late and a dollar short,’ while discussing how the Stones seemed to follow the Beatles, ie Pepper & Satanic & Let It Be/Bleed. I think the quote was in Musician magazine about the time Cloud Nine came out – can’t remember. His dismissal of the Haight-Ashbury scene in The Beatles Anthology was brutal, he described the hippies as ‘spotty’ & got nastier from there. And then on Eric Idle’s Rutland Weekend Television he comes out to a backing band playing ‘My Sweet Lord’ and instead performs ‘I Want to be a Pirate.‘ Perfect.

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