Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rediscovering George

I’m pleased to take a welcome break from discouraging politics to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed the new documentary portrait of musician/singer-songwriter/film producer George Harrison, entitled George Harrison: Living in the Material World.  It debuted on HBO this month, and if you are or ever were a Beatles fan, not to mention a Harrison fan, it’s really worth seeing.  It features some familiar Beatles footage as well as Beatles material I’ve never seen, and, a lot about (and with) George individually.  Directed by the indefatigable Martin Scorsese and produced by him and George’s wife of 30 years, Olivia Harrison, the film also offers interviews with her and their son, as well as an assortment of music and film notables, including old friends and family.

I must admit that after the Beatles broke up, I didn’t pay much attention to Harrison’s ongoing career (I was wrapped up in John & Yoko), nor did I realize how many popular Beatles songs were written by him, rather than the famous Lennon & McCartney duo – among them “Here Comes the Sun,” “If I Needed Someone,” “Blue Jay Way” and “Something (in the way she moves)”; I did recall “Don’t Bother Me,” “I, Me, Mine,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Savoy Truffle” and of course, “Tax Man.”  Apart from the Beatles, Harrison released numerous albums and generated such hits as “All Things Must Pass,” “Beware of Darkness,” “Wah-Wah” and “My Sweet Lord,” to mention a few.

I also forgot that it was George Harrison who produced “The Concerts for Bangladesh” – the concerts, the album, the film – which was the very first rock- star-studded event to serve a charitable cause, pre-dating “We Are The World,” Live Aid, all the other Aids, and all of Bono’s good work.

Now all this may say more about my foggy memory than George Harrison’s show biz prominence, but I also forgot that it was he who assembled The Traveling Wilburys, which began as musical fun among friends: he and Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne.  I knew he had produced Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, but I didn’t know he mortgaged his house to do it, or that he formed a film company that produced other Python movies, along with an impressive list of other well-respected films.

I knew it was George Harrison who discovered Hindu spirituality for himself and turned the other Beatles onto it as well.  I didn’t realize how strong a part it played in his life right up to the end, long after his band mates left it behind, or to what great extent his musical teacher, Ravi Shankar, was his spiritual teacher, as well.

Despite all I’ve written here, you’ll find much more to learn – and admire – about George Harrison, the man and the artist, in this new documentary.  It’s a reminder of how much the Beatles gave us, together and individually, how much we’ve lost – and how much they left us.

No comments: