George Harrison in Four Songs

George Harrison passed away twenty years ago today, on the 29th of November, 2001. So soon after 9/11 it made the moment feel like the universe was piling on a bit, for George—the quiet Beatle—was the one I identified with the most. In these last twenty years I’ve come to appreciate his work even more. So on this anniversary of his passing, here are four of many extraordinary songs from George Harrison’s solo career:

Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with
Heart and soul
… My lord

A regular on every upbeat, joyful playlist I create, this song makes you feel glad to be alive. And that’s not unusual with George Harrison songs, for he made the most of his time on this Earth. You can easily say he was the most spiritual Beatle, trying to find meaning in this crazy world we live in and turning that search into songs of celebration and fellowship. My Sweet Lord is another example of this spiritualism exploration, and the two often end up on the same playlists.

Behind That Locked Door
Why are you still crying?
Your pain is now through

Please forget those teardrops
Let me take them for you
The love you are blessed with
This world’s waiting for
So let out your heart please, please
From behind that locked door

I’ve heard that George Harrison had a collection of ukuleles and loved playing them. This is a beautiful song for that particular instrument, and you feel George drawing a smile out of you even on your darkest days. Such a quietly delightful invitation out of your protective shell and back into the world.

What Is Life
Tell me, what is my life without your love?
Tell me, who am I without you by my side?

Sure, you can interpret this song a couple of ways. Is the relationship between two people in love or between a person and God? You might even consider that this was the first album released after The Beatles broke up, and it can mean something else entirely for you. It’s whatever you want it to mean, and it sticks in your brain for the catchiness and clever lyrics.

All Those Years Ago
We’re living in a bad dream
They’ve forgotten all about mankind
And you were the one they backed up to the wall
All those years ago
You were the one who imagined it all
All those years ago

George’s song about John Lennon, written after he was murdered in New York, celebrates the bond between the two lifelong friends even as it pointedly dismisses those who profited by knocking them and others down. These lyrics still stand out as we deal with a rise in nationalism, racism, and profiteering as the world struggles to reverse climate change and bring about positive and inclusive social change. John would have been a loud voice in the conversation today, and I suspect George would have been right there shoulder-to-shoulder with him. As he was all those years ago.

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