Wednesday, April 27, 2016

George Harrison-NPR Commentary


George Harrison stopped being a Beatle yesterday. According to him, they would each "go on being a Beatle" until they died. Surrendering to his extended battle with cancer, he left the stage as he had played on it...quietly.

George became a part of my life, on February 9th 1 964. Sitting Indian-style on the floor of my childhood home, I was spellbound by the sounds that sprang forth from our '58 Philco. The "Fab Four" had exploded into the American consciousness and though I was only nine years old; it was the beginning of a life-long love of music.

My love affair (AND borderline addiction) was further fueled when I bought my first, cherished piece of vinyl a year later. Columbia's release of Meet the Beatles made millions of lyrical revolutions before it was retired and replaced by a copy I still possess. Through the transformations from vinyl, to tape to compact disc, (I've yet to break my reference to them as records) The Beatles' complete anthology has been the cornerstone of my music collection... And with every release, George's inimitable, and sometimes, melancholic, strokes of the guitar captured my heart and moved my soul, shaping and reshaping my reverence for music.

 The Beatles were legendary for their masterful integration of each one's unique talent, a fact that sometimes makes it difficult to separate the part from the whole. My admiration for John and Paul runs deep; however, while they commanded the frenzied infatuation of the girls at school, I saw and heard something in the ever-evolving and unmistakable sound of the Beatle's lead guitarist.

I remember caressing the body of my beloved first guitar and pouring over my newly acquired Beatles songbook, suddenly seized by a sense of awkward unworthiness. Certainly it would be blasphemous to even attempt to play his work. These days, my dusty guitar sits silently in the corner of my music library. I am content, and still in awe, to hear his music played as it was written.

Comfortable in the shadows of Paul and John, George interwove his distinctive sound throughout the Beatles' music and beyond into his solo career. Here Comes the Sun, Give Me Love, What is Life, Something.. .the words to each song are forever inscribed in my head. One of his last songs, When We Was Fab always reminds of the "quiet Beatle's" poignant sense of humor.

 George Harrison's career is highlighted not only by his musical contribution through the Beatles, but includes his adventures with movie-making, his successful solo career, and his trailblazing leadership organizing the Concert for Bangladesh. 

In the end; however, he liked to describe himself as a gardener saying he lived simply, planting flowers and watching them grow. In his autobiography he remarked, "I stay at home and watch the river flow."

Yesterday, as the river flowed, George Harrison left us. He departed, leaving us with a rich tapestry of music and memory, taking flight with faith, on a journey home to a God who had long guided his life on earth.

Godspeed, George.
Now, my guitar gently weeps.