Nov. 29 will mark 10 years to the day since George Harrison died of cancer. Perhaps no other comparable celebrity has gotten more short shrift than “the Quiet Beatle.”
Martin Scorsese’s recent HBO documentary on Harrison went a long way toward righting the historic wrong. Harrison had been the third banana to Beatle band mates John Lennon and Paul McCartney — not bad company, by the way — for as long as fans have admired the Fab Four. It wasn’t, and still isn’t, exactly fair.
One of the Beatles’ trademarks was the economy of their music. No drum solos by Ringo Starr. And, likewise, no screaming guitar solos from Harrison, which meant he had to say his musical piece in a matter of seconds. Take that Jimi Hendrix!
Plus, Harrison had to contend with the Lennon-McCartney federation. It was always two against one. Their songs were the band’s singles. They were called geniuses. It was as if Harrison was always in their shadow. At first, that was warranted. But Harrison deserved his share of the spotlight, as he came up with gems such as “If I Needed Someone,” “Taxman,” “Within You Without You,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Old Brown Shoe,” “It’s All Too Much,” “Something,” and “Here Comes the Sun.”
Plus, he stood out after the Beatles broke up. Harrison bravely organized and fronted the Concert for Bangladesh, appearing before 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden to help raise for the downtrodden land in 1971. It was the first time that rock stars did charity work in such a big way. That accomplishment meant more than having a hit album.
George Harrison was special as a musician and remarkable as a concerned citizen. The world is a lesser place without him.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column.
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