On February 25, 1943 during World War II, George Harrison was born in Liverpool, England, the youngest of four children. By the time he was 18, he was a pop star and an inspiration to thousands of young musicians around the world. While most young men turning 21 celebrated by going to a bar, Harrison was recording Revolver
while two of his guitar heroes--Chet Atkins and Duane Eddy--were interpreting Beatle songs for their own albums. A few years later at the start of Harrison's solo career away from The Beatles, even Frank Sinatra was a fan, declaring the Harrison-penned classic from "Something" as the best love song of the past 50 years.
Harrison often referred to himself as the invisible harmony between fellow Beatles and life long pals John Lennon and Paul McCartney. And as both a singer and a guitarist, Harrison's gifts can be elusive if you're not listening carefully. As the only member of the band who was a dedicated guitarist, Harrison often provided a kind of invisible internal harmony to Lennon & McCartney's songs and to the group as a whole. Pick up a Casino
or Les Paul
(two guitars that George helped to popularize around the world) and try playing along to Harrison's guitar parts and you'll find that the "quiet Beatle" had a terrific chord vocabulary far advanced beyond most of his peers.
Modern guitarists like Marc Ribot, the Heartbreakers' Mike Campbell, and Nels Cline of Wilco all recognize Harrison's uncanny ability to lift songs from good great with subtle accents. Harrison was, of course, much more than just a Beatle. He was also a race car enthusiast, film-maker, master gardener, and most importantly, responsible for making the pop music world think globally and not just about the next press party.
Even before he organized the Concert for Bangladesh--the first major charity rock concert--George was already recognized by his fellow Beatles as the member most likely to provide spiritual gravitas to situations. In that regard, Harrison's surprise apperance on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1968 was the perfect way for The Beatles to show support to the controversial (and highly rated) comedy group after they publicly spoke out against the Vietnam War on their CBS network television show. (While he was there, Harrison also introduced the video for The Beatles' new single, "Hey Jude").
Harrison's stature as songwriter, producer, guitarist, and all-around fascinating person grows greater with each year. So as George himself once said, whatever you want to say with your guitar, keep trying to say it. Happy Birthday, Mr. Harrison! Cue the applause!