And then there were two.

With the death of George Harrison, youngest of the Beatles, comes a shot of reality for all of us vaunted baby-boomers: not only are we mortal, but so are our small-g gods. Of course, we've been through this before, but with John, we had someone to blame. This time, there's no killer to name, just old-fashioned, undramatic, horrifying disease.

So many Beatles records bear Lennon-McCartney composer credits — by mutual agreement, songs written by either were credited to both until the Beatles partnership eroded away — that there's a tendency to think of George as just a guitarist. The fact is, though, that songwriting is only one part of making records, and in plenty of Beatles records, it's nowhere near the most important part. And more to the point, the uneven solo careers of all four Beatles demonstrate quite clearly that sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, however marvelous those parts may have been. (One should not forget, either, Sir George Martin, the Beatles' producer, without whom likely none of this would ever have come to pass.)

"Uneven", of course, implies high points as well as low, and George had his share of accomplishments, within the Beatles and without them.

It was George Harrison, more than anyone else, who invented rock and roll charity. The 1971 Concert for Bangladesh is the prototype for all such events, and while others may have raised more funds, none have raised more consciousness, or offered better music in the process.

It was George Harrison who found that the rhythms of West and East could be made not only compatible with one another, but compelling in their combination.

It was George Harrison who, while losing a lawsuit, showed that music does not exist in a vacuum, that every composer, irrespective of genre, is influenced by every piece he ever heard.

And it was George Harrison who best explained why there would be no Beatles reunion: it just wasn't possible, said George, "so long as John remains dead."

It seems even less possible today. But we have the music, and we have the memories. And tomorrow morning, here comes the sun, and as George said, it's all right.

The Vent

#271
1 December 2001

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 Copyright © 2001 by Charles G. Hill