George Harrison was born in Liverpool on the 25th of February 1943 (later he said he found out his birthday was really on the 24th). His father Harold was a bus driver and his mother Louise was a housewife.
George’s first house was a little “two up, two down” house 12 Arnold Grove, Wavertree. It was rather cramped for George, his parents,his two brothers Harold and Peter and his sister Louise, but in 1950 (after being 18 years on the waiting list) the family finally got a new Council house at 25 Upton Green, Speke. They moved there the day after New Year’s Day 1950.
George attended Dovedale Primary school, two forms behind John Lennon. At first he was a good enough scholar to pass the eleven-plus examination and go to the Liverpool Institute (the city’s best high school for boys), but once in the school he began to lose interest in his lessons and failed his exams. He was also very rebellious and started wearing tight drainpipe trousers and growing his hair as long as he could, against the school’s “short hair” regulations.
Paul McCartney went to the same school as George (one form above) and he took the same bus as George to school. They met each other on the bus and soon found out they were both into music, so Paul introduced George to John Lennon, of whose band The Quarry Men he was a member. At first George was considered too young to join the group, but he kept hanging around with them and following them to all their party engagements so he finally became a member of the band.
After changing name a couple of times, the group finally settled down to “Beatles” in 1960. In August 1960 the group (consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best) set off for Hamburg, where they were engaged to play at the Indra Club and then, after it closed down, at the Kaiserkeller, both in the red-light area of Hamburg and both owned by Bruno Koschmider. Their collaboration ended after the Beatles started playing at the Top Ten Club, against the agreement that said they were not allowed to play anywhere within a radius of 25 miles without Koschmider’s permission. Koshcmider handed them a month’s termination of contract notice and soon after, the police somehow found out that George was not 18 yet and so it was illegal for him to stay- let alone work- in a club after midnight. George was deported and sent back to England and soon after the rest of the band followed, after Paul and Pete were accused by Koschmider of trying to set fire to a cinema he owned.
The Beatles return to Liverpool signaled the start of Beatlemania and also the start of the Beatles’ playing at the Cavern Club. They returned to Hamburg to play at the Top Ten Club in mid-1961 where they also made a record, backing Tony Sheridan on My Bonnie and When the Saints Go Marching In. It was this single that allegedly brought then to the attention of Brian Epstein, who eventually became their manager. Brian secured them an audition with Decca Records on New Year’s Day 1962 which they failed to pass, but they finally got a contract with EMI’s Parlophone label. As the band’s popularity began to rise and Beatlemania conquered the world, George was at first overshadowed by the songwriting talents of the Lennon/McCartney team. He soon began to write more and more songs of his own, however, and he eventually showed that he was as talented as Paul and John, although many people still don’t appreciate him at his full value.
During the filming of A Hard Day’s Night George met model Patti Boyd. He fell in love with her and asked her out was for a date. Patti refused at first, because she already had a boyfriend, but George was persistent so she finally yielded. They started going out and soon Patti split up with her previous boyfriend and moved in with George. They got married on 26 January, 1966.
By the end of 1965 George was already beginning to get very interested in Indian music and culture. He bought a sitar -though he had no idea how to use it at the time- and had the idea of adding sitar chords to John’s Norwegian Wood– the first time a sitar appeared on a pop record. He started writing India-influenced songs like Love You To and Within You Without You and at the end of 1966 he spent a month in India, studying the sitar, Yoga, Indian philosophy and culture. He also wrote, recorded and produced the soundtrack for the film Wonderwall with Indian musicians in 1968. On 25 August 1967 George travelled with the other Beatles to Bangor, North Wales to attend a course on transcendental meditation by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. They all found meditation really interesting and decided to go to India for three months in early 1968, to study it more in depth. The visit didn’t go at all as well as intended, though, and the Beatles returned to England earlier then planned, disillusioned with the Maharishi and although they said it was only him they were abandoning and not meditation, neither subject was mentioned much again. George’s love for Indian music and culture remained, however, and he still has Eastern spiritual beliefs.
On 12 March 1969- the same day that Paul and Linda were getting married- Patti answered the door of the bugalow where she and George were living to find the police. They had a warrant to search the house for illegal substances. They found some marijuna, and George and Patti were charged with cannabis possesion. They pleaded guilty, although they said they had no idea the drugs were where they were. Ironically, the sergeant who had searched their house was charged a few months later with planting drugs on an innocent suspect.
Meanwhile, tension was building up between the members of the Beatles, and by early 1969 they were on the verge of break-up . After quarrelling with both Paul and John, George left the group and, according to press reports, travelled north to visit his parents. He returned after about a week, having decided to stay with the group, but this did not mean the end of the tension or the problems. George was quite pleased to go on tour with Americans Delaney & Bonnie in December as an anonymous member of their backing group, Friends, along with Eric Clapton. He knew it was his only chance to return to the concert stage without making huge headlines in the press or been really noticed at all- he could just slip on at the back of the stage fairly unnoticed. He also produced a recording of the traditional devotional chant “Hare Krishna Mantra” by the Radha Krishna Temple in September, which surprisingly became a hit at the time.
1970 saw the official break-up of the Beatles. For George, that was a good chance to go off and record all the songs he had written that he’s been holding back during the last 2 or so years. The result was All Things Must Pass, a double album with an extra disk containing a jam session from the studio. The album features guitar contributions played by Eric Clapton and many people consider it George’s best solo work. However, George was sued for allegedly copying the hit My Sweet Lord from a song called He’s So Fine. The case continued until 1976, when George was found guilty of “subconsciously” plagiarizing He’s So Fine.
In 1971 George organized a charity concert for Bangladesh. Other people playing included Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Badfinger, and Ravi Shankar. The songs from the concert were later released on record. George also toured the United States in 1974, but the tour got bad reviews and George was criticized for being experimental in music and not playing any Beatles songs. The fans weren’t too enthusiastic either, and George didn’t tour again until 1991 (17 years later).
At the same time, George’s marriage to Patti was also falling apart. George had cheated on Patti a few times and they were gradually growing apart for other reasons as well. Finally, after years of discord, George and Patti divorced in 1977 and Patti later married George’s friend Eric Clapton, who had long been in love with her. George did not consider that Eric had stolen his wife or anything, however, and to this day they still remain friends.
Meanwhile, George had met and fallen in love with Mexican-Californian Olivia Arias, who was working as a secretary in his Dark Horse record company. They had a son, Dhani, born on 1 August 1978 and they married soon after. In 1980, George published his memoir, I Me Mine, which he dedicated “to gardeners everywhere”, because, as he said in the book, he now looks at himself as a gardener.
George was quite active during the 80’s. He wrote a tribute song to John called All Those Years Ago in 1981, on which all the ex-Beatles collaborated. He also released Cloud Nine in 1987, which contained hit songs such as Got My Mind Set on You and When We Was Fab. Then in 1988 he became a member of The Travelling Wilburys, a band consisting of Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and the late Roy Orbison. He was also involved in film-making, as the co-owner of the production company HandMade Films which has made film such as Monty Python’s Life of Brian (where George does a cameo appearance) and Time Bandits.
In 1994, George got together with the other two remaining Beatles to record Free as a Bird and Real Love for the Beatles Anthology. He was also interviewed, along with the other Beatles, for the Beatles Anthology TV series and for what later became the Beatles Anthology book.
But in 1998, George was diagnosed with throat cancer. He came off well (as he said, “they found out it was more of a warning than anything else”). Then in late 1999, a man broke into George’s house near Henley-on-Thames and threatened to kill George with a knife. He was insane and believed the Beatles were “witches”. George was stabbed in the chest but luckily he survived the attack thanks to the help of his wife Olivia, who hit the attacker on the head with a poker and a table lamp, and thanks to early arrival of the police. George recovered, but unfortunately he was again diagnosed with cancer in 2001. He underwent treatment for lung cancer in March, but a brain tumour was found a few months later. After undergoing treatment for it in a Swiss clinic and trying a new type of therapy as a last chance in America, George died of the disease on November 29, 2001.
RIP George, we’ll never forget you.