Today, February 25, marks what would have been the 67th birthday of George Harrison. The youngest member of the Beatles, Harrison was only 27 years old when the band parted ways. But while the world best remembers him for his work with the Fab Four, George had quite a remarkable career in his own right.
Long before “We are the World” and “Live Aid” rocked the scene, Harrison set the standard for rock and roll benefit concerts. His “Concert for Bangla Desh” raised millions of dollars for the impoverished country in 1971. Two decades later, George was still doing charity work (along with his band “The Traveling Wilburies”) to raise money for Romanian orphans.
Harrison’s distinctive style of playing slide on the electric guitar easily identifies much of his recorded work. However, he did not employ his signature style until AFTER he left the Beatles.
Ringo Starr married a Bond Girl. Paul McCartney became a tabloid fixture during his messy divorce from Heather Mills. And John Lennon was absorbed into the compound noun “johnandyoko.” But Harrison was the only Beatle to partake in a romance of truly legendary proportions. Make that an Arthurian legend:
Harrison’s dear friend Eric Clapton loved George’s wife Pattie Boyd with all the passionate yearning of a heart-sick Lancelot. Like the noble King Arthur, Harrison stepped aside to let his Guinevere follow her heart. George remained friends with both Eric and Pattie after their marriage – and after their subsequent divorce as well. But unlike King Arthur, Harrison married again after breaking up with his first wife. George lived happily ever after with the lovely Olivia Arias until his death in 2001.
George became a film producer almost by accident. When his friends in Monty Python were on the verge of losing funding for their upcoming film “The Life of Brian,” Harrison stepped up to the plate and underwrote the movie. But his “Handmade Films” company took off quickly after that, and produced such art-house classics as “Withnail and I” and “Mona Lisa.” Harrison also foot the bill for Eric Idle’s hit comedy “Nuns on the Run,” and the Madonna/Sean Penn clunker “Shanghai Surprise.”
The Beatles sold more records than any other artists in history. However, Harrison also accomplished some extraordinary record-selling feats on his own. He holds the UK record for the longest gap (31 years) between number one songs (his two versions of “My Sweet Lord” each topped the charts in 1971 and 2002). And when that latter version hit the peak position, it knocked out a number one song by the late R&B singer Aaliyah Haughton (“More than a Woman”), marking the first time in UK history that two posthumously released songs topped the charts back-to-back.