George Harrison: 75 Years and Beyond
The anniversary of the youngest Beatle's birth brings a tribute concert rerelease and an opportunity to celebrate his legacy.
By Jere Hester
Published Feb 22, 2018
The 2002 George Harrison tribute concert brimmed with music greats – Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton, among them – who played the late Beatle's best known songs, a year after his death at age 58.
But the show ended on an unexpected note with respected, but far-from-superstar musician Joe Brown strumming a ukulele center stage at Royal Albert Hall, singing "I'll See You in My Dreams," a big hit from 1925.
It marked a pure "George" moment: low-key, but high-impact. Just a pal playing one of Harrison's favorite instruments, performing a sad and sweet song about love, loss and the power of memory.
"Concert for George" earned a theatrical rerelease and a reissue on vinyl this week in honor of a Beatles milestone that otherwise might have gone largely unheralded by all but hardcore fans: the 75th anniversary of Harrison's birth.
The date might be a matter of debate – Harrison long believed he was born on Feb. 25, 1943, though some sources say he made his debut late the night before. But there's no question this weekend offers an opportunity to celebrate a legacy launched all those years ago.
The birthday lands amid two other important Beatles February anniversaries: the band's 1964 arrival in the U.S. and their 1968 visit to India. The mileposts represent both the passage of four years and light years on the Beatles' incredible journey.
Harrison's branch of the trip spanned from Liverpool to unprecedented superstardom to a spiritual quest to a death far too soon from cancer in 2001.
He provided his own soundtrack for the odyssey, going from lead guitarist and background harmonizer to a songwriter and singer whose strongest work – "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Something," "Here Comes the Sun" – rose to Lennon-McCartney levels.
Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" might be the greatest of the Beatle solo albums, spawning "My Sweet Lord" and "What is Life," which is less a song than his defining question during last his three decades among us.
His wit and musical output proved the "Quiet Beatle" moniker a misnomer, even if Harrison often retreated into private life to escape a world that, by his reckoning, used the Beatles as an excuse to "go mad."
It's tempting to contemplate what he'd think about the world today – and how he'd express himself, in song or otherwise, at age 75.
But the youngest of the Beatles, through his humor, spirit and music, inspired fans to search for answers on our own, fueled by dreams large enough to fill the Albert Hall and then some.