Born in Liverpool, England on February 24, 1943 (although he believed he was born on February 25 until his 40's), George Harrison was a popular British songwriter and musician, best known as a member of The Beatles.
Harrison was raised as a child at 12 Arnold Grove, and first attended school at Dovedale Infants, just off Penny Lane until he graduated on to attended the Liverpool Institute, a school known for it's smart students. Despite the status of the school, Harrison was regarded as a poor student, and contemporaries described him as someone who would "sit alone in the corner." In the mid-1950s he met fellow school mate Paul McCartney and the two later played lead guitar in the Quarry Men, the band that would eventually became The Beatles.
At the height of The Beatles' popularity, he was often dubbed the "Quiet Beatle", for his introspective manner and his growing interest in Hinduism. In the mid 1960s he began playing the sitar, which influenced the sound of The Beatles music in such songs as Norwegian Wood, Love You To, and Within You Without You. His interest in the instrument brought him into contact with the sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, who became a close friend and mentor.
It was his meeting with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi that led him first into meditation. In the summer of 1969, The Beatles produced the single Hare Krishna Mantra, performed by Harrison and the devotees of the London Radha-Krishna Temple that topped the 10 best-selling record charts throughout UK, Europe, and Asia. The same year, he and fellow Beatle John Lennon met Swami Prabhupada A.C. Bhaktivedanta, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Harrison would soon convert to the Hare Krishna beliefs and remained a devotee until his death.
While not the primary composer in the group in favor of Lennon and McCartney writing most of the Beatles' material, as time went on his songs improved and earned respect from his fellow Beatles and the music-buying public at large. Notable examples include Taxman, Here Comes the Sun, Something, and While My Guitar Gently Weeps, which was strongly influenced by the music of his friend Roy Orbison and featured a guitar solo by Eric Clapton.
After the Beatles split in 1970, Harrison released a number of albums that were critically and commercially successful, both as solo projects and as the member of other groups. Feeling he was stifled by the limitations of the Beatles' catalog, he unleashed a torrent of material in the first major solo work released after the breakup, the triple album All Things Must Pass. The album included the number one hit single, My Sweet Lord, although Harrison was later sued for copyright infringement over similarities between My Sweet Lord and the 1963 Chiffons single He's So Fine. Harrison denied deliberately stealing the song, but he did lose the case in 1976; in the ruling, the court accepted the possibility that Harrison had unconsciously taken the Chiffons song as the basis for his own song.
Harrison is widely considered the first modern musician to organize a major charity concert. His Concert for Bangladesh on August 1, 1971, drew over 40,000 people to New York's Madison Square Garden, and raised mi llions of dollars to aid refugees of Bangladesh. The concert also included Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, Badfinger and Billy Preston. Classical sitar maestro Ravi Shankar opened proceedings.
Although he continued to release records throughout the 1970s, those releases met with dwindling interest and sales. In 1974 he formed his own record label, Dark Horse Records' and issued a limited number of records by performers such as Splinter, Attitudes and Ravi Shankar. When his contract with EMI expired in 1976 he moved his own material to his own label. That first release was inspired by the murder of his friend and former bandmate John Lennon, Harrison comp osed, All Those Years Ago, a tribute song to Lennon. The song got substantial radio airplay and continues to be a staple of "classic rock" radio. But after the 1982 release of Gone Troppo was met with indifference, he did not release anything until 1987 with the album Cloud Nine, co-produced with Jeff Lynne. The platter got a #8 charting hit, mostly of the back of his cover version of Got My Mind Set On You when it was released as a single; the single got a US #1, UK #2.
He was also involved in film production through his HandMade Films' company, providing financial backing for the Monty Python film Life of Brian after the original backers (EMI Films') withdrew because of the supposedly controversial subject matter of the film. Other films produced by HandMade' included Mona Lisa, Time Bandits, Shanghai Surprise and Withnail and I. Also during the 1980s, he helped form the band Traveling Wilburys with Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty when they gathered in Dylan's garage to quickly record an additional track for a projected Harrison European single release. The record company realized the resulting song "Handle With Care" was too good for it's original purpose and asked for a separate album. They had only two weeks to complete the work as Dylan was scheduled to start a tour.
Throughout the 1990s, Harrison, a former smoker, battled cancer, having growths removed first from his throat, then his lung. In 1999 there was an attempt on his life by a crazed fan who stabbed him at his home, Friar Park in Henley-on-Thames, puncturing his lung.
Harrison was married twice. His first wife was model, Patti Boyd, for whom Harrison is supposed to have written the song, Something. Following their divorce, Boyd married Eric Clapton (said to have written Layla for her after their earlier affair). Harrison married for a second time to Olivia Arias, in September 1978. The ceremony took place at their home, with Joe Brown acting as Best Man. They had one son, Dhani Harrison, born the previous month.
George Harrison passed away at the home of a friend in Los Angeles, California on Thursday, November 29, 2001, at the age of 58, death being blamed to his long battle with cancer, this time a brain tumor; he was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the River Ganges.
His final album, Brainwashed was completed posthumously by his son Dhani Harrison and Jeff Lynne and released in November 2002.
On November 29th, 2002, the first anniversary of his death, the Concert For George saw the two remaining Beatles Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr join many of Harrison's friends for a special memorial concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London that benefited the Material World Charitable Foundation. Ravi Shankar joined Jeff Lynne in a performance of The Inner Light, Eric Clapton and Lynne performed I Want To Tell You and Here Comes The Sun, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers (with Jools Holland and Sam Brown) performed Taxman and I Need You, Starr performed Photograph, members of Monty Python (Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam) performed The Lumberjack Song, and McCartney and Starr performed For You Blue". For the finale, all of the artists went back on stage to end with Something, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, My Sweet Lord, (with Billy Preston on keyboards), and I'll See You In My Dreams.