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George Harrison was lead guitarist of The Beatles as well as a singer-songwriter on many of their most memorable tracks.
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Largely referred to as the "quiet Beatle" Harrison took a back-seat to McCartney, Lennon, and to a certain extent, Starr. Still, he could be quick-witted, even edgy. During the middle of one American tour, the group members were asked how they slept at night with long hair. Harrison fired back. "How do you sleep with your arms and legs still attached?"
From the start,
the Beatles were a Lennon-McCartney driven band and brand. But while the two took up much of the group's song writing responsibilities, Harrison had shown an early interest in creating his own work. In the summer of 1963 he spearheaded his first song, Don't Bother Me, which made its way on to the group's second album. From there on out, Harrison's songs were a staple of all Beatle records. In fact some of the group's more memorable songs such as While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Something, the latter of which was only the song ever recorded by Frank Sinatra, were penned by Harrison.
But his influence on the group and pop music in general extended beyond just singles. In 1965, while on the set of Beatles' second film, Help! Harrison took an interest in some of the eastern instruments and their musical arrangements that were being used in the movie. Harrison soon developed a deep interest in Indian music. He taught himself the sitar, introducing the instrument to many western ears on John Lennon's song, "Norwegian Wood." He soon cultivated a close relationship with renowned sitar player, Ravi Shankar. Other groups, including the Rolling Stones began incorporating the sitar into some of their work. It could be argued that Harrison's experimentation with different kinds of instrumentation help pave the way for such groundbreaking Beatle albums as Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Harrison's interest in Indian music soon extended into a yearning to learn more about eastern spiritual practices. In 1968, he led the Beatles on a journey to northern India to study transcendental meditation under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. (The trip was cut short after it was discovered that the Maharishi, an avowed celibate, had engaged in sexual improprieties.)
Having grown spiritually and musically since the group first started, Harrison, who was feeling the pangs to include more of his material on Beatle records, was clearly uneasy by the group's McCartney-Lennon dominance. During the Let It Be recording sessions in 1969, Harrison walked out, leaving the band for several weeks before he was coaxed to come back with the promise that the band would use more of his songs on its records.
But tensions in the group were clearly high. Lennon and McCartney had ceased writing together years before, and they too were feeling the yearning to go in a different direction. In January 1970, the group recorded George Harrison's I Me Mine. It was the last song the four of them would ever record together. Three months later, Paul McCartney announced he was leaving the band and the Beatles were officially done.
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