By David Kenney
Isn’t it a pity indeed.
With Beatle George Harrison’s passing, many will eulogize the late Beatle while focusing on his time with the Fab Four. Yes, in a span of only seven years, the Beatles not only defined ’60s music but a cultural revolution. Still, George was more than just a mop top; he was a pioneer in a many other ways.
With "Norwegian Wood," Harrison introduced the world to the Sitar–an Indian guitar–and fused pop and world music. The late Beatle also introduced Sitar master Ravi Shankar to the world, bringing a larger awareness of Indian music. Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, ex-Talking Head David Byrne and Ry Cooder all owe Harrison thanks for transcending those boundaries. George Harrison was a Renaissance man of world music.
As Harrison’s song goes, he was extremely interested in "Peace on Earth." Too shy for a bed-in, the quiet Beatle organized the first ever benefit concert for Bangladesh. Three nights at Madison Square Garden, a triple-vinyl album and an $8.5 million cheque later, Harrison established a standard. Following his Beatles’ hippie mantra, Harrison showed that all you need is love.
The hippie movement in itself can largely be attributed to Harrison’s interest and involvement with the Hare Krishna faith. Harrison lead The Beatles along the mystical path which transposed itself onto the whimsical Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Band and Magical Mystery Tour albums, two that shifted the musical soundscape into full psychedelia. Such interest in eastern religions influenced and continues to influence the peace movement.
Right now, the quiet Beatle is probably shaking his head at all this attention being paid to him. After all, he was just another human being. True, but George Harrison proved that within fame lies the means to change and revolutionize something artists worried about record sales and age demographics don’t seem to grasp.
Ironically, Harrison’s first Beatles song was "Don’t Bother Me." The happy ending is that now no one will. But we can’t help but wish he were still here to inspire and push the world’s buttons.