George Harrison rarely gave his son advice. “The only two things he felt I had to do in my life were be happy and meditate,” Dhani Harrison once told Rolling Stone about his late father. As we mark the anniversary of the death of “the Quiet Beatle,” many fans can’t stop debating whether Harrison should have received a larger share of credit for the Beatles’ enormous success and musical influence.
Well, it might ease you to know that Harrison didn’t really care about much about any of those accolades.
If he did, he’d have had plenty to count: He was listed as one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time by Rolling Stone — at No. 11 to be exact. His time with the “Fab Four” also found him composing classic songs such as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Here Comes the Sun.”
Harrison then moved on to a sterling solo career highlighted by the album All Things Must Pass (which was filled with hauntingly beautiful songs like “My Sweet Lord”), and founded the Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison. Oh, and let’s not forget he co-founded the all-star 1971 benefit Concert for Bangladesh. That’s just the tip of his achievements.
But to hear his widow, Olivia Harrison, his son and his close friends tell it, none of the fame, fortune and fans meant that much to George. Not that he wasn’t pleased by or grateful for the attention to his work, but Harrison felt there was something more important in life.
“I was pretty sure he was just a gardener,” Dhani said, noting his father often spent 12 hours a day nurturing plants on his estate grounds. “Being a gardener, and not hanging out with anyone and just being home, that was pretty rock n’ roll, you know? When you’re in a really beautiful garden, it reminds you constantly of God.”
As he grew wearier of the cacophony of rock instruments, the screams of fans and the details of the music business, he retreated further into the garden, even proclaiming himself a gardener (as opposed to a musician) in his autobiography I Me Mine, named after one of his Beatles songs.
When he died of cancer on Nov. 29, 2001, Olivia Harrison is positive a glow filled the hospital room as his soul left his body.
“He would say ‘Look, we’re not these bodies. Let’s not get hung up on that,'” Petty told Rolling Stone. “George would say, ‘I just want to prepare myself so I go the right way and go to the right place.’ I’m sure he’s got that worked out.”
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