George Harrison of The Beatles would have turned 73 years old today. Often overshadowed by the prolific songwriting duo of Lennon–McCartney, the unsung hero of The Beatles was a force unto himself, penning hit songs like “Taxman,” “Within You Without You,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and “Something.” Harrison was also the first Western musician to play sitar on a pop record, “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” appearing on The Beatles’ 1965 record Rubber Soul.Following The Beatles dissolution in 1970, Harrison embarked on what would become a very successful solo career, releasing the critically acclaimed triple album, All Things Must Pass, that same year. The album would also produce Harrison’s biggest hit single to date, “My Sweet Lord.” In 1971, alongside Ravi Shankar, Harrison organized the Concert For Bangladesh, a true predecessor to other benefit shows like Live Aid. The evening would include performances from Shankar, Harrison, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Badfinger, and Preston and Starr. Not a bad cast of characters.In 1988, Harrison went on to co-found the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys alongside Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison. So the story goes, the group gathered in Dylan’s basement to cut a B-side for a Harrison single set to be released in Europe, but after being told it was too good for its original purpose, the all-star cast was asked to record an entire album. They would do so with Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 as well as Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3, following the death of Orbison.Following the Wilburys project, Harrison remained out of the public spotlight for the better part of the 90s, making his final TV appearance on VH1 in a promotion for Shankar’s Chants Of India. In 1997, Harrison was diagnosed with throat cancer, publicly blaming it on his years as a smoker. After several years fighting, Harrison would succumb to the cancer at a friend’s home in Los Angeles on November 29, 2001, but not before he had the opportunity to shape music and the world at large with his vibrant guitar tone and his inspired songwriting. For that, we cannot thank him enough.Happy Birthday, George.
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