Tuesday, November 4, 2014

George Harrison, The #66 Artist of the Seventies*

The most soft-spoken of the Beatles, George Harrison had enjoyed some songwriting success, as the group recorded Harrison-penned songs such as "Here Comes The Sun", "Something", and "For You Blue".  Still, it was difficult for Harrison to get his songs on Beatles albums dominated by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Before the official Beatles' break-up in 1970, Harrison had already recorded and released two solo albums--Wonderwall Music and Electronic Sound.  Both featured mostly instrumental songs.

In 1969, Harrison toured Europe with the group Delaney & Bonnie and Friends.  While on tour, Delaney Bramlett encouraged Harrison to learn how to play slide guitar, which would be a key factor for him in his solo recordings.

In 1970, Harrison released the ambitious triple album All Things Must Pass.  It was indeed a highlight of his career, and went to #1 on the Album chart on both sides of the Atlantic.  Guest musicians included Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Gary Wright, Billy Preston, and the group Badfinger.  The album yielded this all-time classic single that spent four weeks at #1 and sold over one million copies.

The flip side of "My Sweet Lord" was "Isn't It A Pity".

All Things Must Pass has now gone over the six-million mark in sales.  The album also features this great #10 song--"What Is Life".

The following year, Ravi Shankar asked Harrison to help the people of Bangladesh in any way he could.  The nation's people had fled the country during the Bangladesh Liberation War.  George responded by organizing a charity event, the Concert for Bangladesh, on August 1, 1971.  Bob Dylan, Clapton, Starr, Preston, Badfinger, and Leon Russell were among the artists who agreed to perform for free.

The triple album The Concert for Bangladesh was released, with a concert film released the following year.  The event was the first of its kind, and paved the way for other charity rock concerts such as Live Aid many years later. 
In 1973, Harrison released the album Living in the Material World, which landed at #1 on the Album chart for five weeks and went Gold.  George released "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)" as the lead single, and it achieved a #1 ranking.

Harrison went on the Dark Horse Tour late in the year, becoming the first ex-Beatle to tour North America.  He reworked the lyrics to several Beatles songs, and brought Shankar with him.  Neither move appealed to audiences, and on top of that, Harrison developed laryngitis, which affected his performance.  Critics began calling the tour "dark hoarse".  George was so bothered by the backlash that he did not tour again until the 1990's.

In 1974, Harrison released the album Dark Horse.  It didn't achieve the response of earlier efforts, but was certified Gold, and the title song did reach #15.

George followed with the album Extra Texture (Read All About It) in 1975, which became his fourth consecutive Gold album.  The single "You" reached an underrated #20.

In 1976, Harrison released the album Thirty Three & 1/3, his first release on his own label, Dark Horse Records.  "This Song" only reached #25, but the follow-up, "Crackerbox Palace", cracked the Top 20.  The album, his fifth straight Gold release, earned Harrison his most favorable reviews since All Things Must Pass.

In 1979, Harrison released his self-titled album, which also went Gold.  The single "Blow Away" reached #16.
George continued to release albums through the 80's, and notably co-founded the Traveling Wilburys in 1988. 

In 1984, the minor planet 4149 Harrison was named after him.  In 1992, Harrison became the first recipient of the Billboard Century Award, presented to artists for significant bodies of work. 

In 1997, Harrison was diagnosed with throat cancer, and treated with radiotherapy, which of course almost never works.  He died in 2001.

On the first anniversary of his death, the Concert for George was held at the Royal Albert Hall on London.  Eric Clapton organized the event, which included performances from McCartney, Starr and others.  Eric Idle of Monty Python, who called Harrison "one of the few morally good people that rock and roll has produced", performed Monty Python's "Lumberjack Song".  Proceeds from the show went to Harrison's charity, the Material World Charitable Foundation.

In 2004, Harrison was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame as a solo artist.  In 2009, Harrison was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of the Capitol Records Building.

The documentary George Harrison:  Living in the Material World, was released in 2011.

Harrison enjoyed 12 hits in the Seventies, with three reaching the Top 10 and two #1 songs.  He sold 9.5 million albums in the decade.

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