George: The Cool Beatle

VH1's Bill Flanagan, a contributor to CBS News Sunday Morning, offers the following commentary on the life of George Harrison.
They came to us when we were children and took the place of cowboys and superheroes in our dreams. And then, very quickly, they grew up with us. They were like four big brothers getting to every new discovery a little ahead of us and reporting back. They were the coolest gang in town, and they made us feel like we could be part of that gang, too.

When George died, the first thing the media said was the first thing they'd said in 1964: They called him the quiet Beatle. That was never exactly right. What George was, from "A Hard Days Night" to "Let It Be," was the COOL Beatle. He didn't stand up straight, he was a little surly, he made wisecracks out of the corner of his mouth. As fantastic as John, Paul and Ringo were, you always knew they liked being in showbiz. With George, you felt like all the fame kind of bugged him. It interfered with his guitar playing.

Mick Jagger once called the Beatles "The Four Headed Monster." They seemed like one being. In the early days, grownups couldn't tell them apart. Later, we divided them up. We decided John was the rebel, Paul was the maestro, George was the mystic, and Ringo was the joker. But in fact, the Beatles were the Beatles because each of them was capable of so much. Each was a singer, each was a writer, each could have been a star in his own right.

George wrote and sang eternal songs: "Something," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Here Comes the Sun." It was just a quirk of history that he happened to be standing next to the greatest songwriting team of the 20th century when he did so. He often joked that he had to wait until the Beatles had worked through every new Lennon & McCartney tune before they got around to one of his. Another songwriter of his talent would have been furious about it. George laughed it off. He said, "I was a year younger than Paul when we met in school, and no matter how old we get, I'm still a year younger."

George Harrison's spiritual journey was lifelong and dedicated. In the very early days, when the other three Beatles made jokes about God and religion, George insisted there had to be more to life than the fame and fortune that came to him so young. His fascination with the spiritual influenced the whole western world. George led the Beatles to India to study with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi - and set off an international fad.

The caftans and love beads went away, but meditation, eastern philosophy, and yoga stuck around and wound their way into western life.


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