SECTION TWO

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COLUMN SIXTY-SEVEN, JANUARY 1, 2002
(Copyright 2002 Al Aronowitz)

ON GEORGE HARRISON

[More writing by Josh Alan Friedman can be found by clicking on http://www.joshalan.com.]

George Harrison was a world leader, a great man, a humble gardener and one beautiful cat. His dry wit and insight grew deeper and deeper, picking up the mantle of outspokenness once carried by John. He became every bit as funny and tough and brave as John. He was not a "rock star," even though the term "rock" came about as a result of his band. Rock 'n' roll was single-handedly rescued, revived and revolutionized by the Beatles. They were the Big Bang from which everything past coalesced and everything future emerged. Without them, this strange music would have remained but a distant 1950s artifact, eliciting chuckles during old news clips, like the hula-hoop craze.

But I believe the Beatles were bigger than rock 'n' roll. When I was eight years old, seeing them touch down was like witnessing a miracle. Without them there'd be no Rolling Stones, no Kinks or Animals or Yardbirds or Who or Cream or Led Zeppelin or Freddie and the Dreamers ad infinitum---none of them would have emerged from the hinterlands of Merry Olde England. Thus, the world would never have known a blues revival or had awareness of America's musical heritage, outside of small academic circles. No long hair, no counter-culture, no sexual revolution, no recording industry, no rock magazines or rock writers, and probably no Vietnam anti-war movement. I shit you not---had George Harrison not been born, planet Earth would be as different as Pottersville became without George Bailey in It's A Wonderful Life.

But George Harrison was no rock star. Mick Jagger, Elton John or, more pathetically, things


George Harrison
was a hero
as a man


like Arrowsmith, are rock stars. George was a country squire who turned away from that facade. Since the very beginning, he kept his ego in check and played down the God-sized fame. That four blokes could endure such hysteria and adulation with their sanity intact was superhuman. As time progressed, George became more appalled by this monstrous, unrelenting shadow. I remember Al Kooper telling me how he was the first one in England to hear of John's assassination, having stayed up all night when the news broke at 4 am. He drove back to Henley-on-Thames, due for a morning session on George's album, where George stood stunned. Kooper and another session player propped him up on their shoulders and promptly got him drunk. Afterward, George's security system went up around the palace, one to rival Phil Spector's. Nineteen years later, it was scaled by some psychopath who broke in and nearly stabbed him to death. But George, a quietly tough motherfucker, and his wife Olivia, wrestled the bastard into submission.    

If George ever accepted such trivialities as membership in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, or involvement in the burdensome Anthology project, it was only out of obligation to friends, or to appease public desire (not to mention those monthly castle payments). The humiliating demands of the music industry---which ironically, George helped create---once dictated that he narrate the play-by-play of a baseball game---an American sport he knew nothing about---in conjunction with promoting an album. George took the high road and bowed out afterward. He'd rather produce an obscure album in India, or spend time at the car races.

Unlike any other music heroes, the Beatles carried the weight of world leaders. What they said---and even their actions today, such as Paul's stand for animal rights---can sway millions. And so, without even touching upon the enormity of his musical legacy, I say that George Harrison was a hero as a man. I've loved him dearly since I was eight years old. I feel terribly deprived knowing I will go through this life without ever having made his acquaintance. An unrealized dream was to accompany him someday to India, if only as just a journalist. Or to visit Crackerbox Palace. Didn't happen. But then, I loved him like family, and indeed, made his acquaintance all too much.

 --Josh Alan Friedman
Nov. 30, 2001  ##

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