75 years ago today, a man was born who, while he never knew I existed, was to have a profound impact on my life, and, by 2017, was to be credited with being crucial to my recovery. Sadly, he is not around to celebrate it, as he died 16 years ago, at the far too young age of just 58, but his legacy lives on in the hearts of many millions all over the world.
George Harrison has been hugely influential in my life, and I am eternally grateful to him for the amazing body of music he left us, and for the spiritual influence he was to have on me.
I first remember hearing of George as one of four, the less obvious, less public Beatle. A lifelong love of this band developed when I was very young, and I grew up hero worshipping John Lennon, while loving the more gentle, introspective music of George. The 1987 album Cloud Nine, and the amazing ‘supergroup’ The Traveling Wilburys, alerted me to George’s existence outside The Beatles, and I fell in love with his music. I still remember the excitement I felt when he released ‘got my mind set on you’, and the delight when I purchased Cloud Nine on cassette from a local newsagent. By the time the Traveling Wilburys brought my to Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty, I was a definite George fan!
By the time I was 21, I was amassing a decent collection of George Harrison albums and singles, and found his spiritually infused lyrics far more appealing than Lennon’s angrier take on the world. I fell in love with the logo on the Dark Horse record label, and vowed to one day have it as a tattoo, an ambition I realised on the 16th anniversary of his death, almost 25 years after I made that promise to myself.
My love of George even played a large part of the arrival into my life of Liam, my now 21 year old son. His father, a musician, had the long hair and goatee sported by George in the late 60’s. While there were other aspects to it, my crush on George definitely played a part in the initial attraction I felt to Liam’s dad!
I still vividly remember the moment when I learned that George had died. I was on teaching practice, and had just turned on my mobile phone at the end of the school day. This was long before smart phones, but I was subscribed to a service that gave me news headlines via text message. I turned my phone on, and actually cried out loud as I read the text telling me that George has passed the previous day. The teacher I was working with didn’t really get my distress, but fortunately my friends did, and I was happy when I had a call later that evening to check I was ok. I have cried many tears over the years over George’s death, but knowing now what I do about his spiritual life, I think he would have grieved for it less than his fans do.
George’s love of all things Indian, and his spiritual journey, struck a chord with me, although I didn’t really understand the impact it was to really have on my until much later in life. With hindsight, I think that one of the reasons George’s work resonated with me so much was that his spiritual seeking spoke volumes to the spiritually adrift woman I was. I lost the faith I was raised with when I was about 12, and replaced it, as I grew up, with sex, drugs (and alcohol) and rock n roll. It is beautifully apt that one of the people who personified this idea (when I smoked marijuana, I often felt somehow better connected to my music heroes, especially The Beatles) was to become an inadvertent spiritual guide to me.
It is because of George that I became interested in yoga in the first place, and, although it took a long time for it to really become a part of my life, I am so grateful that I was able to finally understand what Yoga truly was, and to find myself growing and evolving through it. Yoga gave me a vocabulary with which to talk about the spiritual void I had felt in my life for so long, and this vocabulary helped me to understand George’s lyrics on a whole different level, closer I am sure to the one he meant it on. I could connect with his words about love and god in a different way, and while his faith, Hare Krishna, has yet to speak to me (although I have tried to connect to it), I can understand how vital it was to George’s life, and death.
Music has always been an important part of my life, and has been deeply significant in my growth and recovery. What are the most significant acts and songs that have had the biggest impact in your life? Share in the comments, I’d love to know about the music you love!