20 years ago today, on November 29, 2001, the world lost one of the most powerful creative forces in music history: George Harrison.
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As one-fourth of The Beatles, Harrison helped usher in a new era of pop culture by penning some of the legendary band’s most adventurous and innovative tunes (like “Blue Jay Way,” “Within You Without You” and more). Introducing eclectic instrumentation and deeply spiritual lyrical themes, his style and introspective approach went on to become the bedrock for countless genres in the post-’60s cultural landscape—dream pop, indie, psych-rock and more all partly owe their existence to the works of the “Quiet Beatle.”
So, naturally, when Harrison passed on due to cancer at age 58, millions of fans around the world felt the magnitude of the loss… and 20 years later, that’s still the case. On Monday, many took to Twitter to pay tribute, including his old bandmates, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney.
“Peace and love to you George. I miss you man,” Starr wrote, sharing a photo of him and Harrison chomping on cigars. Likewise, McCartney shared a photo of the two together in the studio, with the caption: “Hard to believe that we lost George 20 years ago. I miss my friend so much.”
Joining the former Beatles in paying tribute were many of Harrison’s old friends, like Monty Python’s Eric Idle, who wrote: “Thinking of an old pal who left the planet long before we were done with him. Thank you George for your gift of friendship, music, philosophy, and film.” Additionally, Idle retweeted a short clip of Harrison posted by the late Beatle’s estate.
In the past, Idle has been vocal about his love for Harrison and how difficult it was when he died—writing in his quasi-memoir, The Greedy Bastard Diary, Idle described what the scene at his funeral was like.
“When [George] died, I could not believe it,” Idle wrote. “I knelt at his feet and put my hand on him, and my whole body was wracked and shaken with sorrow. They had given us rose petals and, finally, my shoulders could stop shaking long enough for me to sprinkle them on him, and I could back away to the sympathetic embraces of the living. He now lay deathly still in his saffron and purple robes, his face painted white with the red dot on his forehead. We sat shivah, a small group of his friends and family in the room, now weeping, now laughing…. We would play music, the chants he loved, recorded in Friar Park, or a few of the last tracks that would constitute the basis of his final album…. My heart felt like it was stabbed as he told me clearly he was dying. Even then, I refused to believe it. Not him. Not George. George couldn’t die.”
Still, Harrison’s work and his spirit continue to bless the world. His music lives on indefinitely, not only in the recorded versions of his compositions but in the countless songs and albums inspired by his ingenuity. And for many, his continued presence is more than hypothetical—even McCartney himself has said he still communicates with Harrison often, through the form of a tree.
“[Harrison] gave me a tree as a present—it’s a big fir tree and it’s by my gate,” McCartney told NPR last year. “As I was leaving my house, I got out of the car to close the gate and looked up at the tree and said, ‘Hi, George.’ There he is, growing strongly… As the years go by, every time I look at it I go, ‘That’s the tree George gave me.’ George has entered that tree for me. I hope he’s happy with that.”
Check out more coverage on The Beatles HERE and listen to the Harrison-penned tune, “Within You Without You,” below:
Photo by Barry Feinstein