“I’ve always liked the way George Harrison plays guitar – restrained and good.”—Bob Dylan
Given their meteoric rise and pioneering influence on rock music, the paths of Bob Dylan and The Beatles would intertwine on numerous occasions in one form or another over the years. While some were infamous and others more ordinary, whenever Dylan met George Harrison things were a little extra special.
The Beatles, four young guys from Liverpool whose ascent to fame was beyond what one might call fast and furious, had always been in awe of Bob Dylan the mercurial folk singer had quickly gained a great deal of mysticism in England and the band were as swept up in it as anybody.
Both Paul McCartney and John Lennon cited the freewheelin’ Bob Dylan as an influence during their formative years. Dylan, meanwhile, had always remained complimentary of the Fab Four, especially in their ability to cash in on success in a commercial sense.
It has been debated for years that the first meeting between The Beatles and Dylan impacted the way Lennon and McCartney went about their songwriting and, on the flip side, others argued that this conversation played a significant and pivotal role in Dylan’s decision to ditch the acoustic guitar and somewhat controversially move to electric. In truth, both theories are highly plausible, with the fact remaining that during the sixties, there were no two bigger acts in the world.
While speaking publicly of his admiration for The Beatles, Dylan, who often likes to introduce cover versions to his live shows, has rarely put his own spin on a track by the Liverpudlians. On one rare occasion that he did, it carried an extra heavy emotional sentiment. “He was such a good buddy of mine,” Dylan said while on stage at Madison Square Garden on November 13, 2002, almost one year to the day that Beatles guitarist George Harrison passed away.
Moments later, Dylan would roll into a heartbreaking rendition of ‘Something’, the 1969 Beatles track which would establish Harrison’s songwriting ability and garner praise from across the music world including Frank Sinatra labelling it “the greatest love song for 50 years”, in turn shoehorning himself in between both Lennon and McCartney.
“George got stuck with being the Beatle that had to fight to get songs on records because of Lennon and McCartney,” Dylan once said of Harrison. “Well, who wouldn’t get stuck?” He added: “If George had had his own group and was writing his own songs back then, he’d have been probably just as big as anybody.”
The friendship the duo shared was one of mutual benefit. Bob Dylan had struggled with his own songwriting at times, and Harrison had always helped him. The fact that Dylan was largely behind encouraging Harrison to explore his own songwriting means these two friends were creatively inseparable.
If you needed proof of how affecting that relationship was then you need only look at the footage below which sees Bob Dylan sharing a touching cover of The Beatles song ‘Something’ in tribute to his friend, George Harrison.
See Dylan’s cover, below.