With millions of people around the world forced to stay home amid social distancing measures, the idea of live music remains nothing but a distant memory. In a bid to get our music fix, we thought we’d put together a list of the greatest songs the Quiet Beatle ever wrote. Arguably one of the most gifted songwriters of his generation, George Harrison created some incredible tracks.
Whether it be with The Beatles our out on his own solo material, Harrison had a unique vision when creating music. The artist was able, unlike any other, to put the most complex to themes and ideas into sweetly wrapped morsels of musical gold. Below are ten of our favourites.
Naturally, being a part of the biggest band to ever walk the earth is quite some moment to on your CV. But, in truth, some of Harrison’s best work came from his solo efforts. Much of that was down to being behind John Lennon and Paul McCartney in the songwriting pecking order within the band.
“George got stuck with being the Beatle that had to fight to get songs on records because of Lennon and McCartney. Well, who wouldn’t get stuck?” Bob Dylan once said in a 2007 interview. It’s hard to argue with, it must’ve been relatively stifling to sit between two such musical powerhouses as John and Paul. “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.”
In 1970, following The Beatles disbandment, Harrison did just that and released one of the most poignant albums of any Beatles solo career with the brilliant LP All Things Must Pass. He then went one further and created a chart-topping new album in 1987 with Cloud Nine.
Between those LPs and his work on The Beatles later output, Harrison can boast some of the most beautiful songs ever written. Here are ten of the best.
George Harrison’s 10 best songs:
1. ‘All Things Must Pass’
If you survey the internet landscape for the George Harrison ‘Best Of’ articles you will be unlikely to find this little transcendental number on any of their lists. Why? We’re not sure. But are we going to mull it over for years and lose our cool over it? No. Thanks to one of the greatest songs ever written, George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass’.
Originally recorded by Harrison as a demo for The Beatles on his 26th birthday, the song remains one of the few moments where western pop meets eastern ideology. Scrapped by The Beatles, the material eventually appeared on the album of the same name.
Its lyrics are based on a translation of part of chapter 23 of the Tao Te Ching, and the track acts as a moment of songwriting bliss. Harrison explains the most complex of theories with a simple, soaring and heartfelt moment of connection and advice. It’s the poetry of his creation that shines through everything he does.
Featuring on the band’s Abbey Road, ‘Something’ has gone on to typify Harrison’s songwriting.
Not only does Harrison provide one of the most sumptuous lead guitar lines heard in any Fab Four song but his lyrics are rich with authentic emotion.
The track was formed around the line “something in the way she moves” which was adapted from fellow Apple Records artist, James Taylor, and sees Harrison manage to write a perfect love song without falling into the saccharine potholes that can befall so many.
It was on ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ that Harrison began to make his songwriting presence known within The Beatles. Featuring on the band’s 1968 record The White Album, the song started life as a lilting acoustic number until Harrison invited one of his best friends, Eric Clapton, to add an extra dose of rock and create one of the most beguiling guitar duels on record.
Alongside the song’s engrossing lyrics, Harrison makes ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ one of his greatest achievements with The Beatles.
4. ‘Here Comes The Sun’
Sometimes playing hooky can really work out for you.
In ‘Here Comes The Sun’ you have all the proof you need. The song was written in Eric Clapton’s back garden while Harrison avoided laborious band meeting at Apple HQ. It was in this place of frustration that Harrison created one of the most uplifting songs ever written.
If you ever wanted to start your day correctly then it is a must that this Abbey Road song is the first track you listen to. If it so happens to be a sunny day then you know that everything’s going to be OK.
5. ‘My Sweet Lord’
One of Harrison’s most iconic solo efforts the track is a perfect summation of All Things Must Pass LP and the path he intended to carve out for his solo career. Another moment of higher-thinking meeting pop music, it could have easily been missed by the general public.
In the autobiography I, Me, Mine, Harrison said: “I thought a lot about whether to do ‘My Sweet Lord’ or not because I would be committing myself publicly and I anticipated that a lot of people might get weird about it.” He continued, “I wanted to show that ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Hare Krishna’ are quite the same thing.”
And he did. The track remains a moment of transcendent joy as he blends warmest of celestial moments with the comforting glaze of pop.
6. ‘I’d Have You Anytime’
The track was written alongside Bob Dylan as Harrison tried to find his own ‘voice’ on record. Harrison remembered in his autobiography: “He seemed very nervous and I felt a little uncomfortable—it seemed strange especially as he was in his own home. We got the guitars out and then things loosened up.”
One such loose track to come out of the sessions was ‘I’d Have You Antyime’, which apart from being sincerely underappreciated sees Dylan become the only co-writing credit on ‘All Things Must Pass’.
It must’ve been a point of pride for the guitarist as he made the song the first track on the album.
7. ‘I Me Mine’
This was the very last song The Beatles ever worked on and is depicted in the Let It Be movie. It saw the Fab Four gather at the iconic Abbey Road studios early in 1970 and complete the track. With Lennon arriving in full peace campaign regalia, the song is the final moment of harmony between the group.
Lyrically it told a different story as it reflected on the growing tensions between the group and most notably the giant egos that went with them.
8. ‘Simply Shady’
Reflecting on Harrison’s work it becomes quite easy to pick out central themes. There’s spirituality, humanity, love, kindness, and in ‘Simply Shady’, the darker side of rock and roll. George himself once described the track as “what happens to naughty boys in the music business” and sees him at his most confessional.
It was a dark period for Harrison. He had accrued an increasingly painful cocaine habit, his spiritual centre was at an all-time low, and his first wife, model Patti Boyd, was sleeping with his best friend, Eric Clapton.
This is all of those feelings put it to one single Dark Horse track.
9. ‘Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)’
As The Beatles drew to a close, Harrison was diving deeper and deeper into his spirituality.
By 1973 effort Living In A Material World (you’re welcome, Madonna), Harrison had completely committed himself to Hinduism as a form of solitude from the craziness of being one of the Fab Four.
This track, much like ‘My Sweet Lord’ is a mantra of peace and tranquillity, as Harrison describes it: “A prayer and personal statement between me, the Lord, and whoever likes it.” It’s gentle, simple and enriching—atypical George Harrison.
10. ‘Bangla Desh’
One of Harrison’s crowning achievements in music is not a song or album but arranging the first ever concert benefit with The Concert For Bangladesh, which saw a plethora of stars take to the stage in support of the war-torn country. This standalone single was released by Harrison to raise money and awareness for the stricken country.
One of the first solo singles Harrison ever released the track reached a post-Beatles fanbase still hungry for any morsel of the band. It sent the song into the Top 30 and promoted his history-making event.
Honourable mention: ‘Got My Mind Set On You’
One of the most infectious songs ever written was expertly performed by Harrison on his 1987 chart-topping album Cloud Nine.
Not in our list because it was originally written by Rudy Clark, the song saw Harrison back in the charts after a five-year hiatus. It may not be Harrison’s coolest release but certainly is one of the most played.