We’re choosing today, as the anniversary of George Harrison’s iconic record All Things Must Pass being released, to look back at The Beatle’s last interview and performance of the song before his sad passing in 2001.
The interview with John Fugelsang took place in 1997 and was just another piece of television at the time. Sadly, Harrison’s passing from throat cancer just a few years later would mean this would be his last public interview and performance.
In the nineties, following the unprecedented success of MTV there came around a television channel which, instead of bringing you all new music all the time, took time to sit back and reflect on musical milestones gone by. The channel was VH1.
On it they would host illustrious guests of the classic rock era, among others, and often give them space to chat about new projects, reflect on old ones and play some tunes, host Fugelsang said of the gig that he had the opportunity to host “the most incredible all-star concerts that nobody would watch.”
Some incredible acts took up the invitation, with the likes of Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, Willie Nelson and more all finding time in their diary. But during this time many of those acts had not quite completed their revolution of the cool wheel and were not as memorable as you might hope. However, the interview with Harrison would go down with some extra gravitas attached.
The Beatles guitarist had popped into the studio just to complete a “sound byte” interview which was expected to last a little under ten minutes. Instead what VH1 and Fuglesang got was George Harrison, accompanied by legendary Sitarist Ravi Shankar talking about a wide range of subjects.
From The Beatles to his solo work, from spirituality to charity, Harrison even finds time for an off the cuff performance of the classic track ‘All Things Must Pass’. He even debuts a new solo song as well as a lesser-heard Travelling Wilbury’s track. Clearly, George is very happy here.
49 years on from the album All Things Must Pass, the record still ranks as one of the best ever written and is the largest selling solo Beatle record of all time. Featuring songs such as the title track, ‘My Sweet Lord’ and ‘What Is Life’ it is a lasting testament to Harrison’s belief in the interconnecting power of music and spirituality. For Harrison, there was no separating the two. Reflecting on Shankar’s album, he says
“And that’s really why for me this record’s important, because it’s another little key to open up the within. For each individual to be able to sit and turn off, um…”turn off your mind relax and float downstream” and listen to something that has its root in a transcendental, because really even all the words of these songs, they carry with it a very subtle spiritual vibration. And it goes beyond intellect really. So if you let yourself be free to let that have an effect on you, it can have an effect, a positive effect.”
The interview continues and reflects on the epic 1970 album All Things Must Pass as a seminal moment in Harrison’s career. Not only was this the year his Phil Spector record dropped but it would also be the year that he and Shankar would launch the Concert for Bangladesh, a gig in which Harrison debut much of his early solo material. It’s a heartwarming and in-depth look into the life of ‘The Quiet Beatle’.
It’s not only a touching moment of reflection for us, 18 years after his death, but also a true window into the personality or soul of Harrison. He is composed, intelligent, spiritual, unabashed and unafraid of his views. He is fatherly without being patronising, caring without sound flippant, and above all else he is genuine.
Watch below as we sadly bring you the last interview and performance of George Harrison form 1997.
Source: Open Culture