We were all looking at 2021 as a bunch of starry-eyed kids, hoping that it would be a tad better than its nightmare of a predecessor. But here we are, almost at the end of the first month of the new year, still mostly locked up inside our houses, still gloomy and grumpy, still not able to take a lungful of fresh air and still fighting for our survival.
With the existential crisis at its peak and mental health in tatters, the only escape route is that which is led by art and literature. In fact, these two have proved to be the best coping mechanism for the entirety of 2020. The imaginative escape that it offers has helped us to transcend the physical boundaries and roam about in the realms of fantasy and alternate reality.
We’ll be fooling ourselves if we think that this situation is going to vanish over the next few months. While we are inching towards some positive news, it’s still some ways off and is undoubtedly going to test our patience. So, it’s better to prep ourselves in a creative way to battle the lockdown blues once more. And, who can be a better guide for this journey than George Harrison?
The inner light that the ex-Beatle guitarist contained in himself will always be enough to light up our drab and sunless days. Though a shy and, for the most part, quiet guy, the words that he chose to speak or write were pearls of wisdom that will remain relevant for eternity. His affiliation to the eastern spiritual philosophies is reflected in his thoughts, which uplifts one’s spirits and opens the door to the universe for an individual to explore.
Below, we have listed six song lines written by George Harrison, that is sure to lend you a helping hand during these difficult times.
George Harrison’s best lyrics:
‘The Inner Light’
“Without going out of my door
I can know all things of earth
Without looking out of my window
I could know the ways of heaven
The farther one travels
The less one knows
The less one really knows”
Given our days of monotony and confinement, this 1968 Beatles song had to be the first on the list. Written by Harrison during the band’s trip to India, this song openly embraces the transcendental meditation that they were practising under the tutelage of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The song’s lyrics are an extension of a poem from the Taoist classical Chinese text Tao Te Ching, written in the 6th century BC. This was also the third song of the series, the first two being ‘Love You To’ and ‘Within You Without You’, which was styled after Hindusthani Classical Music.
Even without all the background knowledge of transcendentalism, one will find the lyrics to be equally effective. In his short and simple lines, Harrison asks everyone to appreciate the small pleasures of life instead of seeking more. It is an eye-opener that points out how we turn a blind eye to the precious things that lie in front of us. With an excessive amount of time indoors, these lines give us the right amount of motivation to turn our wandering eyes inwards.
‘All Things Must Pass’
“Sunset doesn’t last all evening
A mind can blow those clouds away
After all this, my love is up
And must be leaving
It’s not always been this gray
All things must pass
All things must pass away”
The title song of Harrison’s 1970 triple album, was supposed to be included in the Beatles album Let It Be but was rejected. The lyrics drew inspiration from a poem called ‘All Things Pass’ in Timothy Leary’s 1966 book Psychedelic Prayers, which was based on Tao Te Ching. In his 1980 autobiography, Harrison wrote that the song’s idea originated from “all kinds of mystics and ex-mystics”. Though some view it as a statement on the Beatles’ break up, the song explores universal concerns rather than personal ones.
The lyrics highlight the ephemeral and transient nature of life where change is constant. Thus, no matter how dark or cloudy days your days are, it is just a phase, a matter of time before you’ll see the golden rays of the sun gleaming again. The lyrics give people the strength to hang on and face all the fatalism with the hope that there’ll be a rainbow at the end of the storm.
‘Within You Without You’
“Try to realise it’s all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you’re really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you”
Released in the 1967 Beatle’s album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, was written after Harrison’s visit to India, where he learned sitar from Pandit Ravi Shankar. Lyrically, it explores the eastern spiritual ideologies of monism and maya. It evokes the teachings of the Hindu religious texts of Vedas and Upanishads in which Harrison absorbed himself during his stay. Speaking about the composition and the influence of North Indian Classical music, Harrison said: “Within You Without You” was a song that I wrote based upon a piece of music of Ravi [Shankar]’s that he’d recorded for All-India Radio. It was a very long piece – maybe thirty or forty minutes … I wrote a mini version of it, using sounds similar to those I’d discovered on his piece”.
Like ‘The Inner Light’ one doesn’t need to plunge into the details of the spiritual philosophies to make sense of the lyrics. Harrison talks about our potential to love, embrace, and forgive. He asks us to allow all our dormant and pent-up emotions to flow as easily as life flows within us. In a time, when we feel alone and disconnected from the outer world, these lines remind us to trust and be there mentally if not physically for one another.
‘The Answer’s At The End’
“The speech of flowers excels the flowers of speech
But what’s often in your heart, is the hardest thing to reach
And life is one long mystery, my friend
So live on, live on, the answer’s at the end”
The song featured on one of Harrison’s last albums Extra Texture (Read All About It). Released by the Apple Corps in 1975, a part of the song’s lyrics was apparently taken from a wall inscription at Harrison’s Victorian gothic style Friar Park home. The opening line of the song “Scan not a friend with a microscopic glass” is often traced back to his topsy turvy relationship with his ex-bandmate Paul McCartney. “There were disasters all around at that time … But the thing about Sir Frank with his advice, like: ‘scan not a friend with a microscopic glass …’ I mean, that helped me actively to ease up on whomsoever I thought I loved, gave me that consciousness not to hang on to the negative side of it, to be more forgiving” said Harrison.
The song is a bit different in nature than the others on the list. Its tone is that of warning and to some extent seems to be criticising our selfish natures. But something in the song is inspiring- Something that motivates one to behave properly, treat others kindly, be patient and keep moving through life with a positive attitude. It asks one not to submit to trivialities and bad energy and assures a satisfactory result at the end.
‘End Of The Line’
“Well, it’s alright, even if they say you’re wrong
Well, it’s alright, sometimes you gotta be strong
Well, it’s alright, as long as you got somewhere to lay
Well, it’s alright, every day is judgment day”
Speaking of the end, this 1988 song seems to be a natural continuation of the previous one. A song by the British-American group the Travelling Wilburys featured in their album Travelling Wilburys Vol.1 and was later released as a single in 1989. Harrison wrote the song, but all the members got song credits officially due to the project’s collaborative nature. The recording featured the voices of all the members except for Bob Dylan.
The consolation that the lyrics offer is very comforting indeed. It’s like a voice that whispers convincing words whenever one feels doubtful, confused, torn or pressurised to fit into a mould. At a time, when the house-arrest has taken a toll on our mental well-being, this song assures us by stating that “it’s alright” to feel the way we feel, it’s a part of life.
‘Here Comes the Sun’
“Here comes the sun do, do, do
Here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right
Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here.”
Finishing off the list with one of Harrison’s most popular songs and the most appropriate one for this occasion. Released in the 1969 Beatles album Abbey Road, Harrison wrote this song while in his hiding at Eric Clapton’s country house where he escaped to avoid an Apple Corps meeting. “‘Here Comes the Sun’ was written at the time when Apple was getting like school, where we had to go and be businessmen: ‘Sign this’ and ‘sign that.’ Anyway, it seems as if winter in England goes on forever, by the time spring comes you really deserve it. So one day I decided I was going to sag off Apple and I went over to Eric Clapton’s house.
“The relief of not having to go see all those dopey accountants was wonderful, and I walked around the garden with one of Eric’s acoustic guitars and wrote ‘Here Comes the Sun’” wrote Harrison in I, Me, Mine.
The song can be interpreted at various levels. On the surface, it celebrates the arrival of spring after a “long cold lonely winter.” But at a metaphorical level, it talks about the trajectory of life and how every icy winter is always followed by rejuvenating spring. This song is a perfect reminder that though the past year has been like an elongated, damp and dull winter season, the spring is just around the corner waiting to embrace us with all its warmth.