There aren’t many duos who, despite their different starts in the music game, grew in tandem. Often helping one another reach the next milestone in each of their respective careers, Bob Dylan and George Harrison grew inseparable in the bid for greatness. When Harrison was struggling to find his voice amid the cacophony of The Beatles, it was Dylan who helped him to see the wood through the trees. Equally, when Dylan needed to get back out on stage, it was his pal George Harrison who was there with a guiding hand.
Dylan’s particular affection for Harrison, aside from the rest of The Beatles whom he knew well, was a known fact. The two songwriters collaborated on a number of different occasions throughout the years, most notably with the supergroup Travelling Wilburys which also included Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. Aside from this, Dylan saw Harrison as one of the most influential songwriters of a generation. Though he admitted working with Harrison to try and find his voice outside of The Beatles, George was continually referencing the freewheelin’ Bob Dylan as an influence.
“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 an argument few are willing to fight against and, when given space to create his own vision, Harrison became one of the most potent songwriters around. While it’s true that Harrison had contributed to The Beatles canon before, it was one particular session which would turn his fortunes around.
The clip below comes from the recording sessions for ‘I’d Have You Anytime’, a song that was written by George Harrison and Bob Dylan and released in 1970 as the opening track of Harrison’s first post-Beatles solo album, All Things Must Pass. The song wouldn’t rank too highly in the annals of musical history, but it would allow for a beautiful moment as Harrison shares his past with Dylan while working on his future. The session also delivered a beautiful performance of the Paul McCartney-penned track ‘Yesterday’ but one of the other shining moments comes from their duet on Dylan’s song ‘Gates of Eden’.
It’s a song direct from Dylan’s finest record Bringing It All Back Home and sees Harrison join in like an unquestionable fan. There’s something utterly joyous about this collaboration, likely because we know that both men relished the sessions so much. For Harrison, it was the break from the Beatles he needed and, for Dylan, it was an artist with whom he could stand toe to toe and not be embarrassed. You can feel the comfort the two share in the jam session.
There aren’t many friendships as wholesome and mutually beneficial as George Harrison and Bob Dylan’s. The duo provided each other warmth and support that very few could offer at the time and, as with all great artists, it can be felt in the creations they made. Listening to them jam on ‘Gates of Eden’ is like listening to a bootleg tape of some old friend, these old friends just so happen to be George Harrison and Bob Dylan.