I opened the paper today
to find the headlines:
George Harrison : 1943-2001
Memories of the "Quiet Beatle"
It took me aback. It was unexpected. It left me quiet for a while as I read what the paper had to say. Then I sat and wrote out my reactions. I didn't cry though there was something pushing inside, kind of like a lump deep down but not quite.
George died at age 58, two years younger than my own father. Those of his generation must surely be feeling their own mortality at this point. It's making me aware of my parents'.
I was born into Beatle Mania- two weeks before the fab four took America by storm on the Ed Sullivan show. There is no doubt in my mind that if I was not sleeping in my cradle at the time, I probably watched it on my father's lap. He, then 23, was a fan. Probably long before they hit the American scene. He had followed his parents to America when they were transferred from the German Consulate in England to Boston. My British mother followed shortly there after. And then I came along, smack in the middle of America welcoming the Beatles. My father bought all of their records. Yes, those 45 rpm black frisbee looking things that go on a turntable.
I do not recall a time in my life when I did NOT hear their music.
When I was 8, I got my first record player for my birthday. One of those cheap little plastic things, white on top and peasoup green for the base. To me it was golden. I claimed all of my father's 45's as my own and lovingly stacked them on their edges on my bookshelves next to my favorite books. I would play them over and over, spinning and dancing in my room to the lively tunes and singing along with the slower tunes. I would pause periodically to deck my brothers for daring to open my door,hands over ears, begging me to stop torturing them.
As I moved into adolescence, I developed my first idol crush on George. There was something about that man that drew me in. He was always my favorite. Right from the start. I never got that whole shrieking, tear my shirt, passing out thing that most teenage girls did in all those old black and white news shots I saw. Maybe it was because he wasn't my generation, though he was no father figure to me. Maybe it was because I was not prone to shrieking, heart palpitations, or passing out over the sight of a teen idol. Or, maybe it was because I didn't wish to draw attention to myself much like George himself.
It's the quiet ones that are generally more introspective, more deep, more thoughtful, more interesting to me. I saw him and thought "Ah yes, there is more to this one. He's a treasure waiting to be discovered. Not all flash like mica, but something to be valued hidden amongst the glitter of stardom"
I identified with him the most. From my young perspective, it appeared to me that he did not crave the spotlight, yet he contributed richly to the group. Yes he was quiet. Yes he was understated. Most say overshadowed, but in my mind, he preferred it that way. Some have said he was the background but to me he was the backbone of the group. His interests and views greatly influenced the group's later music, lacing itself in pieces such as Norwegian Wood and Within You Without You, and Something, one of my favorite love songs. Here comes the sun spoke to me then, speaks to me still. Dark days and stress overwhelming him. He walks out into a garden and *poof*, he let's it go and a song spills out of him. His attitude about life drew me as well. His passion for his music. His intensity and his modesty.
In my opinion, he's one of the best guitarists. Those guitar segments stood out in the songs. Not glaringly HEY!LOOK AT ME I'M THE GUITAR PLAYER!, but graciously. I hear those parts and smile. "Here's George quietly coming front and center" and then he would gracefully back away to the more powerful personalities of Lennon and McCartney. True- I have heard at times he was frustrated with them taking center stage, but I feel if he truly wanted to be there, he would have/could have. He let his skill speak for itself. That was what I saw.
The adolescent crush passed away as all crushes do, but respect and admiration for the man remained. He will always be my favorite. I no longer have those old records. When we moved cross country, I gave them back to my father. I think he's the only one left with a working turntable in the family. I have a strong desire to hear those songs replete with the scratches and skips, so I can twirl and sing, go back in time for a bit and perhaps torture my kids.