Happy Birthday George Harrison: Watch Final ‘All Things Must Pass’ Performance
Today marks what would have been George Harrison’s 78th birthday. The highly influential singer-songwriter and guitarist was born on February 25, 1943 in Liverpool where he would go on to co-found The Beatles with John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1960.
Being in a band with the established songwriting team of Lennon and McCartney, it was surely tough to get a word in edgewise. But George always contributed a song or two to the mix and his lead guitar work, especially his use of the 12-string electric guitar, was massively influential on the 1960s sound. Yet the so-called “quiet Beatle” really began to flower as a songsmith in the mid to late ’60s, around the same time he discovered classical Indian music and the sitar while filming Help! in 1965.
George included sitar on the 1965 John Lennon-penned “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” the first known time a sitar appeared on western pop music recording. “Norwegian Wood” is off The Beatles 1965 album Rubber Soul, which also contained two Harrison compositions, “Think For Yourself” and the stellar, electric 12-string-tinged, “If I Needed Someone.”
George would go on to have three songs on The Beatles’ next album, 1966’s Revolver, with one of those songs, “Love You To,” a completely classical Indian piece featuring musicians from the North London Asian Music Circle. Around the same time, Harrison also began taking lessons from sitar master Ravi Shankar.
George would travel to India, apart from The Beatles’ famous trip in 1968, to study with Shankar and he not only embraced Indian music but also (and naturally) the ancient country’s spirituality. Eastern spiritual ideas began to crop up in Harrison’s songs, most notably in a composition called, “All Things Must Pass,” with its central theme of impermanence. Although Harrison wrote the song in the late ‘60s while still with The Beatles — a demo of the song appears The Beatles Anthology 3 — George would release it on his landmark 1970 triple LP of the same name, his solo debut.
Almost 30 years later, Harrison teamed back up with his friend Ravi Shankar to help him produce a record called Chants Of India. Ravi had an interview with VH1 scheduled for July 24, 1997 and Geroge showed up with him unannounced, as per Ultimate Classic Rock. While it probably wasn’t Harrison’s intention, this of course considerably changed what interviewer John Fugelsang had in mind. Harrison ended up performing a few songs including “All Things Must Pass.” It would be his last television performance. Sadly, George was diagnosed with throat cancer later that year and died on November 29, 2001.
To celebrate George Harrison’s birthday, watch George on a solo acoustic “All Things Must Pass,” during his final TV performance in 1997 below: