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George Harrison
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Was George Harrison a guitar hero? Not if your definition of the term includes speedy runs, bombastic technique and lengthy jamming. Harrison's style, during and after the Beatles, was more ordered to economy and precision - qualities he might have picked up from such influential figures as Chet Atkins, Carl Perkins and Duane Eddy.

To put it another way: Harrison might not have been the greatest guitarist in the history of rock and roll. But it would be difficult to conceive the Beatles' sound without his contribution. He also added memorable songs to the Beatles' book, and his interest in Indian music and culture strongly influenced the band, from Rubber Soul forward.

The youngest member of the group, Harrison had joined his mentor, Paul McCartney, in the Quarry Men skiffle group, which also included John Lennon. As the group turned to rock and roll and became the Beatles, Harrison continued with them. As Lennon and McCartney concentrated more and more on writing original material, Harrison tagged along with songs including Don't Bother Me, Another Girl, the Byrds tribute If I Needed Someone, Taxman, Something (which Frank Sinatra called his favorite Beatles song, and both recorded and performed live), While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and Here Comes the Sun . He took up the sitar, first performing it on Lennon's Norwegian Wood, and then started adding slide guitar to numbers including his own compositions For You Blue and Old Brown Shoe.

While Lennon was the first to suggest leaving the Beatles and McCartney became the first to announce that he actually was doing so, Harrison was the first to actually walk out (during the Let It Be sessions) though he returned in relatively short order. When the group did disband, in 1970, Harrison released the three-disc All Things Must Pass album, produced by Phil Spector (who also worked with Lennon, and who had finished production on Let It Be album after McCartney's departure from the scene) and including the first No. 1 single by a former Beatle, My Sweet Lord - a triumph somewhat weakened by a successful lawsuit from the estate of the composer of the Chiffons' 1963 hit He's So Fine, from which Harrison had - unwittingly? - appropriated the melody.

On August 1, 1971, Harrison presented and co-starred on The Concert for Bangladesh, a fundraiser for that country's poor. The show also featured Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Ravi Shankar and Bob Dylan. Subsequently released as a documentary film and multi-disc record album, it was rock and roll's first major charity concert. He formed his own Dark Horse label, and the successful production company Handmade Films (whose first project was Monty Python's Life of Brian). He produced and appeared in All You Need is Cash (a Pythonesque biography of the fictitious but very Beatles-like Rutles), and reunited surviving Beatles McCartney and Starr to appear on his post-Lennon single, All Those Years Ago.

Harrison preferred the recording studio to the concert stage, though he did tour to promote his Dark Horse album and released an album from a 1992 Japanese tour with Eric Clapton - who had guested as soloist on While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Harrison reciprocated by playing rhythm guitar on, and co-writing, Cream's Badge); and married Harrison's former wife, Patti, the subject of his yearning Layla. Harrison subsequently married American, Olivia Trinidad Arias, his former assistant at Dark Horse Records in Los Angeles. They have a son, guitarist Dhani Harrison, who is the uncanny image of his father.

Harrison's 1987 Cloud Nine album - which included a No. 1 revival of the obscure 1962 James Ray single Got My Mind Set on You -- was produced by Electric Light Orchestra co-founder and self-proclaimed Beatles fanatic Jeff Lynne; the association leading to the formation of the Traveling Wilburys, with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and Lynne.

George Harrison died in Los Angeles of a brain tumor on November 29, 2001. His final album, Brainwashed, was completed by co-producers Lynn and Dhani Harrison, and released posthumously. On the first anniversary of Harrison's death, Clapton and Olivia Harrison organized the tribute Concert for George, an all-star tribute that was subsequently released as a film documentary, an album, and a highly-regarded DVD.

Harrison was a 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

© 2004