Monday, January 17, 2005

Why I Miss George

I finally watched the Concert for George on DVD last night, having received it for Christmas and it jogged my memory that he died on November 29th. My wife reminded me that Carey Grant also died on that date. She also reminded me this was her mother’s birthday.

I wondered if there are there zodiac signs for the deceased? I mean we attribute personality characteristics to the living predicated on what month they are born. Are there characteristics of the dead, predicated on what month they died? Do the dead exchange clichéd lines at post mortem bars, “Hey, what’s your after life sign?” And what of those who are one sign during life, but a contradictory sign after life? What if you are an Aries or Leo in life (fire signs) but say a Cancer or Scorpio in death (clearly, water signs). Do we need to make any adjustments to such a change?

After watching the DVD I am awash in a grave sense of loss, years after the event. His music reminds me of what we have lost. I miss George Harrison. Terribly. And the funny thing is, I am not entirely certain that I can put into words why.

As I listened to his music and watched these people who clearly loved him singing his words I was comforted. Certainly, seeing his son Dhani onstage looking like his very clone was both comforting and spooky at the same time. You could still see the grief in the back of Eric Clapton’s eyes – even on the DVD. He was the musical coordinator of this concert, and as he wrote in the liner notes for the DVD, this was something he needed to do to facilitate the grieving process. Clapton knows grief.

George as the “quiet” Beatle, was anything but, it turns out. He had a lot to say, and by God, much of it had depth, girth and weight. Where John Lennon spent years running away from the pressures of being a Beatle, George embraced a view of the world that at once removed him from these pressures and also engaged him in the world. Where McCartney ran to wealth and a comfortable country family life (himself, struggling with the loss of his wife Linda to cancer), George made music extolling the spiritual life.

Before benefit concerts were chic, does anyone recall that George raised money for those struggling in Bangladesh as they were dealing with the worst imaginable drought? But this was not out of a sense of “responding from privilege” as we get from many rock stars today. George did this, I surmise, because it rose from his sense of the spiritual.

I listen to Ringo sing “Photograph” – a song he co-wrote with George – and am frozen by the eerie prophetic lyrics.

Ev'ry time i see your face
It reminds me of the places we used to go.
But all i got is a photograph
And i realise you're not coming back anymore.
I can't get used to living here,
While my heart is broke, my tears i cried for you.
I want you here to have and hold,
As the years go by and we grow old and grey.
Now you're expecting me to live without you,
But that's not something that i'm looking forward to.
I can't get used to living here,
While my heart is broke, my tears i cried for you.
I want you here to have and hold,
As the years go by and we grow old and grey.
Ev'ry time i see your face,
It reminds me of the places we used to go.
But all i got is a photograph
And i realise you're not coming back anymore.

Sad and creepy.

I was impressed when Ringo announced to the crowd, "I loved George and George loved me." It was that type of bold imperative statement that seems unshakeable. It doesn't equivocate. It was the statement a brother and only a brother could make. That sort of certainty put me at ease.

Remember when George went off to study with the Maharishi, how we’d all thought he’d flipped? And that was in the sixties when things like this were normally considered cool. Seems he was right all along, doesn’t it? Seek spiritual growth, and the rest will follow I guess.

I remember watching a Beatle tribute not too long ago on TV and Paul made the comment about all of their songs in some way being about love. How much did George’s world view about love influence Paul and John to write about this subject? How much of George’s peaceful and spiritual demeanor was the oil that lubricated the friction between John and Paul during those tumultuous years? It’s speculative at best. But it is conceivable that in his “quiet” way, in his humble way, he brought the kind of energy the “Beatles” as a group needed to write such life affirming songs. You won’t see his name on the songs but I believe his influence was there anyway, in typical George style, underplayed, undervalued, and unseen.

I suppose it is somewhat telling that his favorite chords on the guitar, and ones he loved to use most in his music, were diminished chords. George’s sense of the diminished self, of seeking truth over ego permeated the man wherever he went, and you can see that in the friends that showed up at this concert. You could even feel that in the audience, yes, even through the DVD.


Yet George wrote lyrics like:

“Beware of sadness, it can hit you, it can hurt you,
Make you sore and what is more,
That is not what you are here for.”



These lines illustrate that he knew what it was to be in the world but he puts it into context: you are meant for greater things. It’s this sense of the transcendent in the guise of this seemingly diminished soul that I think resonates with me, and perhaps, this is why I miss him and his music so much. We need this today, more than ever.

In an industry that exalts the self, and wealth, and faux artistry, this man joined art and spirit with the gentle passion of his own spirituality. He didn’t force anyone to listen; he didn’t push his ideas down. They bubbled up from his integration of spirit with body, in humility. This intensity may not have translated into many top 10 songs during his solo career (though he did have quite a few) and many in my time felt his “Indian” slant to music was hard to listen to, he did what all the greats do and he ran to himself.

He honored his own vision of his art, and people saw this and flocked to his message. Thank God, is all I can say!

They felt his gentleness. They felt his commitment to peace. Like me, years after his death listening to his music, these feelings reverberate in all of us, affirming what it is we all really want. George embodied this in his living and in his art. This is what makes him genuine.

Maybe this is why I feel like I am missing a friend for in a real sense, though we have never met, I am. His songs were uplifting in the most subtle sort of way, and that is what friends do for each other.

This is how we take in the most critical information that we assimilate to our very core. This is how we learn to become spiritual.

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