George Harrison would have marked his 75th birthday on Feb 25. Since the most esoteric and non-material of the Beatles died in 2001, we'll have to do the celebrating for him. And when it comes to Harrison, there is much to celebrate, for his is a gift that keeps on giving, a many-petaled lotus that reveals more the more closely it is observed.
Here in Buffalo, the auspicious occasion will be marked by the big-screen debut of "Concert for George," a film documenting the 2002 Royal Albert Hall tribute to the man, featuring a stellar cast of friends and family who also happened to be some of the biggest names in the history of popular music. The Dipson Amherst Theatre will show the film at 7 and 9 p.m. Feb. 25.
A caveat for anyone planning to attend – bring Kleenex. The first time I made it to the point in the film where Paul McCartney sings "All Things Must Pass," I completely lost it. You might, too.
In honor of Harrison, here are a few moments from his career that I consider to be transcendent. These might not be his "best" songs - what a vulgar concept, that - but they are the ones that will force me to stop what I'm doing and surrender to them, every time.
"Isn’t It a Pity," from "All Things Must Pass" (1970)
It has often been said that Harrison wrote this song about Patti Boyd during their divorce. Perhaps. I hear it more as a reflection on the entire human race.
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps," from "The Beatles," aka "The White Album" (1968)
This is akin to a Zen koan. The narrator looks at the world and sees only "the love there that's sleeping," while the guitar weeps and wails a threnody for the human condition. Call it an existential blues.
"Here Comes the Sun," from "Abbey Road" (1969)
Perfect marriage of musical motif and lyric. You "see" the sun rising as soon as the acoustic guitar begins playing. And your heart rises with it. Harrison made this sound easy.
"Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)," from "Living in the Material World" (1973)
What else is there to say? Only variations on this theme, which Harrison nailed succinctly and beautifully. And his slide guitar playing is sublime.
"Stuck Inside a Cloud," from "Brainwashed" (2002)
He knew he was dying, and he wrote about it honestly and poignantly. What profound bravery.