Olivia Harrison, the Mexican -Arias her maiden name- widow of Beatle George Harrison, is in the news for the first time in many years, to remember her husband who died 20 years ago. She has done it with the publication of a book of poems where she recounts moments in the life of the guitarist and composer and the pain of death, which never passes.
“All I wanted was another spring…. Was it so much to ask?” (All I wanted was another spring… Was that too much to ask?), says the first line of the first poem, of twenty that make up the book. One for each year of absence? It must not be a coincidence. “Came the Lightening” (The lightning arrived), is the title of the collection of poems.
George Harrison died of lung cancer at the age of 58 on November 29, 2001.
This is the first book for Olivia Harrison, 74. The musician’s widow has meticulously curated the work of george with the help of his son, Dhani, but other than that he has maintained the privacy that the couple maintained during their marriage. Without a doubt, this is a pleasant surprise, to keep alive the memory of a multi-instrumentalist who was an all-terrain musician, who played many other instruments besides the guitar, such as the sitar, the bass, the ukulele, the mandolin, the violin, the tambura, dobro, swarmandal (an Indian harp), tabla, organ, piano, Moog synthesizer, harmonica, autoharp, glockenspiel, vibraphone, xylophone, clave, congas, and that particular instrument from India composed of ceramic or metal bowls with different tunings, called Jal-Tarang.
As he said in the presentation of the work, quoted by the AP agency, Harrison’s widow was inspired to write after reading a work by Edna St. Vincent Millay about a “wound that never heals”, and her own verse about another spring it was a turning point. She changed her mind after initially deciding that she would not publish it.
“It’s because he was a good guy,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press. “And I thought, ‘I want people to know… these things.’ A lot of people think they know who George is. I thought he deserved this, from me, to let people know something a little more personal.”
Olivia Harrison recalls in the book moments of their relationship, night dances with a jukebox in her living room, or how her cold feet sought his warmth under the sheets on winter nights.
George Harrison was the first of The Beatles to release a solo album, long before the band disbanded. It was the soundtrack of a strange movie called wonder wall. Actually Paul McCartney had already made the score for The FamilyWaybut he doesn’t play any instruments on it.
George Harrison and Olivia Arias met in the 70s of the last century, when she worked at his record company in Los Angeles. Olivia remembers him in one of her poems, how nervous she was to receive him for the first time in the humble home of her Mexican immigrant parents. “He said, ‘It’s a mansion compared to my youth.'” And it was true. He grew up in a small welfare house, with no bathroom and a twenty-minute walk from the station where he took the bus to go to school.
She also remembers when he took her to his residence in Friar Park in west London for the first time and said these sweet words to her: “Olivia, welcome home”.
It does not leave aside a theme of George’s life, who despite the fact that his first wife Patti Boyd was unfaithful to him with his best friend, Eric Clapton and that he was furious when he received the news, George chose not to stand in the way of the inevitable and got divorced so that Eric could marry her. What’s more, he still attended the wedding and played with Paul and Ringo at it (John was on vacation and couldn’t make it). When asked how she felt about it, she said “I’d rather she be with him than with any stupid.”
In Olivia’s poem she says that they arrived in John and Yoko’s “big white car”. It was another sign that she wasn’t marrying just anyone, along with her description of the day that “the legendary Slowhand arrived with the ex-madam.”
Another subject that Olivia Harrison addresses in one of her poems is the night of December 30, 1999, when a disturbed man with a knife broke into Friar Park. He begged George to stay hidden in the room, but he went downstairs to confront the intruder and was stabbed in the fight. Olivia attacked the intruder with a fireplace poker and, against all odds, they both survived.
“I wouldn’t say it was a defining moment, but it was such a profound experience that I still can’t believe it,” he said. “George almost died and you think, ‘no, he’s not going to die like this.’ He was a very challenging person in that sense, I’m not going to die like this. That’s what he was thinking of at the time, in fact. After everything I’ve been through, am I going to die like this?”
Nineteen years earlier, she had received a phone call in the middle of the night to inform them that John Lennon had died, and they had snuggled for hours under the covers.
Although George died less than two years after the Friar Park attack, she called it “a victory, not a loss.”
“It was a win because he went on his own terms, the way he wanted to,” he said. “It was something I was sorry John Lennon didn’t get a chance to do.”
“I wanted you to leave without any impediment of care, to go floating as you always imagined and prepared to do so. I couldn’t help it, I caressed your ear with my nose and whispered the last words to leave you with my sound”, she sings to him in an elegiac poem about the death of the Beatle.
His son was 23 years old when George passed away. Harrison said she’s often surprised to hear him talk about things she didn’t know her dad had told him.
At the age of 22, before it was fashionable, the Beatle became a vegetarian, a philosophy of life that he followed until the end of his days. They say that he did not allow any type of meat or fish in his house. Also one of his greatest joys was gardening. He once claimed to have planted around 10,000 trees on all his properties during his existence. On several occasions he was arrested for possession of large amounts of marijuana.
George’s withdrawn character earned him the nickname “the silent beatle”, “the serious one”, or even “mystic”, due to his fondness for Eastern religions, as opposed to the exuberance and magnetism of his bandmates. They also called him the quiet Beatle, and he was, he didn’t like to be the center and many times he left things aside, he gave in, so that Paul McCartney who just turned 80 this week, and John Lennon, assassinated on December 8, 1980, their overflowing egos might shine.
More about the beginnings
George Harrison participated in the original lineup of the Beatles. In 1962, manager Brian Epstein got them a contract with EMI and they recorded, with George Martin as producer, love me do. During that session, drummer Pete Best was ejected. His replacement, Ringo Starr, would become one of George’s best friends until the end of his days. Within a few months, the group became a mass phenomenon in Britain, and by 1964 America’s favorite group with I want to hold your hand. The movie A hard day’s nightreleased the same year, made “Beatlemania” a worldwide phenomenon.
George’s first song to appear on a Beatles record was Don’t bother mefrom the second album, Meet the Beatles, but his compositions hardly had a release until years later. His contribution as lead guitarist to the band’s sound was, however, decisive. His sharp, melodic riffs, heirs to Chet Atkins and Carl Perkins, and his vocal accompaniment to the harmonies of John Lennon Y Paul MCCARTNEY were his most characteristic signs of identity.
According to his biography, the Beatles left the stage to devote themselves to studio work, and Harrison entered his most productive phase in the band. He contributed three themes to the classic Stiramong them tax manand experimented with instruments unpublished in the world of pop, such as the Indian sitar (he was the introducer of Ravi Shanker in Great Britain). In love with Hindu music and religion and a great fan of LSD, he actively participated in Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), probably the most famous album in history, which kicked off the “summer of love”, hippies and psychedelia. In 1968 he sparked a historic band-wide trip to India, which included meditation days in India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a spiritual guru. This also changed the history of the group and rock and pop music.
In September of last year, George Harrison’s memoirs ‘I Me Mine’, written in 1980, the expanded version with more photos, more handwritten songs and the prologue by his widow Olivia, which demonstrates the great contribution of the Beatle to the music, always overshadowed by the exuberant presence of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, which caused his departure from the group while they were recording let it be.
In 1978, he promoted the film production company Handmade Films, born to carry out the film Brian’s lifeof the Monty Python. The company became an important reference in British alternative cinema in the 1980s, although it failed in its attempt to expand markets with the unsuccessful Shanghai Surprise (1986), with madonna Y Sean Pennand ended up for sale.
In 1981, shortly after publishing his memoirs, John Lennon, who had read them, told the press: “George’s book hurt me, I, I, Mine…so this message will go to him. He privately put out a book on his life in which, in blatant omission, he says that my influence on his life is absolutely nil and zero. In his book, which supposedly offers insight into his influence on every song he wrote, he recalls every small-time saxophonist or guitarist he met in the years since. I don’t appear in the book.
On the other hand, after Lennon’s death, and on one occasion when he was asked about the band’s return, George Harrison expressed with his special sense of black humor “The Beatles will not meet while John is still dead”.