|George Harrison, MBE (February 25, 1943 – November 29, 2001) was an English musician, guitarist, singer-songwriter, actor and film producer who achieved international fame as lead guitarist of The Beatles. Often referred to as "the quiet Beatle", Harrison became over time an admirer of Indian mysticism, and introduced it to the other Beatles, as well as their Western audience. Following the band's break-up he was a successful solo artist, and later a founding member of the Traveling Wilburys. Harrison was also a session musician and a film and record producer. He is listed at number 11 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".
Although most of The Beatles' songs were written by Lennon and McCartney, Beatle albums generally included one or two of Harrison's own songs, from With The Beatles onwards. His later compositions with The Beatles include "Here Comes the Sun", "Something" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". By the time of the band's break-up, Harrison had accumulated a backlog of material, which he then released as the triple album All Things Must Pass in 1970, from which two hit singles originated: a double A-side single, "My Sweet Lord" backed with "Isn't It a Pity", and "What Is Life". In addition to his solo work, Harrison co-wrote two hits for former Beatle Ringo Starr, as well as songs for the Traveling Wilburys—the supergroup he formed in 1988 with Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Roy Orbison.
Harrison embraced Indian culture and Hinduism in the mid-1960s, and helped expand Western awareness of sitar music and of the Hare Krishna movement. With Ravi Shankar he organised the first major charity concert with the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh. In addition to his musical accomplishments, he was also a record producer and co-founder of the production company HandMade Films. In his work as a film producer, he collaborated with people as diverse as the members of Monty Python and Madonna.
He was married twice, to model Pattie Boyd from 1966 to 1974, and for 23 years to record company secretary Olivia Trinidad Arias, with whom he had one son, Dhani Harrison. He was a close friend of Eric Clapton. He is the only Beatle to have published an autobiography, with I Me Mine in 1980. Harrison died of lung cancer in 2001.
Harrison was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, on 25 February 1943, the last of four children to Harold Hargreaves Harrison and his wife Louise, née French.
He had one sister, Louise, born 16 August 1931, and two brothers, Harry, born 1934, and Peter, born 20 July 1940. His mother was a Liverpool shop assistant, and his father was a bus conductor who had worked as a ship's steward on the White Star Line. His mother's family had Irish roots and were Roman Catholic; his maternal grandfather, John French, was born in County Wexford, Ireland, emigrating to Liverpool where he married a local girl, Louise Woollam.
Harrison was born in the house where he lived for his first six years: 12 Arnold Grove, Wavertree, Liverpool, which was a small 2 up, 2 down terraced house in a cul-de-sac, with an alley to the rear. The only heating was a single coal fire, and the toilet was outside. In 1950 the family were offered a council house, and moved to 25 Upton Green, Speke.
His first school was Dovedale Primary School, very close to Penny Lane, the same school as John Lennon who was a couple of years ahead of him. He passed his 11-plus examination and achieved a place at the Liverpool Institute for Boys (in the building that now houses the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts), which he attended from 1954 to 1959.
Harrison said that, when he was 12 or 13, he had an "epiphany" of sorts – riding a bike around his neighbourhood, he heard Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" playing from a nearby house and was hooked. Even though he had done well enough on his 11-plus examination to get into the city's best high school, from that point on, the former good student lost interest in school.
When Harrison was 14 years old, he sat at the back of the class and tried drawing guitars in his schoolbooks: “I was totally into guitars. I heard about this kid at school who had a guitar at £3 10s, it was just a little acoustic round hole. I got the £3 10s from my mother: that was a lot of money for us then.” Harrison bought a Dutch Egmond flat top acoustic guitar. While at the Liverpool Institute, Harrison formed a skiffle group called the Rebels with his brother Peter and a friend, Arthur Kelly. At this school he met Paul McCartney, who was one year older. McCartney later became a member of John Lennon's band called The Quarrymen, which Harrison joined in 1958.