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Today is the tenth anniversary of the death of former Beatle George Harrison. He was just 58-years-old when he died of lung cancer on Nov. 29, 2001. In the ten years since his death, his unique mix of spirituality, wit and talent has been severely missed. While he was overshadowed during the Beatles years, he was the one that probably benefited the most by the break up. He was the first to have a solo number one album and single and set up the first rock benefit concert, The Concert for Bangladesh, which paved the way for shows like Live Aid. He was also the only Beatle to write an autobiography, penning the invaluable I Me Mine in 1980.
Here is a chronological list of just ten of his best songs from his solo years.
1. “My Sweet Lord,” All Things Must Pass, 1970
All Things Must Pass is a huge, sprawling record. Harrison decided to unload nearly all the songs he had written toward the end of the Beatle years in one massive triple album, filled with 18 songs plus five jam tracks with people like Eric Clapton and Billy Preston. Still, the album’s lead #1 single, “My Sweet Lord” is probably the best on the album. It’s simple, but it continues Harrison’s knack of combining lifting spirituality with rock music that makes the track universally loved.
2. “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)”, Living in the Material World, 1973
Harrison’s second studio album is often neglected in the shadow of ATMP, but it is just as good. The lead single, “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth),” was another number one single for him and it isn’t hard to see why. The track brings across that simple message that prevailed so often in his music.
3. “Living In The Material World,” Living in the Material World, 1973
The title track for the album starts this great tradition Harrison had of writing songs about his own life, while injecting it with the kind of witty humor that made him so unique. “Can’t say what I’m doing here, but I hope to see much clearer/After living in the material world.”
4. “Dark Horse,” Dark Horse, 1974
Dark Horse is an odd album, hampered by Harrison’s laryngitis, but the title track is wonderful, with a great chorus. “I’m a Dark Horse, running on a dark race course.” Harrison was a surprising character, always changing, and “Dark Horse” epitomized that spirit.
5. “Crackerbox Palace,” Thirty Three & ⅓, 1976
This song is great, from the wonderful opening line (“I was so young when I was born/My eyes could not yet see...”) to this sense of welcoming everyone to the world. “Sometimes are good . . . sometimes are bad/That's all a part of life,” Harrison reminds us. Here’s the wonderful video for the track.
6. “Dark Sweet Lady,” George Harrison, 1978
This is an obscure one, but it is such a pretty, beautiful track that I cannot ignore it. The song was written for Olivia, George’s second wife, who has done such a great job at taking care of his legacy over the past ten years.
7. “Life Itself,” Somewhere In England, 1981
While “All Those Years Ago” is the obvious tribute to John Lennon, “Life Itself” is more like an overall spiritual tribute, not just to Lennon, but to living and the importance of having a spiritual connection. Harrison was a universal spirit and the song shows that no matter what your religion is and no matter what you call God, as long as you have some kind of spirituality and something to believe in, you can lead a great life.
8. “That’s The Way It Goes,” Gone Troppo, 1982
Gone Troppo is one wacky album, but this is the standout track and a personal favorite.
9. “When We Was Fab,” Cloud Nine, 1987
How can you possibly pick a favorite from Cloud Nine, Harrison’s miraculous, late-career comeback. It helped him get the last #1 single for a Beatle with his cover of “Got My Mind Set On You,” but the original songs are just as amazing, even if Jeff Lynne’s production is a tad dated. “When We Was Fab” is pure fun, recounting the Beatles’ career...plus putting it on the list means another chance to watch the video.
10. “Any Road,” Brainwashed, 2002
When you play this song, make sure the volume is as loud as possible. “Uh, give me plenty of that guitar,” Harrison says just before the intro. It was his last single for his last album and what a way to go out on. Brainwashed is possibly his best overall album, chock full of great material, but “Any Road” feels like the great punctuation to a great life. “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”
11. “Handle With Care,” Taveling Wilburys, Vol. 1, 1988
George Harrison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison. That is all.