On November 29, 2001, former Beatle George Harrison passed away at age 58, after a bout with lung cancer. He was surrounded by family, friends, and two Hare Krishna devotees who prayed by his side and would later help coordinate his cremation and scattering of his ashes on India's sacred Yamuna river. It was the end of the material journey of the Beatles' most introspective member, and one who not only inspired musicians all over the world but also transcendentalists and vegetarians who saw in him the perfect example of someone living in the world but not being of it.
The story of how he entered the Beatles is well-publicized. John Lennon and Paul McCartney could play a little guitar, but they weren’t that great. What they needed was someone who could do solos.
“I know this guy,” Paul told John. “He’s kind of young
but he’s good.”
As told by McCartney, the meeting took place on the upper floor of a double-decker bus in Liverpool. Harrison played Bill Justis' 1957 instrumental hit “Raunchy,” and it was “perfect,” according to Paul. He was in.
What followed was Beatlemania, India, a bitter break-up, a reasonably successful solo career and, most importantly, a spiritual life he never gave up, even though Harrison was far from a saint, which made his journey all the more inspiring—he was each one of us, a soul striving for inner peace even in the middle of terrestrial temptations. He may have fallen repeatedly (like all of us), but he always recovered and reached the end of his life in full spiritual consciousness.
He wasn't just a Beatle, and he wasn't just a spiritual seeker. He was George Harrison, and Martin Scorsese beautifully told his story in George Harrison: Living in the Material World, parts of which we are sharing below and in the next page to honor Harrison 12 years after his death or, as he would say, after "leaving the body."
Go to the next page to see Part 2.