This week marks the celebration of our favorite Beatle, George Harrison. This coincides with the release of a box set of Harrison’s early solo work on Apple Records called The Apple Years, as well as Conan’s week long ode to the quiet, spiritual Beatle, with cover performances by Beck, Paul Simon, Norah Jones and more. The most notable is a tribute concert called George Fest, and is a charity concert for Sweet Relief in Harrison’s spirit (the Godfather of the charity show). So in honor of the often underrated Beatle, here is our favorite Harrison songs, including Beatles, solo, and Traveling Wilburys songs.
10. George Harrison – “What Is Life?”
When it comes down to it, most double-disc albums could have been single albums. However, George Harrison took it a step further with All Things Must Pass, making a triple album and one with no filler. “What Is Life?” works as the sweeping, celebratory centerpiece that makes life that much sweeter when it hits the ear buds.
9. The Beatles – “Something”
Showing the strength of Harrison’s catalog, one of the greatest love songs of all time shows up at #9 on the list. “Something” is pure grace, through and through.
8. George Harrison – “Wah Wah”
The title of “Wah Wah” would suggest it’s a guitar exercise that just usees tons of the “wah wah” pedal effect (which this song does have plenty of), but this song is Harrison’s breakup song with the Beatles, with “wah wah” being a sly euphemism for the Fab Four.
7. George Harrison – “Behind That Locked Door”
This dreamy, gentle country tune is one of my favorite Harrison vocals and melodies. It might be slow in approach, but its timeless in its sound and message.
6. The Beatles – “Taxman”
With biting guitar, whiplash percussion, and one of Harrison’s angriest vocals, “Taxman” is a timeless protest song. Timeless enough it showed up on our Top Ten Anti-Establishment Songs list.
5. The Beatles – “Here Comes The Sun”
My personal #1, I’m not sure any song brings joy, renewal, and points to a bright new day quite like “Here Comes the Sun”. It’s pretty much the official song of spring, and even landed number #2 on our Top Ten Spring Songs.
4. The Beatles – “Within You Without You”
“Within You Without You” is one of my favorite songs to play to nominal Beatles fans and have them realize they have only scratched the surface on how the Beatles revolutionized music. It doesn’t sound an ounce like the Beatles most people know and love. “Within You Without You” was the height of Harrison’s Indian music exploration, a breathtaking and hypnotic journey down the rabbit hole.
3. The Beatles – “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
George haters are quick to mention the fact that the lead guitar on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is actually Eric Clapton, and while that is indeed the case, my guess is this has way more to do with George’s humility than his inability to play the part. Still, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” reveals some of Harrison’s prophetic voice he would explore further in his solo work, and the song is unlike anything else in the Beatles catalog.
2. George Harrison – “Beware Of Darkness”
One of George’s most delicate and powerful songs in all his catalog. What starts as a heed of warning grows to song of empowerment.
1. George Harrison – “My Sweet Lord”
The best hymn ever that isn’t actually a hymn, “My Sweet Lord” is a song that even the irreligious can embrace, as the song speaks to the universal human longing for a place of peace and comfort. Harrison grew up Roman Catholic, but embraced the Hare Krishna tradition in the late 60’s, and was a big proponent of interfaith peace, which explains why this song references so many faith traditions.
Wes – The Traveling Wilburys – “Handle With Care”
The Traveling Wilburys, the world’s most stacked supergroup with Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne (ELO), was short-lived, but did give us a few classics in its existence. Chief among them was the Harrison-penned “Handle with Care”. It’s so good, it even makes up for all of these legends’ brutally bad late 80’s haircuts.
Todd – The Beatles – “Blue Jay Way”
Magical Mystery Tour has to be the most bipolar Beatles album, and on its gloomy, experimental end, “Blue Jay Way” creates a psychedelic haze as thick as the band’s smoke cloud at the time.
Austin – The Beatles – “Only A Northern Song”
Another dissonant, psychedelic tune amidst an otherwise cheery album in Yellow Submarine, “Only a Northern Song” is an achievement for both George’s in the Beatles, Harrison and legendary producer George Martin, who is absolutely the 5th Beatle if you are arguing for one (I don’t want to hear no Billy Preston, Stu Sutcliffe, or Pete Best nonsense).