On the 68th Anniversary of George Harrison’s Birth

If it is still before midnight February 25, 2011, stop reading and go here instead: Concert for George because today, in honor of what would have been George Harrison’s 68th birthday the concert held one year to the day of George’s death (November 29, 2001) is being streamed for 24 hours.

In case you missed this first time around, briefly, this is who you’ll see. The show opens with Ravi Shankar’s daughter playing sitar and directing an East-West hybrid orchestra that at the end  includes Eric Clapton, who for the rest of the concert brings together configurations of George’s friends and bandmates: Ringo, Paul, Klaus Voormann, Jim Keltner, Billy Preston, Jeff Lynde, Tom Petty, others.

And then there is Dhani, George’s son.

For me, he is the heart and soul of the concert. How brave that boy was to get up there with the mega megas — had he ever before played publicly? — almost all of whom are 40 years, give or take a few, his senior, who remember when he still lived within his mother, and this on the first anniversary of his father’s death. Look at Dhani at 2:13:48 into the film — just for a few seconds you see it. Around him the others reaching the end of the evening are celebratory, for Dhani, it looks like: OK, I’ve almost made it, a few more minutes.

I call Dhani a boy, but he was 24 that night, and when his father was 24 the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper and three years later the Beatles were no more. But when your mom is on the front row, next to your honorary grandfather, and you are surrounded by your honorary uncles, well, you know.

There is so much love in that film, and you’d miss a lot if you only heard this concert.

I see Dhani as bolstered on the one side by Eric Clapton and on the other Albert Lee, the bassist with the long white hair and beautiful smile: every time Dhani would look his way, he’d see that smile. Lee didn’t work with George, Eric invited him, but he didn’t need to have to know what this night was about.

Yes, it is usually amazingly upbeat, but sometimes you see the sadness as well. Look at Eric Clapton at the end of “Beware of Darkness.” Or Ringo at 1:55:48 near the end of “All Things Must Pass,” or Albert Lee during the same song, when he sees Dhani isn’t looking, and this look of absolute compassion comes into his eyes (1:55:42).

But to me the most moving few seconds of the entire film are at the very end, when Joe Brown is playing “I’ll See You in My Dreams” on ukulele.

Look at 2:16:42. Eric and Dhani are watching the flower petals fall, and Dhani comes over and puts his head on Eric’s shoulder and Eric puts his arm around him, and every time I see that I think George, you knew how to be a father and how to be a friend, and how to love and be loved, and how to forgive and how to live.

What he gave has not ended.


1 thought on “On the 68th Anniversary of George Harrison’s Birth”

  1. I just picked up the concert about 2 months ago. To me it is one of the best live performances that have ever been filmed. The music is impeccable, and flows with a spirit all it’s own.
    I too, was very touched by the devotion that these men-not as stars or players-had for George. He really did know how to choose the right people to include in his life. The idea of George being gone, and yet he left Dhani and Olivia all of these friends who you know will be there to support them no matter what. I can’t get through the DVD without bawling. These poor people were in such grief and yet they did there best not to let it show.
    One of the other things that really was moving was the beginning. Olivia, comes out on stage and lights the piece (I still haven’t been able to find out what that was) and while she is doing it, Anoushka looks at her and then honors her grief by lowering her head.
    I had never really heard Indian music before but I was transfixed on her part of the tribute. She is beautiful, humble (she gets up to help her dad sit down, how many children do that) and extremely gifted musically.
    The genius in Ravi Shankar hit me on this DVD. He sat with each player, sang them their parts, and never wrote a note of it down. One would think it would be a mess but that symphony was immaculate. I just wish that the players had been given a little more screen time.
    The highlight so far for me of the tribute was Sam Brown. I had never heard of her and she tore the doors off of the Albert Hall. The BEST performance by a female singer that I have ever seen.
    Energy, control, humor, she was brilliant.
    George had his faults, but he knew how to pick quality people to surround him and this tribute proves that.

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