The other day I was writing about Ringo Starr and it occurred to me later that I mentioned George Harrison nearly as often as I mentioned Ringo in that article. So I figured George Harrison deserved an article all of his own.
George Harrison was somewhat overshadowed by Paul McCartney and John Lennon during his time in the Beatles. For sure, he achieved global fame and great fortune as part of the Fab Four, but his light was kept very firmly under a bushel in those days.
George was a talented guitar player and possibly the most accomplished musician in the Beatles. He greatly influenced the Beatles sound over the years, most publicly through his adoption of the sitar and his interest in Eastern music which so influenced the Beatles’ later recordings.
In any band other than the Beatles, we’d remember George Harrison for his songwriting talents too. He was the genius behind the bright-eyed awakening of “Here Comes The Sun”, the unbelievably romantic “Something” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”…a song which always makes me cry because it’s so beautiful and heartfelt.
After the Beatles, George Harrison was the first of the Fab Four out the gate with a solo career, scoring two Billboard Number One hits in the early 1970s. His 1970 triple album “All Things Must Pass” was certified 6-times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
And, of course, George Harrison wrote “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)”, which was the launch track from his second solo album “Living In The Material World”.
“Give Me Love” is a delightfully simple song. Next to the polished sophistication of “Here Comes The Sun”, “Something” or “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, the power of “Give Me Love” is in its refreshing simplicity.
This is a song written by someone who isn’t trying to out-do himself…at least not in a material way, although it is one of George Harrison’s more overtly spiritual tracks.
“Give Me Love” is written like some sort of ritualistic prayer, where the same expression is repeated over and over, almost as if it’s part of some meditative process.
That might not sound like a recipe for sure-fire pop success at first, but 1973's record buyers begged to differ.
The hopes of the 1960s had given away to the despondency of the 1970s. Times were harder. The economy was slower. War was looming in the Middle East. And the OPEC nations were getting ready to deliver a shockwave to the major Western economies when their embargo on oil supplies ushered in the economic stagflation of the 1970s.
The US government has just been humiliated in Vietnam and the long shadow of Watergate was getting closer and closer to the heart of the Nixon administration.
The major economic and social problems of the mid-to-late 1970s were not quite upon us yet, but there was the acrid scent of trouble ahead in the air. We yearned for simpler, more peaceful times. The sense of peace and contentment George Harrison was singing about…
Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to touch and reach you
With heart and soul
“Give Me Love” was George Harrison’s plea for peace and love in a world that seemed to prefer war and hate.
Nearly 50 years further on, the seeds of the troubles sown in the early 1970s are still with us today. It isn’t that we want peace and love any less at the dawn of the 2020s, it’s just that we’ve become progressively more used to living without them.
Instead of George Harrison’s ambition for a spiritual connectedness around all the peoples of the world, nowadays we have poor substitutes like Facebook and Instagram peddling faux connectedness instead.
The world is more connected than ever.
Yet it’s also less connected than ever at the same time.
Giant corporations serve us digital experiences designed to mimic feeling connected to other human beings, which is funded by advertising, the sole purpose of which is to make us less inclined to have connections with real human beings because we need to work more hours to afford the products they want to sell to us. It’s a funny old world…
Some recent studies have suggested young people might be rediscovering an interest in spirituality, if not in organised religion, as an antidote to their feelings of the lack of real human connections in the modern world.
And if they do, I hope at least some of those young people will discover one of George Harrison’s most spiritual songs…
Oh my lord
Please take hold of my hand
That I might understand you
Won’t you please
Oh won’t you
Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Peace and love was all the hippies wanted back in the 1960s.
It’s what we all secretly yearn for today.
But our ability to focus on making the world a better place has been hijacked by billionaires with their own agendas. Manipulated by clever, amoral people and swanky technology, now we make the world a better place for billionaires, but a worse place for everyone else.
The challenges were different back in 1973, but the principles remain the same today as they were then.
We can’t cure hate and division and bring humanity back together again by trying to out-hate and out-divide the other side.
We have to put that aside.
We have bring love to heal our souls.
We have to bring peace so we can bask in the love we’re giving and receiving.
That was George Harrison’s message in 1973 and it does humanity no credit that we’ve largely forgotten his message in the intervening 50 years.
And if the message in the lyrics isn’t enough to get you to listen to this track, I’d recommend listening anyway for the musicianship. There’s a couple of sublime slide guitar solos in “Give Me Love”, played by George Harrison himself, showing he didn’t just write some beautiful songs, he was one of the finest guitar players of his day too.
Superstar session piano player Nicky Hopkins also deserves a special mention for his fine piano work which sits just under the guitars in the mix and is well-worth making a special effort to listen out for.
Here’s George Harrison with his US Number One and UK Top 10 record “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)”…
To which I say, “Amen, brother…”
If you’ve read this far, thank you for spending a few moments in the company of one of my favourite songs. The video is below, but if you prefer listening to your music on Spotify, you can find today’s track here… https://open.spotify.com/track/4XMRt4xFqLzGs4wDKkSSeu