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George Harrison, rock pioneer

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There's hardly a wedding band on the planet that doesn't owe a debt to George Harrison. As author of the elegant "Something" - which early Beatle-hater Frank Sinatra called the most beautiful love song ever written - his place in history would be cemented even if he hadn't been in the world's most influential rock band.

Sinatra's accolade impresses even more because Harrison was constantly eclipsed by bandmates John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Beatles albums rarely contained more than two Harrison compositions, yet they were often gems: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," one of the most exquisite songs in existence, helps me cry when I need to. "Here Comes the Sun," its antidote, is a universally perfect statement on happiness and the simple joy of a spring day. Who doesn't smile upon hearing it?

He amused us with his scathing "Piggies" and "Taxman;" his creation of the pseudonymous supergroup, the Traveling Wilburys; and several solo videos. Harrison, whose wit and humor belied that "quiet one" label, also helped birth the first rock "mockumentary" (yes, it predates "This is Spinal Tap"): the Monty Python comedy, "The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash." He later produced the Pythons' "Life of Brian" and other films.

He introduced Western audiences to "world music" with his use of tabla, sitar, and Indian scales - and to Eastern spiritual thought through his immersion in Indian culture. With his Concert for Bangladesh, he pioneered the use of star-laden rock concerts as fundraisers. (The high-school term paper I derived from that project was my first inkling that one could use music to write about larger issues.) When Harrison's masterpiece, "All Things Must Pass," was reissued early this year, listening to it felt like revisiting a long-lost friend, one with whom the bond is so deep, it doesn't matter how much time has elapsed. Bob Geldof, Harrison's friend and organizer of the massive Live-Aid concert, said last week that he regards "All Things" as the best solo album released by any Beatle.


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