Top 10 George Harrison Songs
George Harrison was the first member of the Beatles to release a solo album (the 1968 soundtrack ‘Wonderwall Music’). He was the first Beatle to score a No. 1 solo hit (‘My Sweet Lord,’ which hit the top spot in early 1971). And he was, arguably, the Beatle with the most consistent solo repertoire (John Lennon‘s was marked by spotty experimental records, Paul McCartney‘s got way too soggy and Ringo Starr‘s was, well, too much Ringo). Needless to say, there’s a lot to celebrate about the most neglected Beatle. Need more proof? Check out our list of the Top 10 George Harrison Songs.
A few days before he staged the historic Concert for Bangladesh with Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and other famous friends, Harrison released this standalone single to help raise money and awareness for the embattled country. ‘Bangla Desh’ was one of Harrison’s first solo singles, and music fans, still hungry for post-Beatles material from the Fab Four, sent the horn-speckled song to the Top 30.
Like many songs on his self-titled 1979 album, ‘Blow Away,’ one of Harrison’s breeziest tracks, was written while he was settling into his new roles as father and husband. ‘Blow Away”s casual strums and pop stroll contrast a bit with the existential struggle and save-the-world poses found on many of his earlier solo cuts, but it’s a pleasant detour.
‘When We Was Fab’
More than any of his former bandmates, Harrison was prone to bouts of nostalgia for his Beatles days (see No. 7 on our list of the Top 10 George Harrison Songs). ‘When We Was Fab,’ like the rest of his 1987 comeback album ‘Cloud Nine,’ was written and produced with ex-Electric Light Orchestra frontman Jeff Lynne, who helped form the Traveling Wilburys with Harrison a year later.
‘All Those Years Ago’
Going all the way back to his first proper solo album, 1970’s ‘All Things Must Pass,’ Harrison would intermittently explore the Beatles’ history, cult and legacy. A year after Lennon’s death in 1980, he recorded this moving tribute to his former bandmate and, on a larger scale, Beatlemania. Fittingly, McCartney and Starr join him. It reached No. 2.
‘Isn’t It a Pity’
‘Isn’t It a Pity’ shows up twice on Harrison’s third solo album, and his first No. 1, ‘All Things Must Pass.’ It was also the B-side of his debut solo single, ‘My Sweet Lord’ (see No. 1 on our list of the Top 10 George Harrison Songs). The first version, which runs nearly seven minutes, is the superior one — the sprawling centerpiece of Harrison’s best and most personal LP.
‘Got My Mind Set on You’
For his comeback single after a five-year break (which was an eternity in the ’80s), Harrison and producer Jeff Lynne reworked an obscure R&B song from 1962. ‘Got My Mind Set on You’ became Harrison’s third No. 1, and the album that followed, ‘Cloud Nine,’ would be the last released while he was still alive (‘Brainwashed,’ the album he was working on when he died of cancer in 2001, came out a year after his death).
‘Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)’
It’s no secret that Harrison’s quest for spiritual enlightenment (which stretched back to his Beatles years) often clashed with his real-world status of rock star. ‘Living in the Material World,’ his followup to ‘All Things Must Pass,’ put that struggle into song. Its opening track, a spiritual plea featuring a great slide guitar solo, reached No. 1.
‘All Things Must Pass’
Harrison’s first two solo albums were instrumental works. So in a way, his third, ‘All Things Must Pass,’ serves as his proper solo debut. Originally released as a three-record set months after the Beatles broke up, the LP features some of Harrison’s greatest songs (see Nos. 1, 2 and 6 on our list of the Top 10 George Harrison Songs) plus help from famous friends like Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and Dave Mason. The album’s title track takes on more poignancy after Harrison’s death, but it’s always been great.
‘What Is Life’
Harrison’s second solo single, a Top 10 hit, opens with one of his most electric guitar riffs. And then it kicks in with horns, more guitar (some it supplied by Clapton), a stirring sting arrangement and the catchiest chorus Harrison ever penned. There’s tons of personal reflection on the sprawling ‘All Things Must Pass.’ ‘What Is Life’ walks the same path but with a giant pop hook as its guide.
‘My Sweet Lord’
Harrison’s first solo single was written when he was still in the Beatles and was intended for one of Apple Records’ up-and-coming singers. But after the group broke up, Harrison set ‘My Sweet Lord’ as one of the anchors to his first proper solo album (see No. 3 on our list of the Top 10 George Harrison Songs). It immediately hit No. 1. It was also hit with a plagiarism suit by the writer of the Chiffons’ No. 1 1963 hit ‘He’s So Fine.’ No matter. The song — a spiritual hymn enveloped in co-producer Phil Spector‘s Wall of Sound — stands as Harrison’s greatest solo single, a four-minute pop masterpiece that sums up his lifelong drive and devotion.