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George Harrison In 20 Songs

From his prolific solo career to his time with the Fab Four, here are the best George Harrison songs to sum up his musical autobiography.

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George Harrison Best Songs
Photo: Harrison Family

We’re attempting the impossible, to sum up George Harrison’s solo career in just 20 songs. This is like a musical autobiography, one in which we pick songs that cover the arc of George’s solo career, up until his death, on 29 November 2001. It is not just his hits, but obviously some of them are here, it’s also hidden gems and deep cuts.  For much of his time with The Beatles, George was dubbed, ‘The Quiet One’. Given the prolific song writing of Paul and John, he had limited opportunities to have his songs included on the Fab Four’s albums… of course, when they were they were invariably musical pearls. From his solo efforts to his influential time with The Beatles, here are the best George Harrison songs throughout his career.

With the break up of The Beatles in 1970, George had a wealth of songs ready and waiting for inclusion on his first post-Beatles album. And what an album it was. All Things Must Pass is truly one of the landmark records from the rock era. With a cast of fine musicians, from Eric Clapton and the future Dominos, to Badfinger and Ringo Starr, the songs that George included in the record are classics, one and all.

The best known is naturally ‘My Sweet Lord’, a single that has the distinction of being the first No.1 record in both the UK and US to be released by a former Beatle, as well as being the UK’s biggest-selling 45rpm disc of 1971. George wrote the song, but did you know that he was not the first to record it? He originally gave it to Billy Preston, who included it on his September 1970 album, Encouraging Words, which George also produced.

ATMP’s opening track is, ‘I’d Have You Anytime’, a song written by George and Bob Dylan. It’s a beauty and its true beauty is even more apparent on the alternate version that was released on 2012’s Early Takes. On this it is devoid of Phil Spector’s production, which allows the purity of the song to shine through. It’s Dylan’s words on the song’s bridge, “All I have is yours, All you see is mine, And I’m glad to hold you in my arms, I’d have you anytime.” Exquisite!

Another outstanding song from ATMP is the thoughtful, ‘What Is Life’ – the kind of question you would expect George to be asking. It was a huge hit around the world, but strangely it was not issued as a single in the UK. Inexplicable as it has one of George’s great choruses, and it is so uplifting.

George’s concern for the millions of innocent victims of the war in the country formerly known as East Pakistan encouraged him to write ‘Bangla Desh’ and it was released as a single in late July 1971. On 1 August George gathered his friends around him, including Ravi Shankar, Ringo, Dylan, Eric Clapton and Leon Russell for the Concert For Bangla Desh. It proved to be both ground breaking and memorable.

Harrison’s ‘Give Me Love (Give My Peace On Earth)’ is taken from, Living In A Material World and lyrically it is like a coda to ‘Bangla Desh’. It also became his second single to top the American charts. Having shared production duties with Phil Spector on both ATMP and the Concert For Bangla Desh, George took over the producer’s role and he manages to retain the best of Spector with a clarity that is ever present on this superb record.

The album, Dark Horse, chronicles a period of personal and professional upheaval in George’s life. It boasts a cast of top session men – including Jim Keltner, Willie Weeks, Tom Scott and Andy Newmark among them – ensuring a slick sound that epitomises the LA scene of 1973/74 as can be heard on the ironically entitled, ‘Dark Horse’.

George began working on his next album in April 1975. Released in September of that year, Extra Texture (Read All About It), this is George’s “soul record”, in that he both bares his soul and takes a more soulful approach to his music.

There is arguably no song more beautiful on the album than ‘The Answer’s At The End’, inspired by George’s home at Friar Park. Built on the site of a 13th Century friary, The Victorian Gothic mansion, in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, was built in the 1890s by Frank Crisp, a London solicitor and enthusiast for microscopes. Both the house’s interior design and the gardens reflected Crisp’s love of whimsy and eccentricity; it was above an entrance-way in a garden wall that George found the inscription, “Scan not a friend with a microscopic glass. You know his faults, now let his foibles pass. Life is one long enigma, my friend. So read on, read on, the answer’s at the end.”

It’s one thing to find such an inspirational text (one that George apparently was mindful of during some of the difficult times he experienced while The Beatles were breaking up), but it’s quite another to be able to put it to such a lovely melody. ‘The Answer’s At The End’ benefits greatly from a lovely David Foster string arrangement, but most of all from George’s brilliant piano playing. It’s hands-down a contender for George’s greatest, most overlooked, recording.

And that’s not all… Extra Texture, George’s final album for Apple Records, also includes the fabulous ‘This Guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying)’. The album is a grower: one that has stood the test of time far better than many of George’s contemporaries’ offerings from the middle years of that strange decade.

For his seventh solo long-player, one that came out a year later, in November 1976, George continues to embrace his soulful side and his love of Smokey Robinson’s music in particular. Thirty Three & 1/3 was released on Harrison’s newly formed Dark Horse Records, and despite George being ill with hepatitis during its making, it’s proved to be an enduring record, full of great songs.

Reviewing the album, Billboard said, “[It’s] a sunny, upbeat album of love songs and cheerful jokes that is [George’s] happiest and most commercial package, with least high-flown postures, for perhaps his entire solo career.” It’s impossible to disagree, particularly for the inclusion of another of George’s hidden gems, the delicate and beautiful tribute to a Motown legend, ‘Pure Smokey’, which features two of George’s most lovely guitar solos.

Two and a half years later, the self-titled George Harrison, became his second Dark Horse release. Recorded following George’s marriage to Olivia, it’s a pure reflection of their love, opening with the heartfelt ‘Love Comes To Everyone’, and includes another song about his new-found bliss, ‘Dark Sweet Lady’.

In 1981, George released Somewhere In England, his first album in two years and his first new music since the tragic death of John Lennon. It included one of Harrison’s biggest hit singles, ‘All Those Years Ago’, a tribute to Lennon that featured Ringo Starr on drums, as well as Paul and Linda McCartney and Denny Laine on backing vocals. We’ve picked another of George’s hidden gems from this album, the lyrical, and philosophical, ‘Writing’s On The Wall’.

A little over a year later, Gone Troppo emerged as George’s 10th studio album, and his last under contract with Warner Bros. As an album it arguably suffers from the musical mood pervading the early 80s, and interference from his then record label. It includes, ‘Unknown Delight’ – that is just one of the songs on the album that proves that a record company can’t keep a great songwriter down.

It would be five years before George put out another solo album and, when he did, it was a serious return to form. Cloud Nine includes ‘Got My Mind Set On You’, a song not written by Harrison (it was originally released by James Ray, in 1963), but one that he wholly makes his own; it became his third No.1 single. The parent album was co-produced with ELO’s Jeff Lynne, who also co-wrote three of the tracks, including, ‘When We Was Fab’, another hit single and another hark back to George’s Beatles’ days.

In 1991, George went on the road with a band that included Eric Clapton, Andy Fairweather Low, Nathan East, Greg Phillanganes and Chuck Leavell, and the resulting live double-album, Live In Japan, is a journey through George’s Beatles career and his solo catalogue. It serves as a fulsome reminder of what a great songwriter George Harrison is, was, and always will be. We’ve picked two of George’s Beatles’ classics, ‘Something’ and ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ on which Eric reprises his classic solo.

George’s final studio album, his twelfth, was released in 2002, a year after he tragically passed away. We decided on, ‘Marwa Blues’, for one simple reason, it is the perfect homage to George’s exceptional guitar playing. Shortly before he passed away George contributed a guitar solo to Bill Wyman’s cover of Ketty Lester’s ‘Love Letters’ for a Rhythm Kings album. When he sent his solo back to the former Rolling Stone he said in a tongue in cheek note, “It’s my one note solo” – but George plays that sweet note better than anyone, as he proves on ‘Marwa Blues’

Where to finish? Where it all began for George’s solo career and ‘My Sweet Lord’. This is the version from the January 2001 reissue of All Things Must Pass. Harrison included a new version of the song as ‘My Sweet Lord (2000)’and it features George sharing vocals with Sam Brown, daughter of his friend Joe Brown, and acoustic guitar by his son Dhani. George’s bottleneck solo is exquisite.

Looking back at the best George Harrison songs reminds us what a fine songwriter and a wonderful musician he truly was, but still get to celebrate his life through his amazing musical legacy.

The 16LP The George Harrison Vinyl Collection is out now and can be ordered here.

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55 Comments

55 Comments

  1. james

    October 16, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    AS you can tell from my email address I’m a big fan of Georges, but I’m not sure if he would like his Beatles stuff with his solo work.

    j

  2. edubeltran

    October 16, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    I am an absolute fan of the Beatles, and above all, of George. My son, born in October 2001, is called Harrison in his honour. I think I’d have picked some different songs in this “contest”. The “Best of Dark House” album pretty much includes most of George’s best solo songs, although some early gems are missing. In any case, Isn’t it a pity should be included in any selection, in my humble opinion. I also think there should be a special mention for Photograph,

    • Cirirn Colacrai

      October 16, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      Wheres AINT NOTHEN SHAKEN He did a great job on that

  3. Rob

    October 16, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    Harrison songs that must be on his top 20 list:
    – Awaiting On You All
    – Here Comes The Sun
    – If Not For You
    – Taxman

    • Graham

      October 16, 2015 at 8:06 pm

      Sorry Rob but If Not For You was written by Bob Dylan. A beautiful cover none the less!

      • james

        February 27, 2016 at 12:25 pm

        I think you,ll find it was co written. The guitar part is so obviously Harrison. The pirate song is just brilliant as is you it don,t come was credited to Ringo, hear it by George on the live Bangladesh.

  4. Douglas Ellis

    October 16, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    You make no mention of George’s work with the Wilburys aka Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lyne, Tom Petty and George. The Travelling Wilburys as they were also known were a delight to listen to.George has always had a special place for me since I grew up with the Beatles as my musical heritage.

  5. Mick DeLeon

    October 16, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    The selections are all good, and valid. It’s not easy to encapsulate an artist’s career into just 20 songs. I would substitute “Any Road” for “My Sweet Lord 2000” & “Brainwashed” (in the spirit of “Taxman”) for “Writing’s On The Wall”.

    I would also argue that the live versions of “Bangladesh” and “Dark Horse” from the Concert For Bangladesh and the Live In Japan CDs are superior to the studio versions, and should be listed instead.

    If the selection is limited to just solo work, then the substitutions for “Something” and “While My Guitar”, both verified classics, could be the absurdist “Crackerbox Palace” and his most endearing cover song “The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea”.

  6. Chris

    October 16, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    What about DON’T BOTHER ME. It was George’s first published Beatle’s song. And of course ALL THINGS MUST PASS. And I ME MINE.

  7. barry Ellis

    October 16, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    Assuming songs post Beatles:
    Be Here Now
    Isn’t it a Pity
    Wah Wah
    .. and quite a few more!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Craig

    October 16, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    What about Cracker Box Palace ?

  9. Paulie G

    October 16, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    Think for yourself
    Savoy truffle
    Long long long
    here comes the son
    All thing must pass
    Beware of darkness
    Cheer down
    And the solo on Nowhere Man 🙂
    Oh And the slide on I wrote a simple song by billy Preston

  10. Ihor K.

    October 16, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    I think “Not guilty” is an obvious miss on this list

  11. Padhi

    October 16, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    within you without you – long long long – cracker box palace ….

  12. Robert

    October 17, 2015 at 12:24 am

    Agree with most. One of my favs was Dream Away, which I first heard on Time Bandits.

  13. Tim

    October 17, 2015 at 1:02 am

    All Things Must Pass has to be included.

  14. Andro

    October 17, 2015 at 1:17 am

    I like the selections but I would add “Behind That Locked Door” (from ‘All Things Must Pass’), “Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long” (from ‘Living In The Material World’), “Learning How To Love You” (from ‘Thirty Three & 1/3’) and “Can’t Stop Thinking About You” (From ‘Extra Texture’).

    Anyway, I really enjoyed reading this article. 😀

    Thank you for posting George’s stuff!

    • Doug

      October 17, 2015 at 5:51 am

      Spot on Andro – GREAT ADDS to the George list. Would also add Your Love is Forever from George Harrison.

  15. John

    October 17, 2015 at 2:07 am

    The Inner Light is one of my favorites

  16. Butch Brockmeyer

    October 17, 2015 at 3:03 am

    I read the list of others….just a couple more special songs:
    Isn’t it a pity, If I needed someone. Something

  17. Rarebird Nine

    October 17, 2015 at 4:27 am

    A few personal faves that I don’t think anyone mentioned:

    See Yourself
    Blow Away
    Sat Singing (outtake from “Somewhere In England” — you won’t find it on Spotify, but look it up on YouTube)

  18. O'Manly Man Dennis

    October 17, 2015 at 7:41 am

    Great songs that I mostly never heard

  19. Karla

    October 17, 2015 at 7:50 am

    Ah, thank you for all the posts! George is BY FAR my favorite Beatle. I would add ‘Here Comes the Sun” too. But this is a nice list. Thank you fellow George-fans.

  20. Andrew

    October 17, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    All comments valid, maybe they should have done a double , an artist in 40 songs

  21. Paulo Greenhalgh

    October 17, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    I would include The inner light and Long long long, from the White Album. Thank you for the article!

  22. Paul Renken

    October 18, 2015 at 2:41 am

    It’s been said already, but I have to add my voice – Crackerbox Palace!

  23. Peter Smith

    October 18, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Great selection. Personally, I have a soft spot for “Far East Man”. So I suppose I would always try to sqeeze that into a collection of George’s solo work. But then again, I’m a big fan of Tom Scott. “Stuck Inside A Cloud” would also be a contender in my mind. That said, your selection is a joy to listen to.

  24. Michael Valadez

    October 19, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    Left off “Horse to the Water”…amazing performance by Sam Brown at the Concert for George.

  25. Hedge

    October 21, 2015 at 3:45 am

    How about Devil’s Radio. And Cracker Jack Palace.
    Or Art of Dying.

    • A.J

      March 31, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      The song is Cracker box palace. Not Cracker jack .

  26. DSols

    October 21, 2015 at 4:32 am

    “You” wasn’t much for lyrics, but still a great, infectious song.

  27. Kristina

    October 21, 2015 at 5:10 am

    My fave must include Something, I need you, while my guitar gently weeps from his Beatles days but for solo I love This is love, Dark sweet lady, and mawhi blues. Don’t forget Cry for a shadow. X

  28. Mike

    October 21, 2015 at 5:48 am

    I would switch out 9, 11, 13, and 20 for Isn’t It A Pity, Blow Away, This Song, and You.

  29. Peter Nel

    October 21, 2015 at 7:12 am

    Including two versions of “My Sweet Lord” takes up space that should have gone to something more worthy.

    For example, the omission of “Blow Away” is just criminal.

    And, remembering that your stated goal is to create a sort of musical autobiography, “Faster” and “Brainwashed” should be there. Both highlight certain interests or philosophies of George’s.

    Also “Got My Mind Set on You” is a cover, even though it’s a great track.

    Finally, here are two songs that are never mentioned when George’s best solo work is discussed. Am I the only one who likes them?

    “Blood from a Clone” and “If That’s What It Takes”.

  30. Antonio

    October 21, 2015 at 8:44 am

    È una persona meraviglioso, con atteggiamenti schivi, mai ptesuntuoso, nei suoi ragionamenti era sempre saggio, magari fosse ancora vivo ci avrebbe regalato ancora tanta bella musica.. Aveva amicizie invidiabili a tanta gente artista. E ci metterei anche tutte le sue cover nell’album.

  31. Tony Saddington

    October 21, 2015 at 9:13 am

    ‘Beware of Darkness’ – a song of deep meaning and a wise warning to everyone. My favourite.

  32. wojtek

    October 21, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    I love you George, I miss you…

  33. hnklbn

    October 23, 2015 at 8:18 am

    I can’t believe that there are hardly any mentions of “This Song” and “Ding Dong Ding Dong”!!!! Also, I love the lyrics to “You”! Much like “My Sweet Lord” and “Give Me Love”, the lyrics are scant but still say a whole lot!!!!!

  34. Matt Manning

    October 23, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    What about his great songs with the Traveling Wilburys ? this surely was George’s band.

    • Don Converse

      March 26, 2016 at 7:38 pm

      I agree. “Heading for the Light” is my favorite Willburys’ song, and one of my favorite George’ songs.

  35. Andy

    October 23, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    The piano on The Answer’s at The End was played by David Foster, NOT George, according to the sleeve notes.

  36. Regina ludus

    October 24, 2015 at 5:20 am

    “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, acoustic version.

  37. Jim

    October 24, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Of all the love songs I have ever listened to ( and I have listened to thousands) there is an undeniable sense of deep emotional connections when I sing and play “Something” or if I listen to George perform it. It has to be one of the all time greatest songs ever written. Who agrees ?
    BTW it is not an easy song to play on guitar nor is it easy to sing but I just HAD TO DO IT because I love it so much

  38. Jeff

    October 24, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    Here Comes The Sun– it defined him as much after the Beatles as it did when he was with them. There was a reason it was always his last song at any concert he did.

  39. stevve palmer

    October 25, 2015 at 11:21 pm

    blow away is missing as well as here comes the moon. also roll it over, i think a collaboration with dylan. certainly crackerbox palace and isnt it a pitty. wha wha.

  40. Pat

    October 25, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    “Cockamamie Business……

  41. Val Hutchinson

    October 31, 2015 at 12:23 am

    Would of liked to see “Here comes the Sun” probably because of what it means to me personally!
    Just know it felt like coming home the first time I heard it!
    Love The Beatles

  42. Randy Lubbering

    October 31, 2015 at 10:48 pm

    Always loved the song Faster and Devils Radio

  43. Mr Mustard

    November 1, 2015 at 12:33 am

    Even within the group, George always struck me as rather self-contained and operating (in songwriting terms) almost as a solo artist. Anyway, for what it’s worth….
    Ten as a Beatle: 1.Don’t Bother Me 2.Think For Yourself 3.If I Needed Someone 4.Taxman 5.Within You Without You 6.While My Guitar Gently Weeps 7.Savoy Truffle 8.Something 9.Here Comes The Sun 10.I Me Mine
    Ten solo: 1.My Sweet Lord 2.What Is Life 3.Art Of Dying 4.Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) 5.Beautiful Girl 6.Blow Away 7.All Those Years Ago 8.Fish On The Sand 9.When We Was Fab 10.Any Road

  44. Barbara

    February 27, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    I Dig Love…..one of my all time favorites!!!

  45. Tom

    March 26, 2016 at 11:56 am

    I’d leave out any Beatle songs. If you need a live performance, you could switch the studio version of “Bangla Desh” for the Concert version. I’d certainly vote for “Crackerbox Palace,” “Life Itself” and “That’s the Way It Goes.” Twenty songs isn’t enough, of course, but if you’re restricted to twenty, all the hits should be represented (“You,” “Blow Away,” “All Those Years Ago,” etc.) since Harrison was a commercial artist and as such he’s best represented by his most enduring hooks.

  46. Lisa G.

    March 27, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    I’m happy to see so many songs from Cloud Nine mentioned. It may be my favorite George album…. though it’s also sort of Traveling Wilburys Vol. 0. 🙂 One song no one’s mentioned is This Is Love. I play that on constant repeat when I listen to that album. And as for the early stuff, along with Wah Wah, Apple Scruffs is my fave — both the song and the story behind it. <3

  47. Doug

    March 31, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Read the Article!!!!!! It is NOT supposed to be Harrison’s TOP 20 or Beatles songs written by him!!!!! I think it is a great list for what it is.

  48. Marty

    March 31, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    Yaho the first time I heard while my guitar gently weep,acoustic,I could not believe what a beautiful voice George had,and how it moved me ,thanks george!!

  49. JPGR4Ever

    August 6, 2017 at 12:19 am

    My top twenty George Harrison (after The Beatles) songs in chronological order:
    1. My Sweet Lord – 70
    2. I’d Have You Anytime – 70
    3. Isn’t It A Pity – 70
    4. What Is Life – 70
    5. Beware Of Darkness – 70
    6. Deep Blue – 71
    7. Give Me Love – 73
    8. Dark Horse – 74
    9. Tired Of Midnight Blue – 75
    10. Crackerbox Palace – 76
    11. Blow Away – 79
    12. Your Love Is Forever – 79
    13. All Those Years Ago – 81
    14. That’s The Way It Goes – 82
    15. When We Was Fab – 87
    16. Got My Mind Set On You – 87
    17. Handle With Care – 88
    18. Cheer Down – 89
    19. Any Road – 02
    20. Marwa Blues – 02

    His entire career (after The Beatles) is represented with at least one song from each of his albums. If I made it a top 25, then I would add these five songs: All Things Must Pass (70), Beautiful Girl (76), Dark Sweet Lady (79), Life Itself (81) and Horse To The Water (02).

    And, yes, I know “Got My Mind Set On You” was not written by George Harrison – but it was the last #1 hit by any of the four Beatles… and it belongs on a Harrison greatest hits collection.

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