Happy birthday, George Harrison, who said he was born on Feb. 24, though his birth certificate says Feb. 25. Numerous books have been written about him through the years. Some of them come from family members and close friends, but there are other books that are biographies or try to be since some succeed more than others. Here is a critical look at 13 of those books. Not everything is here, but each book includes a recommendation on whether to read or pass them by.
“I Me Mine” by George Harrison
“George Harrison: I Me Mine”: This book, originally published in 1980, was reissued in 2007 with a new cover. It’s basically a book of lyrics with humble observations by Harrison. The new version features additional photos not in the original. It’s a must for Harrison fans, but it’s not as revealing as perhaps many would have liked. Which is the way George surely wanted it. Grade: A.
“George Harrison: Living in the Material World”
George Harrison: Living in the Material World”: The book companion to the long HBO Martin Scorsese documentary, this has a lot of beautiful pictures and text and is a nice memorial to George. But like “I Me Mine,” it’s not really revealing, though the rare early pictures are worth seeing. Grade: A-.
“Wonderful Tonight” by Pattie Boyd
“Wonderful Tonight” by Pattie Boyd: More than half of Pattie’s autobiography is about her life with George Harrison. When you talk to her in the present day, she still speaks with great affection for him. The pictures of him she exhibits display that, as does the book. Also available in an audio edition narrated by Pattie. Grade: A.
“Behind That Locked Door – George Harrison After the Break-Up of the Beatles” by Elliot J. Huntley
“Behind That Locked Door – George Harrison After the Break-Up of the Beatles” by Elliot J. Huntley: One of the earliest books after George’s death, this was published in January, 2002. It’s a very critical biography, and as such, might not be everyone’s favorite. But as quickie books go, it goes into a lot and the end result is not bad. Later republished as “Mystical One: George Harrison After the Break-Up of the Beatles”. The very short postscript in the first edition has several pages added to it in this one. Grade: B.
“George Harrison: Behind The Locked Door”
“George Harrison: Behind The Locked Door” by Graeme Thomson: The most recent mainstream bio of Harrison, a British book from 2013. Thomson gets deep into his Beatles life, his spiritual side, the Dark Horse label, the Concert for Bangladesh and the “Shanghai Surprise” boondoggle. Good reading. Grade: A.
“George Harrison Reconsidered” by Timothy White
“George Harrison Reconsidered” by Timothy White: Very inexpensive ebook of a great interview done with Harrison by late Billboard editor-in-chief White, who had a great knack of getting musicians to talk. Another one to get. The same interview is included in White’s collection of rock interviews, “Rock Lives,” that also has chats with Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Michael Jackson, John Lennon and Brian Wilson. Grade: A-.
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Simon Leng
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Simon Leng: Leng sticks to the music in analyzing George Harrison’s work album-by-album and song-by-song beginning with the early days of the Beatles and ending with “Brainwashed.” And yes, the Traveling Wilburys are included. A great guide to the music of George Harrison. Grade: A.
“Behind Sad Eyes: The Life of George Harrison” by Marc Shapiro
“Behind Sad Eyes: The Life of George Harrison” by Marc Shapiro: Thin, uninformative rehash biography was originally published in March, 2002, just a few months after George’s death, a very quick attempt to cash in on George’s death. And at 231 pages, it doesn’t cover much territory. Skip it. Grade: D.
“The Love There’s That’s Sleeping — The Art and Spirituality of George Harrison” by Dale C. Allison
“The Love There’s That’s Sleeping — The Art and Spirituality of George Harrison” by Dale C. Allison: A book that emphasizes George Harrison’s spiritual side delving philosophically (as much as one can, I suppose) into what George really believed. The last section of the book goes into the spiritual analysis of a long list of individual songs. A book to meditate on. Grade: B.
“Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison”
“Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison” by Joshua M. Greene: Another spiritually based biography of George Harrison. The author says he was a friend and meditated with George. It has an endorsement from Mia Farrow, who said, “Many well-known artists have touched people’s hearts with their music, but few have ever succeeded in touching people’s souls. That was George’s gift, and his story is described here with affection and taste. A wonderful book.” Grade: A-.
“George Harrison” by Jacques Volcouve
“George Harrison” by Jacques Volcouve: Another book analyzing the music of George Harrison. The book looks at not only Harrison’s Beatles and solo works, but also his side projects, like contribution to Rubyhorse and Splinter. But it’s all in French, however, with no English translation. Available through Amazon.co.uk. Grade: B.
“Harrison” by the Editors of Rolling Stone
“Harrison” by the editors of Rolling Stone: Published in April, 2002, about five months after Harrison’s death, this was basically an effort to cash in on his memory with a hardcover scrapbook assembled from the pages of the magazine. Olivia Harrison wrote the foreward. The time-based articles give a as-it-happened perspective. Grade: B+
“The Smith Tapes: Lost Interviews With Rock Stars & Icons” by Howard Smith (edited by Ezra Bookstein)
“The Smith Tapes: Lost Interviews With Rock Stars & Icons” by Howard Smith. Smith’s great interview with George Harrison (the two are pictured on the cover) is just one of the many interviews featured in this illuminating book. Recommended. An audio set of a Smith interview that also includes an Eric Clapton separate interview is available. Grade: A.