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A tribute to ‘Quiet Beatle’ who sang to Doon’s beauty in 1960s

The 76th Birth Anniversary of George Harrison

February 25 is the birth anniversary of George Harrison, the popular British songwriter and musician  known best as a member of the famous Beatles group. It is now very well known that Harrison wrote a song especially for Dehradun during his stay at the ashram of Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh in the late 1960s. For the Beatles, their stay in India was their most creative period. When they were in Rishikesh for several weeks in February, March and April of 1968 (they stayed at Mahesh Yogi’s spiritual centre in  Rishikesh), they wrote many  songs, most of which were included in their “White Album”, one of their best known. Born on February 25, 1943, in Liverpool, England, Harrison formed a band with schoolmates to play in clubs around Liverpool. The Beatles became the biggest rock band in the world and Harrison’s diverse musical interests took them in many directions. Like his future band mates, Harrison was not born into wealth.  His mother  was largely a stay-at-home mom while her husband Harold drove a school bus for the Liverpool Institute, an acclaimed grammar school which George Harrison attended and first met Paul McCartney. By the age of 14, Harrison, whose early rock heroes included Carl Perkins, and Buddy Holly, had purchased his first guitar and taught himself a few chords. By 1960 (when he was only seventeen) Harrison’s music career was in full swing. Lennon had named the band The Beatles. The young group (Harrison, McCartney and John Lennon) began cutting their rock teeth in the small clubs and bars around Liverpool and Hamburg, Germany. Within two years, the group had a new drummer, Ringo Starr. Before the end of 1962, Harrison and the Beatles recorded a top 20 UK hit, Love Me Do. Early that following year, another hit, Please Please Me, was churned out, followed by an album of the same name. Beatle mania was in full swing across England, and by early 1964, with the release of their album in the US and an American tour, it had swept across the States as well. The song named “Dehradun” missed getting included in the White album. This song is seen now as a rare gem of the Beatles. The song captures the past simplicity of the valley and is very special for Doonites, especially for those who have seen the days when the Beatles came here. The nostalgia in this song and the fact that it was sung by Harrison makes it unique. The Beatles were so taken in by the charm and beauty of the Doon valley that they were inspired to create many numbers here. Harrison composed the number titled “Dehradun” in the spring of the year 1968 during the time the group was in Rishikesh. This song remained unavailable for years. It was not included in any album but its studio recording can now be heard on the net. It is one of the rarest Beatles’ songs. Harrison, known as the “Quiet Beatle”, passed away at the age of 58 on November 29, 2001. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the Ganga, according to his wishes. Harrison had embraced the Hare Krishna tradition and remained a devotee till his death. In the summer of 1969, he produced the single “Hare Krishna Mantra”, performed by the devotees of the London Radha Krishna Temple. That same year, he and fellow Beatle, John Lennon, met AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder – acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Soon after, Harrison embraced the Hare Krishna tradition and became a lifelong devotee. Harrison is remembered for his introspective manner and his keen interest in Hinduism. In the mid 1960s he began playing the sitar, which influenced the sound of the Beatles music in such songs as “Norwegian Wood” and “Love You To”. His experimentation with the sitar brought him in touch with Ravi Shankar, who became a close friend. On November 29, 2002, the first anniversary of his death, the Concert For George saw the two remaining Beatles Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr join many of Harrison’s friends for a special memorial concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The ‘Beatles Ashram’, which lay abandoned for years, is now receiving attention from the state government and is becoming a popular tourist destination for Beatles fans from all over the world. The months which the Beatles group spent in Rishikesh more than fifty years ago are etched on the minds and hearts of people of this region.  Their song on Dehradun and one on Rishikesh touch the hearts of every new generation.  Their stay at the ashram, however, ended quite unpleasantly due to certain incidents. Monday, 25 February 2019 | Jaskiran Chopra | Dehradun

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