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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February 25, 1943

It's the final Tuesday Timeline of February, and I am hoping that all of you approve of the subject that I chose for this week's edition.  After looking at all of the possible topics that I had to choose from, only one really stood out to me as one that I had to do.  Maybe it was fate...or maybe it was because the twenty-fifth of February wasn't exactly the most exciting day on the calendar.

Nevertheless, here's today's look back on what happened throughout history.

1570 - Pope Pius V excommunicates Queen Elizabeth I of England

1797 - Colonel William Tate and his forces surrender following the Last Invasion of Britain

1836 - Samuel Colt is granted a patent for his invention - the Colt revolver

1870 - Hiram Rhodes Revels becomes the first African-American to sit in the United States Congress

1901 - J.P. Morgan incorporates the United States Steel Corporation

1913 - American actor Jim Backus (d. 1989) is born in Cleveland, Ohio

1916 - German forces capture Fort Douaumont during the Battle of Verdun

1919 - The state of Oregon becomes the first to levy a gasoline tax

1928 - Charles Jenkins Laboratories - located in Washington D.C. - becomes the first location to be granted a television license from the Federal Radio Corporation

1932 - Country music singer/songwriter Faron Young (d. 1996) is born in Shreveport, Louisiana

1951 - The first Pan American Games are hosted in Buenos Aires, Argentina

1971 - The first commercial nuclear power plant in Canada goes online in the community of Pickering, Ontario

1980 - The government of Suriname is overthrown by a military coup, beginning with the bombing of a police station by an army ship

1983 - American playwright Tennessee Williams passes away at the age of 71

1987 - The college football program of Southern Methodist University is given the "Death Penalty" by the NCAA's Committee of Infractions after it was discovered that the school was making illegal payments to the school's football players and that the administration of the school kept it quiet

1991 - Twenty-eight United States Army reservists are killed in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia after an Iraqi scud missile strikes their camp during the Gulf War

1994 - The Mosque of Abraham massacre - Baruch Goldstein opens fire and kills twenty-nine worshippers before a crowd of people subdue and kill him

And, the following people are celebrating a birthday today.  Happy birthday to Dick Jones, Sally Jessy Raphael, Tom Courtenay, Bob Schieffer, Karen Grassle, Elkie Brooks, James Brown (sportscaster), Doug Stahl, Brian Baker, Carrot Top, Veronica Webb, Alexis Denisof, Tea Leoni, Nancy O'Dell, Sam Phillips, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Sean Astin, Julio Iglesias Jr., Chelsea Handler, Rashida Jones, Kimberly Caldwell, Justin Berfield, James Phelps, and Oliver Phelps.

So, what date will we go back in time to this week?  Well, how about a little over seven decades ago?

Yes, today's date is February 25, 1943.  And if you happen to be a fan of the band known as The Beatles, then this date should be one that you might recognize.

No, it's not the date that the band formed.  If that were the case, then they would have been like Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm in that one episode of "The Flintstones" in which they released an album as toddlers and became Bedrock's newest musical superstars.  As talented as The Beatles were, they weren't that good as toddlers.

No, the February 25, 1943 date must be one in which one of the Fab Four was born.  So, which one was it?

Well, we can cross off Ringo Starr right off the bat.  He's the oldest of the four, and his birthdate is July 1940.  And, John Lennon was born just a few months after Ringo was, in October 1940, so it can't be him.

That just leaves Paul McCartney and George Harrison.  And, after doing a quick Google search, I know that Paul was born in June 1942.

So, I guess by process of elimination, we're going to be taking a look at the life and times of George Harrison, Member of the Most Excellent Order of The British Empire.  A man who had success as a solo artist, and as a member of several bands. 

Yes, this man was more than just a Beatle!

And, if he were still alive, he would be turning seventy-one years old today.

In this edition of the Tuesday Timeline, we'll be looking at how his career began, some of the journeys he took along the way, his near fatal stabbing by a crazed fan, and how he spent his final days on this earth.  Oh, and we'll be peppering this blog entry with a lot of George's music, so I hope you enjoy his work.

So, George Harrison was born in Liverpool, England to Harold Hargreaves Harrison and Louise Harrison.  He was the youngest of four children, and he spent the first few years of his life at 12 Arnold Grove, Wavertree, Liverpool.  And right off the bat, George Harrison developed a love for music, citing Cab Calloway, George Fornby, Django Reinhardt, and Hoagy Carmichael as early influences.

But perhaps no musical artist influence the young George more than American singer Elvis Presley.  It is said that George Harrison was riding his bicycle home, he heard the song "Heartbreak Hotel" playing from a nearby house, and that song piqued his interest in rock and roll.  He was even caught in class doodling in his school notebooks, drawing images of guitars all over the inside pages.  I wonder if he ever got in trouble with his teachers?

Whatever the case, in 1956, George's father bought him his very first guitar - a Dutch Egmond flat top acoustic - which he used to play songs such as "Whispering", "Sweet Sue", and "Dinah".  Little did George know that soon after he received his guitar, he would befriend another boy on the school bus by the name of Paul McCartney...and this would set the stage for George to join his very first band, known as the Quarrymen.  In 1958, George auditioned for a place in the band, but another member of the band...a man by the name of John Lennon (perhaps you've heard of him), believed that at age fourteen, George was too young.  It did take some time for George to convince John to give him a chance (Paul was sold on George joining the group from the very beginning), but by the next year, George was declared a full member of the band.

Shortly thereafter, Ringo Starr joined the group, and the band changed its name from The Quarrymen to The Beatles.  And, then in February 1964, The Beatles invaded North America, and became one of the most respected bands in modern day music history, and well...the rest is history.

Now comes the fun part.  Now we're going to have a series of music offerings that best show George Harrison's wonderful talents as a musician, both in a group, and solo.  I have a quartet of songs that I feel best showcase George's talents, as well as his ability to play just about any kind of music from rock to pop to even a tinge of country.

The first song that I want to spotlight is one that George Harrison penned and sang lead vocals for, right around the tail end of The Beatles' career.

ARTIST:  The Beatles
SONG:  Something
ALBUM:  Abbey Road
DATE RELEASED:  October 6, 1969

Now, most of you probably know that the majority of the songwriting duties in the Beatles were left up to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who arguably made a great team.  But, George was no slouch.  He wrote several songs during the final years of the group, and many fans (myself included) cite "Something" as one of his best works, if not THE best.  There was just something about "Something" that made it an instant Beatles classic, and apparently 150 other artists from Frank Sinatra to Tina Turner agreed.  "Something" is considered to be the second most covered Beatles song, just behind "Yesterday".  That's quite an achievement.

I mean, just listen really closely to the lyrics of the song.  I think they're close to perfection as you could get.  And, initially, part of the reason why George waited so long to craft his songwriting skills was because the other Beatles were allegedly too nervous to tell him that his songs weren't that great when he first began writing lyrics.  Of course, good writing takes a lot of time and effort (I know it did for me), and I think George really did grow with experience and age.  This song proves it.  Sadly, just six months after this song topped the charts in the United States, the band called it quits.  But by then, George had enough experience to go it alone.

During the 1970s, George Harrison was a key figure in organizing the Concert for Bangladesh in August 1971, as well as releasing several solo albums including "Living In The Material World", "Dark Horse", and "Thirty Three & 1/3".  Some of the albums did quite well, while others weren't positively received.  But admittedly, my first experience with George Harrison as a solo artist was with this #1 smash single from 1987.

ARTIST:  George Harrison
SONG:  Got My Mind Set on You
ALBUM:  Cloud Nine
DATE RELEASED:  October 12, 1987

Granted, it's probably not the best example of one of George's best songs (after all, it WAS a cover version of a song recorded by James Ray twenty-five years earlier).  But, for 1980s modern pop, it worked out well.  The repetitive lyrics meant that my six-year-old self could sing along to the words, and it did become a chart-topper in the middle of January 1988.

And, also in 1988, George Harrison became a part of another band made up of such music legends as Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, and Roy Orbison.  The group was called "The Traveling Wilburys", and the group released its first album, "Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1" towards the end of the year.  For the record, George Harrison used the pseudonym "Nelson Wilbury", but no matter what fake name he used, you couldn't disguise that talent.  Believe it or not, the song below was going to be used as a B-side, but thankfully, the record company saw value in the song, and decided to make it a lead single.

ARTIST:  The Traveling Wilburys
SONG:  Handle With Care
ALBUM:  Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1
DATE RELEASED:  October 17, 1988

Now, tragically, this music video would end up being the final appearance of Roy Orbison, as he would pass away just a month and a half after this song was released.  The Traveling Wilburys would continue as a foursome, releasing "Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3" (a move that Harrison loved as he felt that it would confuse people wondering why there was no volume two), but without Orbison, the group didn't match their previous success and the band called it quits in 1991.  But both Harrison and Ringo Starr would appear in Tom Petty's music video for "I Won't Back Down" in 1989.

In his later years, George Harrison reunited with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr to record two brand new songs for the Beatles Anthology, which was released in late 1995 - the first brand new original songs by The Beatles since 1970.  He also battled throat cancer, for which he underwent treatment in 1997, and attended the memorial service of Linda McCartney, who passed away in April 1998.

In one bizarre incident in December 1999, a thirty-six year old man named Michael Abram broke into George's house and stabbed George with a kitchen knife, causing damage to his head and puncturing a lung!  Had George's wife Olivia not stumbled upon the scene and attacked the intruder in self-defense, George could have died.  George was hospitalized for his injuries (which included more than 40 separate stab wounds), and was released a few days later during the first week of January 2000.

But by 2001, George's health had taken a turn for the worse, as he was diagnosed with lung cancer in the middle of the year.  He had surgery to remove a growth from his lung in May 2001, and it was reported that he was being treated for a brain tumour in Switzerland in the summer of 2001.  Though Harrison had hoped to beat the cancer that had appeared in his lungs, by November 2001, it was revealed that the cancer had spread to his brain, and that he would likely not live to see the beginning of 2002.  The last time George Harrison saw his surviving Beatles bandmates was on November 12, 2001, when he met Starr and McCartney for lunch.

Just seventeen days later, on November 29, 2001, George Harrison passed away from metastatic non-small cell lung cancer at just 58 years of age.

But even though George Harrison has been gone for a little over a dozen years now, his talent, his gifts, and his music have been left behind for generations of people to come.  And, for that we can all be grateful.

Therefore, it's only fitting that I end this retrospective look on George Harrison by posting one of the songs that made him a respected solo artist...a song that best honours his memory.

ARTIST:  George Harrison
SONG:  My Sweet Lord
ALBUM:  All Things Must Pass
DATE RELEASED:  November 23, 1970


Thanks for the music memories, George.

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