George Harrison: Vaishnava songwriter


I went to the George Harrison evening yesterday, an annual memorial event that local devotees have been holding for the past few years. Although George’s contribution as a musician is recognised by many, it is his contributions as a Vaishnava that are particularly celebrated at a gathering of devotees. Last night was particularly noteworthy because Shyamasundara and Gurudas were both there, providing some stories and reflections before they both return to America.

Shyamasundara was the first devotee to meet George Harrison here in London, and the last to say goodbye the day before he passed away in 2001. He is able to speak about George as a friend, not only from 1969 but right through the years.

As devotees here in England we thank George, the ‘quiet Beatle,’ for his enormous gifts of making Krishna consciousness popular by producing The Radha Krishna Temple – an album of traditional Vaishnava mantras and songs for the British public; the financial sponsoring of the first Krsna book; and the gift of Bhaktivedanta Manor.

But we also thank him for something else, something that is often overlooked because it seemed to be a part of his career, not his internal life as a devotee of Krishna. We thank him for his Vaishnava songs.

Srila Prabhupada asked George Harrison in 1969 to write songs about Krishna and the feelings of a devotee. George was inspired, and created many enduring songs over the following years. He wrote under Srila Prabhupada’s direction, and made sure that, as much as possible, the lyrics captured the philosophy and feelings of a Vaishnava. Once, when he’d written a song called Krishna, Where are You? he came to visit Bhaktivedanta Manor to play the recording to Srila Prabhupada. After listening carefully to the words, Srila Prabhupada gave his verdict: “Yes, these are the feelings of a devotee.”

But the other Beatles did not so much appreciate George’s philosophical and devotional lyrics, and several of his songs were not included on albums. Many years later, Ringo Starr was to comment that George helped him to write Octopus’s Garden but that he was so enthusiastic about Krishna that he wanted to put the name of Krishna into it. “He even wanted to put Krishna into Yellow Submarine,” Ringo revealed. Several of George’s devotional songs were included on Beatles albums though. Something, for instance, the song that Frank Sinatra deemed the ‘most beautiful love song’ was a song about Krishna, but the ‘He’ in the lyrics was changed to a ‘she’ to make it more suitable for the public. Here Comes the Sun was written to express George’s feelings of coming to Krishna consciousness.

So when the Beatles broke up, George had lots of songs dating back years that needed recording. These he recorded with many friends and released as a triple album entitled All Things Must Pass. Not only was it the first ever triple album by a solo artist, but it eventually went six times platinum.

A careful reading of the words to George’s songs will highlight many Vaishnava ideas and sentiments, and for this reason he can be considered a modern Vaishnava poet and songwriter.

Here’s Something with the original words restored:

‘Something’ by George Harrison

Something in the way He moves,
Attracts me like no other lover.
Something in the way He woos me.
I don’t want to leave Him now,
You know I believe and how.

Somewhere in His smile He knows,
That I don’t need no other lover.
Something in His style that shows me.
I don’t want to leave Him now,
You know I believe and how.

You’re asking me will my love grow,
I don’t know, I don’t know.
Stick around, and it may show,
But I don’t know, I don’t know.

Something in the way He knows,
And all I have to do is think of Him.
Something in the things He shows me.
I don’t want to leave Him now.
You know I believe and how.

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3 Comments

Filed under Devotees, Journal, Music

3 responses to “George Harrison: Vaishnava songwriter

  1. Madan Mohan das

    Thank you prabhu. Wonderful!

  2. Hare Krishna thanks for your post I still love George he bought me to Prabhupada,Krishna and the devotees in Amsterdam where I joined in 1971, I loved My Sweet Lord we knew some guys in a band in Holland and every night we came to the club they were playing they would at least once a night play and sing it for us.
    Im sure it bought me to Krishna by always singing and hearing the song it purified my heart, so I thank him with all my heart.
    I always wanted to meet him and tell him thankyou, but unfortunately never got that special chance. But his son seems a loverly person and looks so much like George maybe one day I will meet him just hearing about him would be wonderful
    your servant Surabhi Dasi acbsp

  3. I am inspired by George every day and write beautiful songs and Krishna poetry. My good friend Gurudas, loves it!! If someone sees this who wants to give me a break, so my material can be heard and read, please contact me. Steven L. Schwartz. Steven_l_Schwartz@hotmail.com and facebook

    On the pathway to Imagine, Not a Magical Mystery Tour, Nor a Long and Winding Road, Give Me Hope, Help Me Cope with this Heavy Load.
    It all started with Ol’ Hari George, All Those Years Ago,, he survived through all the Beatles Years, Then told them where to go.

    To find out who he really was, Became a daily experience to explore, George opened his heart from Behind That Locked Door, His only desire was to love God more.

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