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Revisiting George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass’ album on his 20th death anniversary

By Mica Rodriguez Published Dec 16, 2021 12:57 pm

Beatles fans all over the world lucky enough to have access to Disney Plus are now reminiscing over some of the group’s last moments as a band in the Peter Jackson-directed, three-part documentary series, The Beatles: Get Back.

For loyal fans of the group, they remain a positive influence in their lives as their songs bring hope, love and comfort.

At present, fans of boy groups like BTS have their favorite member or “bias.” With The Beatles, it is already a given that a lot of people would mention John Lennon, Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr as their favorite. I love the three of them, but I am just attracted to the group’s youngest member, George Harrison, who was once known as ‘the quiet Beatle’.

I remember when I was a kid, I chanced upon a cassette tape of the All Things Must Pass album at home. Of course, I was too young to know that the “gardener” on the cover of that album was the same guy holding the lead guitar in The Beatles.

In 2019, I had a “George Harrison phase” after visiting The Beatles Story Museum in Liverpool, the hometown of the Fab 4. Watching the Living in a Material World documentary on Netflix also made me more biased towards George.

For some fans and critics, All Things Must Pass is the best post-Beatle solo album ever released. If you know a bit of The Beatles history, it is easy to see why.

When the group was still active, Lennon and McCartney were the main songwriters of the group. They’d add one or two Harrison-penned songs, but clearly, what John and Paul wrote became a priority.

The Abbey Road album was a turning point in Harrison’s songwriting career when Something and Here Comes the Sun received a lot of positive feedback. The track While My Guitar Gently Weeps is also a good metaphor on what he was feeling prior to the band’s split.

All Things Must Pass was released in November 1970. In 2021, they released a special 50th Anniversary edition that includes multiple limited physical and digital versions.

The project, helmed by Harrison's widow Olivia and son Dhani, even earned a nomination for the Best Boxed or Special Edition Package category at the upcoming Grammys to be held in January 2022.

Even before the pandemic started, I already made it a mission to delve into George Harrison’s solo work. To commemorate his 20th death anniversary, let us look back and appreciate one of the most iconic albums of all time.

Music insiders say that All Things Must Pass is the original “triple full album” when it was released in November 1970. It offered 23 tracks (three LPs) for listeners to immerse themselves in.

Twenty-three tracks wasn’t a joke back in 1970, and I will give you a glimpse at some of the special songs in the album.

The opening track is I’d Have You Anytime, a song George wrote with good friend Bob Dylan.

When the two worked on the song in 1968 at Dylan’s home in Bearsville near Woodstock, George was already in that phase where he was starting to outgrow The Beatles, and Dylan decided to lay low to focus on building a family.

Eric Clapton also showcased his lead guitar skills here and, personally, I believe this is a calm opening for the album full of sentiments.

Undeniably, My Sweet Lord is the most popular track in the album. It's safe to say, this is George’s solo track which remains special to a lot of people.

A praise song written originally for Hindu god Krishna, the inclusion of “Hallelujah” with chants of Hare Krishna and vedic prayer made it a universal praise song.

With the challenges we’ve encountered in present times, singing this song loudly in your safe space gives a different kind of comfort.

Wah-Wah was the first track recorded for the album. George originally wrote the song after his brief departure from The Beatles in January 1969.

When you listen to the song, you can feel the frustration George would’ve felt while working on the Let it Be album. One can be overwhelmed with the heavy production of the song—he himself confessed that he felt the song was overproduced and a bit cluttered—but critics said that it fits the theme of the song.

When you’re overwhelmed with emotions, it will really make you Wah Wah deep inside, right?

Isn’t It a Pity was supposed to be part of the Revolver album, but didn’t make it to the final cut.

Depending on what your thoughts are while listening to the song, one might interpret that it’s about George’s sentiments regarding his relationship towards the members of the band.

George once again tried to vouch for the track during the Get Back sessions only to be rejected for the second time. Isn’t that a pity? Well, maybe it was really destined to be a solo George Harrison song.

If you feel like you let someone you love down, try to play this song. Surely, you’ll do some reflection and assess your relationships in no time.

Among all of the tracks in the album, Behind That Locked Door is the one that hit the most during the start of the pandemic.

Was it because I was grieving and didn’t want to be deeply affected by situations that were out of my control? It felt that George Harrison was there to comfort and remind me that everything is going to be all right, eventually.

Now let’s get lively! One of my favorite tracks in the album is What is Life.

Also released as a single from ATMP, ‘What is Life’ is a hopeful song about being happy and in love. He must’ve thought of his first wife, Patty Boyd, while writing this one. This song is like the sunshine for the sentimental album.

Here’s the complete tracklist of the original All Things Must Pass album:

  • I’d Have You Anytime
  • My Sweet Lord
  • Wah-Wah
  • Isn’t It a Pity – originally from Revolver
  • What is Life
  • If Not For you
  • Behind That Locked Door
  • Let It Down
  • Run of the Mill
  • Beware of Darkness
  • Apple Scruffs
  • Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let it Roll)
  • Awaiting on You All
  • All Things Must Pass – from Abbey Road
  • I Dig Love
  • Art of Dying
  • Isn’t It a Pity (version two)
  • Hear Me Lord
  • Out of the Blue
  • It’s Johnny’s Birthday
  • Plug Me In
  • I Remember Jeep
  • Thanks for the Pepperoni

Before I end this article, I’d like to talk about the title track, All Things Must Pass.

I remember watching a clip of George Harrison’s last live TV performance, where he was convinced by Ravi Shankar to play All Things Must Pass on the spot. He gladly obliged, although you can see that the song had a different impact on him then.

George was already experiencing some difficulties in terms of his health, but he kept on writing music and even became a film producer (Handmade Films). He was also a gardener and focused on his family in the later years of his colorful life.

Just like what George said, all things must pass. It’s been 20 years since he passed away, but his legacy lives on.

Becoming a George Harrison stan was the best part of my 2019 and playing his solo and group work with The Beatles during the early days of the global pandemic gave me comfort.

Was it because of my personal interpretation of his lyrics? Was it because I find his quiet yet interesting personality relatable? Or was it simply because he was a gift to mankind?

I cannot really pinpoint the answer. All I know is that the world wept when we lost this talented icon. Thank you for the gift of comfort and I hope you found the answers to your unending life questions someplace else.