The great Latin American poet Cesar Vallejo once wrote, “There are such hard blows in life, I don’t know. Golpes como del odio de Dios.”
Blows like hatred from God.
That’s how I feel now that George Harrison has died, because “I read the news today, oh boy.” For me, as for so many of us, Harrison’s music is the soundtrack to our lives. Now, he is in heaven, beside his Sweet Lord.
I remember the first time I ever heard the Beatles. I was in the fourth grade, my dad was driving us to school, and he and my friend Oliver DeCaro started playing the hit single “I Feel Fine.” What moved me even then was the Beatles’ incredible sound, the blessing of George’s lead guitar. My friends and I would sing “Help” and “I Am the Walrus” during recess, on the school bus going to field trips, and in the cafeteria. George made all of that possible.
We treasure his humanity and his depth of feeling. Harrison is like a cross between William Blake and Pablo Neruda in that his vision is so humane, and he is deeply disturbed by injustice. No doubt his most famous songs, like “Bangla Desh,” “Within You, Without You” and “My Sweet Lord,” reflect this universal spirit.
I like the gentle cadence of “Here Comes the Sun.” It’s an easygoing riff everyone can relate to, though its message is powerful. Play it in a drugstore, a supermarket or a concert hall. It’s great in the morning or “when you’re listening late at night,” because it’s about new beginnings.
Or, if you’re in a thoughtful mood, try “All Things Must Pass.” George wrote it right after the Beatles broke up. “Sunrise doesn’t last all morning” is sadly appropriate today. But also remember “a cloudburst doesn’t last all day.” George isn’t really gone, as he is a part of us, he is one of us.
Here at Yale, I work with the Yale Political Union. We bring politicians and academics to campus. I like to think it’s worthwhile, but sometimes you don’t know whom to believe. Everyone sounds so smooth and wonderful giving his 20-minute lecture.
George Harrison’s not like that. He’s always been sincere with us. In today’s difficult times, I think often of his masterpiece, “Bangla Desh”:
Bangla Desh, Bangla Desh,
Such a great disaster,
I don’t understand
But it sure looks like a mess,
I’ve never known such distress,
Now please don’t turn away
I wanna hear you say
Relieve the people of Bangla Desh–
We still live in a cruel world, and Harrison wanted to change that. His 1971 Concert for Bangla Desh with Ravi Shankar and Ringo Starr, the first superstar benefit performance ever, raised millions for famine relief. Read the Bangladeshi news online. His death has made the people there very sad.
Unfortunately, the past few years were challenging for George and his family. In 1999, he was stabbed in the chest by a deranged fan at his mansion in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England. A former smoker, he also battled lung, throat and brain cancer.
I haven’t had a cigarette since I heard the news on Friday at 1 p.m. I hope you all will join me in trying to ditch the smokes for George’s sake.
It’s hard to say goodbye when you lose somebody so close, like George Harrison. Today, I say his name clapping, applauding. He was a decent man in a world that can be incredibly unfeeling. Vaya con Dios, Jorge. Hare Krishna.
Matthew Nickson is a junior in Berkeley College. He is the president of the Yale Political Union.