Shrouded in a sea of mystery, the elusive George Harrison has long been the most private and enigmatic member of the Beatles. From his hard knock childhood in Liverpool to his ascendance into rock infamy, George Harrison's life has been a torpid ride filled with legendary success and heart crushing defeat.
New York Times bestselling author Marc Shapiro sheds new light on this paradoxical rocker, whose reputation for unusual religious practices and drug abuse often rivaled his musical notoriety.
A man whose desire was to be free rather than be famous, Harrison's battle against conformity lead him to music making, a soulful and creative expression that would be his ticket to success and the bane of his existence. Behind Sad Eyes is the compelling account of a man who gave the Beatles their lyrical playing style and brought solace to a generation during turbulent times.
Books that capitalize on the grisly interest spawned by the death of a "star" are usually inferior. Not so this biography of Harrison, universally famed as the "quiet" Beatle. Biographer Shapiro (J.K. Rowling, Carlos Santana) creates a complex portrait that shies from melodrama. For instance, Shapiro does not wring heroic sentiment from Harrison's working-class roots, as others have been so inclined. Instead, Shapiro focuses on the unusual level of support Harrison received from his parents, who encouraged their imaginative young son to make a serious go at the seemingly dead-end vocation of rock guitarist. Roughly one-third of the biography is devoted to Harrison's career as a Beatle. Rather than analyze the group (territory covered countless times), Shapiro uses well-chosen anecdotes to describe Harrison's role in the band. The musician's frustrations as an underappreciated writing talent and his disappointment in both work and private life emerge as major contributors to the band's demise. Though Harrison appeared to be passive, Shapiro notes that this humble exterior was often more form than substance. When the Beatles made the unpopular decision to fire drummer Pete Best, Harrison played dumb, though he was the one who pushed to fire Best. Shapiro writes, "In what would become his typical response to uncomfortable situations, he denied any involvement in the firing of Pete Best," when he in fact pushed for the unpopular decision. One of the first biographies fully devoted to Harrison, this volume brings keen perspective to both his great contributions and bland failures.
A gloomy and superficial treatment of an otherwise interesting subject.
Author indicts his credibility with a single statement
The major flaw of this book is that near the end, the author proclaims that the only former Beatle who produced consistently good work was John Lennon. By any measure, none of the former Beatles were consistently good. John produced less than five (but with one sublime) works, and even if you limit the reckoning to the 1970s when Lennon was still alive, Harrison produced at least ten great songs that same decade. Hence, the statement is patently absurd.
The second greatest flaw of the book is that the guitar, and Harrison’s prodigious contributions towards the playing of it in rock, are not mentioned at all. The instrument is not even a minor character in a book about a person for whom it was a major influence. Incomprehensible that such an important storyline be omitted.
In all, I’d rate this book a “pass.” Does not contribute much of interest to understanding the man, his achievements, and the factors that drove him.