The Perfect Passing

With every ending, space is created for something new to begin. For something to new to eventually begin, something else first needs to end. All things must pass. All things must pass away.

In the late 1960’s, the Beatles were slowly disintegrating. John married Yoko, and his priorities changed. Paul took control of the band, doing his best to keep the business moving forward. George was writing some of the finest songs of the 20th century, but nobody else in the band was paying attention. Ringo was quietly sitting behind his drum kit, staying as far away from the escalating melee as he could.

The Beatles recorded the “White Album,” mostly separated from each other. The Beatles recorded Let it Be, trying to recapture some of the magic and spark from their early days, spending day after day together working through the songs. Finally, the Beatles recorded Abbey Road, one of their very finest albums. But it was too late. Their personalities became too big. Their business became too complex. Their interests had become too diverse. It was time to end, and it was time for something new and beautiful to begin.

While George was able to get “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun” on Abbey Road (just like he had been able to get a song or two on previous albums), he now had an entire collection of other compositions that band leaders John and Paul either did not care for, or just did not listen to. As Julia Roberts perfectly said to the shopkeepers who did not want her business in the movie Pretty Woman...”Big mistake. Big. Huge!”

In the meantime, George Harrison was a sponge. He collected and kept things he saw around him and experienced. He traveled to India where he happened to pick up a sitar and learned about Indian music and culture from Ravi Shankar. He was gifted a 12-string guitar from the president of the Rickenbacker company in 1964, and immediately carved out a unique sound on songs like “You Can’t Do That,” “Ticket to Ride,” and “If I Needed Someone” that would inspire musicians for decades to come.

In 1968, Harrison traveled to upstate New York, where he spent time jamming with Bob Dylan and The Band. Harrison was immediately struck by The Band’s communal approach to their music, which was a compelling combination of religious and country influences. Songs like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “The Weight” would inspire Harrison to incorporate new rhythms and key changes.

As Harrison was creating more music, the Beatles continued to slowly disintegrate until they finally and mercifully broke up on April 10, 1970. On November 27th of that same year, George Harrison released All Things Must Pass, a massive triple album of songs he had been creating over the last several years. All those songs that he had tried to get on Beatles albums. Songs that he wisely didn’t bring to the Beatles in the first place, and kept for himself.

Produced by Phil Spector, “All Things Must Pass” begins with a stately, repetitive piano melody. It sounds oddly familiar and comfortable, and we are lulled into thinking it will soon be followed by the strum of an acoustic guitar, or the first lyrics of the song. Instead, we are greeted by a lush horn section, like a cool wind blowing off the sea, accented by a beautiful pedal-steel guitar soaring the song to the sky. George’s sad, easy voice gently sings to us.

Sunrise doesn’t last all morning
A cloudburst doesn’t last all day
Seems my love is up and has left you with no warning
It’s not always gonna be this gray”

Although many saw “All Things Must Pass” as commentary on the break up of The Beatles, it is actually just an expertly crafted love song, a statement on the very nature of living things, and how everything beautiful and lovely must one day leave. Even the best things someday end. Is the song about The Beatles? Well, maybe so.

“Sunset doesn’t last all evening
A mind can blow those clouds away
After all this, my love is up and must be leaving
It’s not always gonna be this gray

We are in control of our destiny. We can make up our minds to clear the clouds, and to move on to something different, hopefully something better. We can be victim to the bad events of our lives, or we can choose to persevere, knowing that things things will get better, knowing that it’s not always going to be this grey.

All things must pass
All things must pass away

All things must pass
None of life’s strings can last
So, I must be on my way
And face another day

The All Things Must Pass album was a massive success, selling over 7 million copies in the United States alone with three top ten singles (not including the title track). The Beatles ended, because all things surely must pass away, but from that sad ending came this beautiful, sad, tangible reminder that from every ending, something good is sure to come. The darkness will bring light, and the gray won’t last forever.

“Now the darkness only stays the night time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
It’s not always gonna be this grey”

George Harrison would continue to have hit singles, but he would never again share something quite so compelling as All Things Must Pass. He would never have the success of Beatle band mates Paul or John, and sadly he died at the relatively tender young age of 58, from cancer. Exactly a year after his death, a concert was held at London’s Royal Albert Hall in his memory. A few of his friends came by to pay tribute, because even in his absence, daylight arrived at the right time, and Paul McCartney led an all star band in performing one of George Harrison’s finest compositions.

All Things Must Pass
Written and Performed by George Harrison
Released November 27, 1970

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