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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2001/12/19
by Mike Gruenberg

George Harrison (1943 – 2001)

Dear George:

On the morning of November 29th, my clock radio awakened me as it normally does at the unspeakable hour of 5:30 AM. Before a word was spoken, the opening chord to "Here Comes The Sun" was played and I instantly knew that you had passed away. I rolled over in bed, exhaled a painful sigh, hugged my sleeping wife and said to myself, "and now there are two."

When a close friend or family member dies, relatives and associates of the deceased feel compelled to gather and talk about the person in the most glowing of terms, whether they mean it or not. I can honestly say that although I have never met you personally, I feel as though I know you and need to tell you what an enormous effect you have had on my life. Your music, your presence and your values have become a part of my life ever since I found out about that new rock group from Liverpool in the early 1960’s.

I was at Kennedy Airport when you first came to the United States. I remember that it was a cold and windy day, but I convinced my friend to drive us out to the airport since my dad was using the family car. Even if he were around, I would have been reluctant to ask him to use the car for the sole purpose of seeing the Beatles land on our shores. I saw you and the lads quite clearly and amidst the pandemonium was glad to have been there.

The first concert I ever attended was seeing the Beatles at Forest Hills Stadium in New York. At the time, I was eighteen years old and a freshman in college when the concert date was announced Since I had become a fan of the group, the fact that you were playing at a location that was literally a fifteen minute walk from my house made my attendance mandatory. My best friend and I cut our morning classes and stood on line to obtain tickets for this landmark event. We may have missed some important educational concepts that day, but the concert was a turning point in my life. That concert has been, for me the yardstick to which I have compared all concerts I have seen since that time. Few have compared and many have fallen short. Aside from the music an incident occurred at the concert that I have never forgotten. An army of policemen protected the concert stage. To aid in their efforts, a maze of wooden barricades was constructed in front of the stage so that no one could rush the stage. In spite of the cops and barricades, girls were running towards the group and for the most part, were intercepted by the most agile of cops. The band continued to play against this backdrop of sheer craziness. You were on the right side of the stage whereupon a fairly large girl appeared next to you. Somehow, she had eluded all the obstacles put in her path and all that separated the two of you was a few feet.

She calmly walked up behind you, put her unusually large arms around you, lifted you up and proceeded to carry you away as though you were a bag of groceries. Undaunted, you continued to play and sing. The cops quickly got her to release you and the concert continued.

Although John’s politics and mine were remarkably similar, his musical career took some turns that I didn’t understand. Paul, as a husband and father is an example to us all. However, his music has also taken some turns that are somewhat curious to me. Ringo is Ringo and continues to be a joy to us all. However, in your case, you have continually stayed true to your music and religious beliefs. Just as you did in that concert in Forest Hills, you stayed the course. I know how difficult it must have been through the Beatle years to see albums released with few of your tunes included. Yet, you persevered, giving us a glimpse of your enormous talent and in 1970 released your solo effort, the three record set of "All Things Must Pass," This offering not only put you on equal footing with John and Paul, but also established that album historically as one of the best records ever produced. To me, your music and Phil Spector’s production on that album were the high water mark of both of your careers.

When John was tragically taken from us, I cried. He was taken in such a cruel and untimely manner. When you passed, I thought about why I didn’t cry. I cried for John because his life was cut short even though he achieved so much success as a father, husband and musician. After careful introspection, I realized that you had also lived a full and complete life, but for a much longer amount of time than John did. You found true love in your wife and son. Your religious beliefs remained steadfast and true and your music continued to be fresh and vital. You lived, you prospered and you gave something back to us all. I cannot cry, I can only sigh and thank you for the memories and hours of great music.

At this point, one should ask the Lord to rest your soul. I will ask, but I know your soul is at rest and you are truly in a better place. Thank you, my friend for all that you have meant to me.

Yours truly,
Mike Gruenberg

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