GEORGE HARRISON: Was his solo career a disappointment?

McKinzie Brantley III, Lifelong Music Fan (1966-present) writes ...

Harrison’s solo career didn’t disappoint me. Did it disappoint any of you out there? I guess if I had one critique of Harrison (purely as a fan), it’s that he took quite a few sabbaticals from recording (some planned, some not).

If you look, he made those breaks between albums really work for him—It took him about 10 years—allowing for down time after unfortunate cancer diagnosis and a nearly lethal assault—before his final album, Brainwashed. A 5-year break before Cloud 9 and he stockpiled songs from the Beatles for several years before making the monumental triple album All Things Must Pass.

So, 3 of his four classic solo albums (I would also include Living in the Material World as great.) benefited from long hiatus period. So, is the jab at George—that he was not as consistent a hit-maker as Paul and John—a fair one? Not exactly.

Harrison created 4 classic albums (ATMP, Material World, Cloud 9, Brainwashed), and 2 more really good ones (33&1/3, George Harrison). Many consider one album, ATMP, the best solo album of all of the ex-Beatles. During that time, he had 3 #1 singles, 2 more top 5 singles, and a total of 13 or so top 40 hits in the U.S. alone.

By the numbers, he trails McCartney, whose solo career has exceeded Harrison’s by 15 years and counting.


Most folks who criticize Harrison’s songwriting forget the number of hits he helped write for others. Harrison co-wrote It Don’t Come Easy with Ringo. (And you can hear George’s demo of the song—which tends to lead you to believe that he wrote most of that. He helped Ringo finish his biggest hit “Photograph” too. Ringo’s last top 40 hit in 1981 was also written by Harrison, Wrack My Brain).

Harrison helped found the Traveling Wilburys (with Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Orbison and Lynn) and wrote several more hits, including Handle with Care and End of the Line. Earlier in his career, circa ‘70, he also co-wrote a few songs with Dylan.

Harrison enjoyed playing music with his old friends. He played on Instant Karma. Some folks don’t know that, along with the two solos he played (How Do You Sleep, Gimme Some Truth), if you watch the Imagine film, you can see George actually helps Lennon arrange several of the songs. He’s featured on several solo albums by all of the Wilburys…he played a great solo on Belinda Carlisle’s Leave a Light On, guest appearances with Gary Wright, Gary Brooker, Splinter, Badfinger, Jools Holland. This is another great Quora question by itself—the countless sessions that George played on or helped out with.

Perhaps he’s best known for his personal (that’s another post) and musical collaboration with Eric Clapton. Clapton famously played the solo on Guitar Gently Weeps. Harrison helped Clapton write BADGE for the Cream’s final album—they toured Japan in ’92 together. Harrison wrote Runs So Far, which EC recorded in the 80s. Clapton played (uncredited for years) on All Things Must Pass.

Movies-Produced 23 Films

Harrison had a very successful career producing some great movies from 1980 for about 10 years …until he didn’t. His string came to an end in the late 80s when several films were commercial failures. Then his manager ripped him off $25M…but his financial distress did lead to the Beatles Anthology.

Reunited and it feels so good?

Harrison also reunited with the remaining Beatles to film the Anthology mini-series and record two Lennon demos -one turned out pretty good, the other, “meh”…but it was a great project.


George championed Indian philosophy, charity, world music. His Concert for Bangla Desh in ’71 is thought of today as forerunner for mammoth musician charity efforts like Live Aid and Band Aid. He also enjoyed car racing, ukulele, and gardening.

And in the end…

Initially, it may not look like an impressive solo career, but that’s only in comparison to his former band. He had a great solo career with quite a few #1 hits that he wrote for himself and others. And if you look at his collaborations as a writer/player for others, he had an extremely active and rich solo career. He may not have had as many hits as Paul, but he also didn’t have as many terrible albums as McCartney either.

It’s what you value….

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