George Harrison: The Reluctant Beatle

Scribner. Oct. 2023. 480p. ISBN 9781982195861. $35. BIOG
After writing two 800-page biographies of Paul McCartney and John Lennon, Norman turns to their fellow Beatle George Harrison (1943–2001). The book chronicles his life from childhood and early days in the nightclubs of Liverpool, England, and Hamburg, Germany, to the frantic heights of Beatlemania, the band’s creation of increasingly complex studio works, and their protracted breakup and its repercussions. Consistently in the shadow of two of the century’s greatest songwriters, Harrison ultimately received artistic and commercial triumph with his first post-breakup solo album, All Things Must Pass; the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh benefit; movies he produced for HandMade Films; and some musical peaks in the late 1980s. The book presents Harrison’s life and personality with its complications and contradictions, his deep spiritual beliefs, and his skepticism and aversion to fame. Much of the story will be familiar to those who have read previous works about the Beatles. This book is short on immersive musical analysis of specific songs and recordings, and it’s somewhat cursory in dealing with some of Harrison’s later years.
VERDICT Readers who are not extremely familiar with Beatles history or who are seeking a Harrison-focused biography will want this. They’ll gain more insight into the most enigmatic member of the Beatles.
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