While My Guitar Gently Weeps...

There is SO much to be prayerful about today - from the uprisings in Africa/Middle East to the latest battle of the class wars in the USA - so why am I thinking about the late George Harrison? For the past 20 years, he has become my favorite Beatle:  wounded, spiritually profound, a rock and roller with a love of fast cars, Monty Python humor and everything that is sacred.  His spirituality was very different from mine, but as the gospel of John says:  In my Father's mansions are many rooms... (see Harvey Cox's fascinating treatment of that passage in Many Mansions http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=150)

When the Beatles first broke on the scene, I loved Paul McCartney's bass playing and incredible good looks but was drawn to John Lennon's sarcasm and rock and roll scream.  Man, could that cat make my skin crawl and ass shake when he let loose his voice.  And as he matured - and his brokenness matured in his songs - he was my man.  Whether it is Lennon doing "Money" from the early days, "I'm A Loser/No Reply" or "And Your Bird Can Sing" in the middle period or "Strawberry Fields" towards the end, I was a believer.  And his schtick in "A Hard Day's Night" always puts me over the top...

But as I grew up - how does St. Paul (not McCartney) put it:  when I was a child, I thought and spoke like a child... but as an adult I have put childish things away? - I found that Lennon's sarcasm and narcissism left me empty.  Sure, he was Dada-esque in his bed-ins for peace but so freakin' self-indulgent, too.  After being a pastor to guys returning from Vietnam with PTSD I can't watch that smug protest-stuff of Lennon's anymore without great sorrow - and a bit of anger, too.

That's when I started to revisit the music and wisdom of George Harrison.  His songs have always been a fascinating contrast to the harsh realm of Lennon.  I think of "I Need You" from "Help" as one of the most tender and innocent love songs of that generation.  His work on "Revolver" - from "Taxman" to "Love You To" and the sitar on "Norwegian Wood" - is brilliant and challenging.  And then there is the best anti-war prayer EVER:  "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" from the "White Album."  It rivals another confession-lament, "Isn't It a Pity" as being honest, heart-breaking, hopeful, human and holy at at the same time.  And as I have noted on too many other occasions, when Clapton plays the guitar break in the middle and then over the extended ending... it is as if the Lord were wailing in anguish over the wounds of the world. It remains my favorite song of all time.  

So, I'm thinking a LOT about George Harrison today as the Western world considers sanctions against the mad man Qaddafi.  And the Vatican blusters about Gov. Cuomo's taking holy communion while unmarried.  And the Koch brothers wage class war - again - against the unions of the industrial Midwest (not that they don't needs some changes and reforms.) And the people of New Zealand grieve.  And the US starts to withdraw from the cruel absurdity that has become the war in Afghanistan.  George knew how to put into music what all of this feels like - AND - at the same time bring a measure of encouragement and light into the mix, too.

See if you don't agree with me:  take some time to watch the "Concert for George" when you can.  It is his buddy, Eric Clapton's, homage to his dear friend.  Throughout, Clapton leads a hot band through all of Harrison's greatest songs.  And then, after keeping it together with proper English stoicism and class, the band closes the show with "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."  And Clapton lets out ALL his grief as he beats his guitar - hammers it - makes it scream and cry with all the rage, sorrow, grief, shame and love he feels inside... It is a lament of the highest and most beautiful kind - and always causes me to weep, too. It is the balm in Gilead for my soul...

Comments

BanksyBoy said…
Love the 'While my guitar gently weeps' film... evokes some man tears here every time ;-)

Patti Boyd's autobiography is well worth a read to gain insight into those two musical men in her life.

You are so right, you can both see what it means also yet also yearn to know his inner thoughts... deeply transcendent stuff.

A great Friday post, cheers! PB
RJ said…
Thanks, brother, I need to read that and I had forgotten about it. Cheers right back to you!
Black Pete said…
Never cottoned to Paul McCartney, while I went through a similar dance with John Lennon as you did. But George, yes, the "quiet" Beatle who more than any of them, tried to work his spirituality into his music.
RJ said…
I love McCartney's musicality - not his sentimental stuff - but damn is he a fine bass player and rocker: "I'm Down" - totally Little Richard; "Hold Me Tight" is like the bass is a space ship invading your insides; and who can't love "Get Back?" But George is still the man...
Black Pete said…
Eric (whose dad was a Canadian soldier--couldn't let that opportunity go by! ;)) did all that without a whammy bar--impressive. Ironically (perhaps), it was Eric who did the same solo work on the same song for the Bangladesh album. What a pity Billy Preston wasn't there--he and George were very good friends.
RJ said…
Oh I love EC in so many ways... I didn't know about his Canadian roots - :-)

And back on the Bangladesh tune, he was strung out on heroin, too. Bless his recovery, yes?
Black Pete said…
Yes, and he pulled through--a manifold blessing.

Eric's dad was a Canadian soldier serving in the Second World War. Like so many North Americans, he had a fling with a local lass while he was stationed in England, and she became pregnant. He returned to Canada after the war, lived a full and interesting life probably totally unaware that he was a biological father. Read this, and be prepared for some more musical pedigree in that side of the family:
http://www.eric-clapton.co.uk/interviewsandarticles/hisfatherseyes.htm

Eric Clapton has since visited his father's grave in Canada. Thankfully, the media pretty much left him alone at that time.

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