To suggest that the reaction to George Harrison's death has been somewhat excessive is in no way to underestimate his importance as a member of the most internationally influential popular music group of the second half of the 20th century.

Nor should it seem to diminish his achievement in establishing himself as a distinctive personality and not just a “Beatle”. Nonetheless it does not seem unreasonable to ask whether yesterday's main headline in The Times – “Queen mourns Beatle George” – was justified by the Buckingham Palace announcement that “the Queen had been saddened by news of Harrison's death”. The sadness felt by so many middle–aged and even elderly people at Harrison's death reflects the role that the Beatles played in so many of our lives in the 1960s. They were a liberating force in society, as much for their irrepressible spirit and obvious enjoyment of their fame as for their appealing music. They showed that with talent and self–belief you could beat all the barriers that still existed in post–war Britain – and go on to astonishing success in the United States and virtually every other part of the world. This was something that prime minister Harold Wilson recognised and rewarded with the MBE for each member of the group in 1969 – a decision much criticised at the time but fully justified.

As the pressures built within the Beatles and eventually could not be contained, Harrison found the inner strength to rebuild his life as a composer and to pursue his interests in Eastern philosophy and music. He cultivated his garden and lived quietly with his family. These were probably the best years of his life.

MONITOR

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