George Harrison: Filling in the gaps

George Harrison visiting the Oval Office in 1974

Image via Wikipedia

There is much talk at the moment about the George Harrison “track” that was featured on British radio recently. The story is that Beatle biographer Hunter Davies came across a scrap of paper with some Harrison lyrics, “Silence (Is Its Own Reply)”, speculated to be about his relationship with John Lennon. During a radio show, the presenter Spencer Leigh suggested that Liverpool musician Dean Johnson could provide a melody for the lyrics, that you can find here. There has been considerable talk about this – lots of it pretty negative. Why?

It must be said: Johnson was either naive or brave to take on the task. There is something perceived as sacred about The Beatles, with George in particular seen as Mr Nice Guy. So it would have to be one hell of a melody to live up to the expectation. Based on the one acoustic version sung live on radio, it isn’t. Even though it’s hardly fair to judge it under these conditions, I can’t help wondering what it would have been like if Dave Stewart or ELO’s Jeff Lynn had been given the lyrics.

Yet this is not the first time that a song has been re-constructed from fragments. Woody Guthrie’s family spent considerable time seeking out composers to take Guthrie’s large catalogue of unsung words and make songs out of them. Is it fair to take scraps of a dead man’s song and fill in the gaps? Apparently, the estates of George Harrison and Woody Guthrie think so.

George Harrison: “All Things Must Pass” mp3

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