George Harrison
Photo courtesy of Barry Feinstein

George Harrison was more than The Beatles. When the musician released his third album All Things Must Pass over 50 years ago, he became an icon with one of the greatest albums of all time. With his signature sliding guitar sound, delightfully humble yet powerful vocals, Harrison redefined what an album could be – a triple album full of soul, spirituality, light and darkness sung by a man who has lived many lives before, surrounded by toppled garden gnomes on the famous album cover.

Though some of the songs he recorded were originally intended to be released on Beatles records, Harrison decided to go all-in on a sound that was uniquely his own – something that John Lennon, Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr (the three gnomes) couldn’t put their stamp on. And according to Harrison, he didn’t have a whole lot of opportunity to flourish with The Beatles and was given a quota of one, maybe two tunes per album. There were three songwriters in the band, each one with competing individual visions. By the time The Beatles released their final album Let It Be (1970), Harrison was more than ready to paint the world on his own canvas.

Produced by Phil Spector with his “Wall of Sound” production technique, All Things Must Pass had strong stereo sensibility. But what truly drew listeners in were songs that showcased Harrison’s wistful vulnerability and tremendous depth as a singer-songwriter. How could The Beatles possibly have a record with “My Sweet Lord” on it, Harrison’s first single off the album? The song was a sweet but fierce yearning to be with God – a yearning believers of all faiths could deeply appreciate. As soon as the song builds up a half-octave, the soul rattles. You instinctively want to stand up, dance and reach for the light with a fire burning inside you. “My Sweet Lord” masterfully kindles that flame.

Harrison’s second single, “Isn’t It a Pity,” is a poignant reflection on The Beatles’ dissolution, with multiple moody keyboards dubbed one top of each other, dark orchestral and choral arrangements that beautifully illustrate universal themes. The song was about taking each other for granted – and how we often forget to give back. The third single, “What Is Life,” is an uplifting Motown-flavored romp – a sweet, emphatic surrender to spiritual and physical love. According to Harrison, love is what drives us to ask ourselves, “What is life?”

All Things Must Pass is a timeless collection that highlights Harrison’s musical-spiritual journey arc from 1966-69 as he successfully welded his Indian music influences, Hare Krishna-infused folk with Western gospel jubilation. 50 years later, Harrison’s All Things Must Pass continues to amaze with an ageless seizing of the moment, rife with tension, urgency, ecstasy and grace.

Watch the star-studded music video for “My Sweet Lord,” which was released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of All Things Must Pass: