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The Paradox of George Harrison: Author Philip Norman Pens 'The Reluctant Beatle'

"He could touch both the height of nobility with his charity and the nadir of sleaze in seducing Ringo’s first wife"

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Author Philip Norman has come forward with a complex tome, that notwithstanding your prejudices about Norman himself - could be called the most in-depth study of former Beatle George Harrison.

George Harrison: The Reluctant Beatle has a title that many can agree with, just pulling off the numerous well-known quotes that Harrison dropped in his time with and without the Beatles: "Beatle George is like a suit or shirt that I once wore on occasion, and until the end of my life, people may see that shirt and mistake it for me." The attention-grabbing life he led could have easily made him seem to withdraw and prefer to keep quiet, as he was also labeled.

But Norman - acknowledging his own past offenses when he dashed off a semi-negative obituary at Harrison's passing in 2001 - has attempted to paint a more nuanced portrait, mixing the deeper, private side of a self-described gardener with parts of the philanthropist who gained nothing financially by mortgaging Friar Park to finance Monty Python's Life Of Brian.

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Source: Scribner

Norman admits that his best-selling biography of the band Shout! The Beatles In Their Generation demoted Harrison (and Starr) to the low tier of musicianship within the Fab Four. Admittedly, he has corrected his viewpoint in subsequent biographies on John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Hoping that he might gain cooperation from Harrison's wife Olivia and son Dhani was thwarted when a mutual friend presented Norman's scathing obit to the two.

However, despite this setback (and additional word on the street that he wouldn't be able to speak to Harrison's confidantes), Norman proceeded with those who gave candid insight to Harrison as a person, not as a celebrity figure: former assistant Chris O'Dell recalled how instantly George could switch from Hindu piety to "wanting to drink, take coke and party" and just as instantly back again; record producer Sir George Martin was still remorseful for having been "rather beastly to George" in the studio before realizing his true worth.

Even Harrison's former wife Patti Boyd remained free from bitterness even as she was wooed away by Eric Clapton, in part due to Harrison seducing Ringo Starr's wife Maureen and they remained close until Harrison's death.

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Source: ©2001 Ramey Photo Agency

George Harrison and Jeff Lynne

As Norman concludes in a recent Guardian piece, "My previous books have taught me there's such a thing as biographer's luck and, latterly, even to trust to it. With George it arrived rather late, but more than atoned for the misfortune of that undead obit."


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