Creative Team Building and Leadership Resources - In our Elements

George Harrison’s Heart and Soul

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

This week’s Free Ride* muses on the songs of the late great George Harrison, who would have turned 69 today. He is my favorite of the Fab Four; I love the brightness of his disposition and the depth of his spirituality. I really fell in love with his music when he fronted the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, along with Ravi Shankar and many other friends, to raise money for the refugees of the Bangladesh civil war. I wore out the eight track of that concert, learning the guitar parts to Here Comes the Sun and Something and While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Years later, I spent most of my visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland watching a video of that concert. Harrison made many contributions to the songbook of freedom, including some compositions for the Beatles – I, Me, Mine from the Let It Be album, and It’s All Too Much from the Yellow Submarine album. He also shared the songwriting on the unfinished John Lennon composition, Free As A Bird, adding lyrics and background music to Lennon’s 1977 home demo recording, and the result was the Beatles 34th top ten single, released in 1995. It’s classic Beatles, with Harrison providing great slide guitar work as well as some vocals,

Whatever happened to
the life that we once knew?
Always made me feel so free.
Free as a bird.
It’s the next best thing to be.

Freedom – the “next best thing.” The don’t say what the best thing is. For George, I’d guess it would have something to do with peace and love. And so, for the other freedom song, from his solo years, we have Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth). It’s also classic Harrison, with his signature slide work, and a simple lyric that I try and weave into Advent every year at church.

Give me love, give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light, give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope, help me cope
With this heavy load
Trying to touch and reach you
With heart and soul. . .
My Lord . . .
Please take hold of my hand, that
I might understand you

Peace, love, light, hope, understanding, and being free as a bird, from birth to death. That pretty well sums up the hopeful message and legacy of George Harrison. He touched and reached many of us with his heart and soul. Kim gave me the DVD of the Concert for Bangladesh a few years ago. I think I’ll go watch it again.



  • February 26, 2012 at 7:21 am

    “Keep me free from birth” probably pertains to escaping the cycle of birth, death and rebirth (reincarnation) through his devotion to Krishna and spiritual enlightenment through the dharma. Hare Krishna! My Sweet Lord! I hope that George’s soul found the liberation it so desired.

    George once wrote, “From the Hindu point of view each soul is divine. All religions are branches of one big tree. It doesn’t matter what you call Him just as long as you call. Just as cinematic images appear to be real but are only combinations of light and shade, so is the universal variety a delusion. The planetary spheres, with their countless forms of life, are naught but figures in a cosmic motion picture. One’s values are profoundly changed when he is finally convinced that creation is only a vast motion picture and that not in, but beyond, lies his own ultimate reality.”

    Comment by Jessica

  • February 26, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Good insights, Jessica. Actually, I think GH could have had both meanings in mind in that line of the song “keep me free from birth” – freedom from what he understood as the cycle, as well as freedom while he was in his earthly body.I don’t think he was a dualist in his thinking, and so he probably would have embraced both notions. He certainly invested in and worked for an embodied peace and justice and freedom while he was on this earth, that much is for sure, and he also invested in spreading the philosophy of Hare Krishna.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • February 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Hare Krishna,Really? Really? Really? I am the way,the Truth,and the Life; No man cometh unto the Father,but by me. Jesus Christ!!!!!!!

    Comment by Daryl D

  • February 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Hey this takes me to a passage of scripture, Hebrews 9:27. It is appointed unto a man once to die and after this the judgment. Sounds like there were some good things he did while living but the only hope for him or me or anyone else is to put our faith and trust in Christ alone. Acts 4:12

    Comment by jim munsey

  • February 26, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Daryl and Jim, interestingly enough, I think George Harrison would appreciate those passages. He was, according to what I have read, a believer in Christ, but was more influenced by Eastern traditions of Christianity. He was a syncretist, seeing Christ present in many religions. Of Christianity, he said this: “I think many Christian teachers today are misrepresenting Christ. They’re supposed to be representing Jesus, but they’re not doing it very well. They’re letting him down very badly, and that’s a big turn off.” I agree with him there.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • February 27, 2012 at 5:45 am

    Stan, I hope that he renounced his following of eastern mysticism before he died and became a Christian. As far as being a syncretist, I don’t find that is harmony with christianity.

    Comment by jim munsey

  • February 27, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Jim, he did not renounce his following of Hinduism. He was a Hindu till the day he died and his ashes were scattered in the Ganges according to Hindu tradition. Hare Krishna! Praise God!

    Comment by Jessica

  • February 27, 2012 at 7:48 am

    Stan, yes, that line could contain a double meaning. I love the joy that seems to emanate from GH when he sings about his “sweet lord” in My Sweet Lord. You can tell that his relationship with God really elevated him and filled him with peace, joy and love. This elevation of spirit, bearing such glorious fruits, is a great and noble function of religion, any religion.

    Comment by Jessica

  • February 27, 2012 at 8:51 am

    George Harrison’s family issued the following statement after his passing:

    “He left this world as he lived in it: conscious of God, fearless of death, and at peace, surrounded by family and friends. He often said, ‘Everything else can wait but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another.’”

    Comment by Jessica

  • February 27, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Also, did you know that, in 1999, GH was stabbed 7 times by a crazed man who broke into his house and tried to kill him in the name of God? Lovely, right? Apparently, GH’s wife fought the attacker off single-handedly, and Tom Petty wrote to GH saying, “Aren’t you glad you married a Mexican woman?”

    Comment by Jessica

  • February 27, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    No man can serve two masters Jessica, so that is why I had hoped he would renounce hinduism and turn to God. There is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof is the ways of death. Sorry to hear he stayed a hindu

    Comment by jim munsey

  • February 27, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    Well he did like the hindus, the best he can do! In the words of Maxwell Smart, missed it by that much! They were contempararies back in the day!!

    Comment by jim munsey

  • February 28, 2012 at 6:14 am

    Jim, oddly enough, I suspect George Harrison would agree with your reference – no man can serve two masters. He saw only one “master”, Christ; he simply saw Christ’s presence in other religions, such as Hinduism. Funny where Jesus shows up – that’s what got him trouble when he was on earth in bodily form. Anyway, I’m glad to see you make light with the Get Smart reference, it reveals that you’re about as worried and anxious about people like George Harrison suffering eternal judgment in hell as I am. I’m glad you’re not losing sleep over it!

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • February 28, 2012 at 6:49 am

    well according to your perspective, if I am understanding you, you think he is in heaven,so it doesn’t matter what I think. You seem to think Jesus is in hindu and other religions I am guessing.As for the Maxwell Smart quote, for George Harrison it is a done deal and no I don’t take hell lightly. I just think mixing works based religions that say do something to merit God’s favor is wrong, its already been done! Once someone dies there is no more substitute, and there is nothing left to do for them.

    Comment by jim munsey

  • February 28, 2012 at 6:55 am

    As for where Jesus is, I believe, as the good book tells us, “the wind bloweth where it willeth.” I don’t draw boundaries around where Jesus can visit, who he can eat and fellowship with, etc. And I trust the grace and mercy of God to deal with people’s eternal fate; I don’t sit in that judgment seat, like so many try and do. And I don’t believe in works-based religion; I believe the works that matter flow out in response to God’s initiative of grace. As for doing something for the dead, I’ll leave that to Mitt Romney and the Mormons. But, as always, I’m glad you’re one of my blog readers; it’s gratifying to be in meaningful conversation with people across this vast ideological spectrum.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • February 28, 2012 at 7:06 am

    Just for clarification, what is it you are saying about George Harrison and his life since Jessica is sure he was a hindu and stayed one up until he died.

    Comment by jim munsey

  • February 28, 2012 at 7:09 am

    For clarification, I’m leaving his eternal state up to the mercies of God. And for clarification, as far as I know, he remained a follower of Christ and a dedicated believer in Christ to the day he died, as well. I know that doesn’t fit into your box, Jim, but that’s why it’s good that God is the one who decides, not any of us.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • February 28, 2012 at 7:11 am

    So both can coexist together and that’s ok?

    Comment by jim munsey

  • February 28, 2012 at 7:14 am

    Believing in Christ and following him is ok with me, in whatever cultural context, and with whatever propositional and credal language surrounds that discipleship. It’s about relationship, not religion.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • February 28, 2012 at 7:17 am

    Well you might want to read the first four commandments of the ten commandments, and look at Galatians 1:8

    Comment by jim munsey

  • February 28, 2012 at 7:30 am

    duly noted, and read. There is one God, and the gospel is the same gospel, available and accessible to any cultural context. I would not proclaim anything contrary to the grace and mercy of God, embodied in Jesus who comes to us in the guise of the stranger. Good news!

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • February 28, 2012 at 11:23 am

    It’s a lovely thing that happens when you allow the energy of God to fully pervade your being; you see everything with kinder, gentler eyes, you cease being threatened by opposing points of view, and your fear melts away. You EVEN cease being threatened by those who feel that, based on your worldview, your rightful place is in Hell. That’s ok, man. I’m filled with the Spirit, and I have peace like a river! I know the nature of God. I can feel it; It’s a part of me, and I know very well my soul’s rightful place.

    I am no longer threatened. I accept myself, and I accept all that is not myself (including you, Jim!) with love and compassion, for we are ALL one human family. Love (accept) your neighbor as yourself.

    Glory be to God.

    Comment by Jessica

  • February 28, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Jessica, So glad to hear you’re in that peaceful, loving, space. You’re in the flow! Thanks for speaking such a gracious word.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • February 28, 2012 at 6:44 pm


    Comment by jim munsey

  • February 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    it makes me want to sit around a campfire and we all hold hands and sing kumbaya or however you spell that!

    Comment by jim munsey

  • February 29, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Doesn’t it, Jim?! I’m glad you’re on board! Now, pass me a guitar, and let’s get on with the singin’ and hand holdin’! But instead of Kumbaya, let’s sing My Sweet Lord by George Harrison!

    Comment by Jessica

  • February 29, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    well I guess throw Jesus in with all your other bag of gods and hope for the best. I will stick to Jesus the only hope for the world!! Since there is only one true and living God who is incarnate in 3 persons and when you meet this God, then you will forsake all others and you will sing I have decided to follow Jesus no turning back, no turning back! Universalism may be in vogue, just doesn’t square with scripture but don’t let the facts get in the way thats to bothersome!!!

    Comment by jim munsey

  • February 29, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Jesus is already in the bag, Jim, but I don’t have to hope for the best ’cause I got faith, and better yet, I’ve got evidence.

    Comment by Jessica

  • February 29, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Jim, I don’t have a “bag of gods.” There is one God. There are many denominations and religions. I believe Jesus is powerful enough to walk through our walls of misunderstanding and visit them all, inviting people to follow his Way of grace and love.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • February 29, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    When He does walk thru these so-called walls, He calls people out of the darkness and into the light and they will no longer follow those other religions.

    Comment by jim munsey

  • February 29, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    You’re right about one thing, Jim, Jesus walks through the walls and calls people out of darkness. I believe he does this when he walks through the walls of our churches, as well as through the walls of other faiths. I don’t think he really cares what kind of religious protocols we adhere to, as long as they don’t bring harm. He cares about how we relate to God and to each other, and I believe he celebrates those who find those grace-filled relationships wherever they happen.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • February 29, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    can’t happen

    Comment by jim munsey

  • February 29, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    I can understand your resistance to this truth, Jim. There are many progressives who have given up on the hope that Jesus can be found among the right wing fundamentalist Christians. I don’t happen to be one of them. I’ve seen people living in the light of Christ even among those I deem most contrary to the teachings of Jesus, when it comes to issues of peace, wealth, and welcome of strangers.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • February 29, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    let me ask you a question, your standard is peace, no money, and welcome strangers. at any time have you failed in these areas?

    Comment by jim munsey

  • February 29, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    That’s an easy one, Jim. Of course I am not perfect; I’m a sinner saved by grace. I simply know which direction Jesus leads – I know which direction the light is in, and which direction the darkness is in. Violence, greed, bigotry – this is the direction of darkness, no matter how many preachers and theologians try and justify them as being Christian. Loving enemies with transforming love, being content and free with our material gain and tending to the least of these, and welcoming the stranger as one of our family – this is the direction of the light. I stumble every day, as Paul did, but thankfully, by the grace of God, I stumble forward, toward the light.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • February 29, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    you reference Paul but in your dialogue you show and universalist attitude, Paul said if anyone preaches another gospel, let him be anathema or accursed.

    Comment by jim munsey

  • February 29, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Yes, Jim, you’ve referenced that verse before, and as I have said before, I agree with Paul, there is only one gospel, manifested in Jesus Christ, wherever His presence and way of grace happen to show up in our world. Perhaps you would do well to sing that old hymn, “open mine eyes, that I may see, glimpses of truth thou hast for me. . .open mine eyes illumine me, Spirit divine!”

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • March 29, 2012 at 4:39 am

    In my country,where I live,christians seem to me as Devils,their priest go to poor household and convert them by offering them bribe!do you know what they do?,they go to a poor person who is ill,and will give him a simple solution by calling it a medicine,and will tell him to take it the name of ‘his god’!When it will not work,they give the real medicine telling him to take it in the name of Jesus!SHEER DEVILS!and this is how they convert people by fooling them!

    Comment by Harrison fan forever

  • February 28, 2013 at 7:37 am

    Well I’m only a year late to this conversation, found this on Google researching GH’s “keep me free from birth” lyric. Then I read this:
    ” For clarification, I’m leaving his eternal state up to the mercies of God. And for clarification, as far as I know, he remained a follower of Christ and a dedicated believer in Christ to the day he died, as well. I know that doesn’t fit into your box, Jim, but that’s why it’s good that God is the one who decides, not any of us.”

    And I cried. You can’t know what is going on in my life right now, but suffice to say I am under attack because my understanding of Christ isn’t fitting into someone else’s “box”. Bad things are going on with me right now….your words are going to help me make it through another day, Mr. Stan Dotson. You never know how far your words will reach, even years later.
    I’m bookmarking your blog.

    Comment by Brenda

  • March 4, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Brenda, thanks so much for your good words, and I’m glad you found the conversation! blessings on you.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • April 13, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Stan, I would love to be in the place you are now. I’m still struggling with the here and now and trying to fit GH’s message into my life. I want the calm and peace within that GH seemed to have and profess thru his music and actions. Don’t get frustrated with the Jim M.’s of the world… for there is none so blind that cannot see. Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Andy Mooney

  • September 28, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    Thank you, Stan, for your words and also to Jessica. I hope to someday feel the same until then I will keep praying for others and for peace on earth.

    Comment by Victoria

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