Remembering George

This piece first appeared on Sunday, December 2, 2001 as a tribute on the radio show I engineer, InnerViews with Liz Sterling, with the lovely sitar-infused instrumental track from the Beatles "Within You, Without You" playing in the background.

I heard the news today. Well actually it was Friday - I had just arrived home from a gig, and I heard on the radio that George Harrison had passed away. I immediately burst into great, sobbing tears. The thing is, George wasn't even my favorite Beatle. But that didn't matter. I grew up with the Beatles. They were the first band I was infatuated with as a newly-minted teenager. And I never stopped loving them, in all the years since. They turned me on, in so many ways, and over the years continued to inspire and educate me.

I remember struggling to play those difficult guitar riffs from Blackbird and Here Comes the Sun, even trickier on the flute, during the years I was groping towards becoming a professional musician. They're still great riffs, and I still play them around the occasional campfire....

There have been a million other moments when the Beatles and their music touched my life. So it didn't matter that George wasn't my favorite. The Beatles were my first love, and now two of the Fab Four were gone, and I felt this huge sadness.

The news anchor on NPR went on to some other supposedly important story, but all I wanted was to hear the music. I scanned the radio dial, and finally found an oldies station playing all Beatles and all George, all the time - well, at least through the weekend.

It was so great to hear the music again. Norwegian Wood... Day Tripper... Got to Get You Into My Life... I knew every word and every note.

After awhile I turned on the TV too and scanned that dial. Wow, there's Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying what a great loss this is! And the four split-screen talking heads on CNN sharing their favorite memories of George.

But more than the accolades of semi-famous folk, what moved me was the words of unnamed fans - an English woman in a Sgt. Pepper jacket at Strawberry Fields in Central Park, a guy with an American accent and a Beatles T-shirt outside Abbey Road Studios - and the fact that I could share the moment with them, thanks to the wonders of modern technology.

What moved me was the feeling that in so many places around the world, people were all feeling this loss together, all celebrating the beautiful things this man created and stood for, musically and spiritually.

What moved me was the feeling of Oneness.

I know it seems the world is filled with more dissension, more conflict and more separation than it ever has been. But I also believe, I know! there's a place where anyone who wants to can come together, where people all over the world are coming together. It's the place we access when we open our hearts.

And everything about George Harrison, his life, and his death, helps us get in touch with that sacred place. George himself spent much of his life seeking that place, and he used his last words on earth to tell us to Love One Another.

I believe that all the things we've been through the last several months are leading us to that same place: We're opening our hearts, turning more and more to spirituality, and recognizing the fact that we are all truly One.

Even as I mourn all that we have lost, I also celebrate the way these losses are bringing us closer together. And I keep the vision close to my heart, the same vision that John, Paul, George and Ringo shared when they sang "All You Need Is Love."

 

 

Excerpts from a Letter - Thanksgiving 1981

by Laura Sue Wilansky

 

Dear B.,

It is snowing here and has been for days

it looks and feels like winter

John Kennedy's anniversary just past

and John Lennon's just ahead - but people are taking things into their own hands.

Rallies and marches are numerous - and everyone is making a record -

even me .... my dreams are turning into Jezebel butterflies

and I am taking things into my own hands.

Yogi and Nemir are reported well in Puerto Rico, George in Belgium, Chris in Boston and Cris in Germany and all are taking things into their own hands where they are just as we here and you in Magic Santa Fe

and our hands are strong and plentiful and raised high over our heads

are clapping lifting waving clenching -

stretching and straining, things are moving, I feel they are moving in a new way!

Power is growing, people are groaning under the weight, under the gun, the Raygun, moving, and the Stones, rolling, into the Dome - and people are taking things into their own hands.

 

Every morning I read the paper -

it wouldn't be breakfast in America without a little rape and murder with my coffee and raisin french toast.

Every morning the paper makes sure to let me know

a woman was raped yesterday. But sometimes they also let me know

that woman is taking things into her own hands.

That women are taking things into their own hands.

 

I remember the morning I woke up - before you left for work and you told me

someone had taken John's life into his own hands.

Some man had taken John's life into his own hands.

And the papers said yes it is true . crying . crying ....

In mourning, but knowing John's spirit, his spirit alive forever

I joined with all, with all who believe

that all you need

is love.

 

I dreamt about John and in my dream he was my friend.

 

You are a songwriter

like John, though you sound more like Joni.

You are a strong one who will change the world

whose music brings peace

You are one who takes love into your own hands

You play and sing love for all to hear

and you are taking healing into your own hands.

You are taking healing into your own hands.

 

These are days of work and nights of questioning -

sitting in the cafe talking about the end of the world -
and the end of the cafe -
some say it's coming soon -

 

I say it is time to take things into our own hands -

to take things into our own hands - for our hands are strong and plentiful

and raised high over our heads are clapping lifting waving clenching -

stretching and straining, things are moving,

I feel they are moving in a new way,

in a new way, and I say

 

It is time to take our lives into our own hands!

© 1981 Laura Sue Wilansky

 

The above photo of John Lennon came from this page, which also has a very nice peace affirmation from Yoko Ono Lennon.

 

 

To read more of my poetry, please visit my Poetry Page!

To read more of my writing, please visit Blog of the Nightingale!

 

 

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