Sunday, April 08, 2007

A George Harrison Conversion to Christianity?

In this post about the excellent biography of the Bealtes by Bob Spitz, I wrote
I did notice two errors, both involving George Harrison: he mentions “Everybody’s Tryin’ to Be My Baby” as a song Harrison wrote (he only sang it, I believe it is a Carl Perkins song) and said that George embraced traditional Christianity at a point late in his life which, I think, is just plain wrong. It’s my understanding that George remained a Hindu. I’d love for someone to give me confirmation one way or the other regarding this.
Now today, looking at a recent post in an email list that I used to be part of I saw this in a posting:
But I was chatting with a guy I know who is a professional musician
and who did some consulting for Beatlemania. He told me about a book
by Bob Spitz (The Beatles: The Biography) which makes that point on
p. 567:

"Later in life he would become vegetarian, consult an astrologer,
and devote himself to Transcendental Meditation before embracing
traditional Christianity."

When my friend contacted Bob Spitz about his source for that fact,
the reply included the following excerpt:

"As for the source of George's return to traditional Christianity,
the source was the man himself, conveyed to me some months before he
died. Because of agreements with the Harrison estate, I was unable
to list him as a source." [note - this is slightly edited from the longer post which you can find here.]
So, it appears that I may have been wrong about that. But how do we explain, some of the lyrics on George's last album, Brainwashed? One way is to recognize that George wrote these songs over a period of about ten years and that they may not all reflect his thinking at the end of his life. Plus, I'm willing to bet that IF (still a big if in my book) George did indeed convert to Christianity that it was more of a "hey this sort of makes sense to me" kind of conversion rather than a "throw everything else I ever did or thought overboard" kind of conversion. I'll leave it to the reader to decide if that still "counts." Actually, I'll leave it to God - he's better at that anyway.

I'm also, frankly, a little skeptical that the source is George but he "couldn't t list him as a source ." Why can he tell this now? On the other hand, I've been in correspondence with another Beatles book author who was able to tell me some things that did not get in the book (which I'm not telling) so it could be true that Spitz knows things that he was unable to write but yet is willing to tell people personally. So, the jury is out but Spitz got so much right in his book that I'm leaning toward admitting that he was right about this too.

But I'm still convinced that Carl Perkins wrote "Everybody's Tryin'..."

9 comments:

Sue said...

I appreciate learning anything i can about the BBeatles; they were so "instrumental"' in putting form to our generation. I learned TM by a sung introductory Lecture which, i just found out was inspired by a guy who was with the Beatles in India; Ric Stanley? interesting for me. I was a typical open minded wide eyed youth of the esciting 60's!

Sue Crittenden

ourboy said...

Hi, Bob.

I just read Spitz's book back in February and the bit about George converting to "traditional Christianity" stood out like a sore thumb.

I do recall in one of George's later-in-life (last year or two) interviews him quote scripture. I think he quoted, "I stand at the door and knock..." It also struck me as interesting that he talked about "God" and not the gods. Wouldn't Hindus speak about many gods as opposed to a god?

Rufer said...

Notice that George signed his name on the 'Brainwashed' cover (shown in your post) with a Hindu symbol followed by the Christian cross. That would seem to represent some belief in Christ.

Rufer said...

So now I see it is the Om symbol followed by the Christian cross.

Annie Miklasz, Offbeat Drumming Lunatic said...

I practice, actually, what Ringo called himself in the new book about George Harrison, "Living in the Material World," that went along with the HBO documentary, which is "A Christian Hindu with Buddhist tendencies."

I chiefly practice Christianity, and believe that Christ is my savior, though I don't discount other religions' validity and place in both culture and truth, which I've blogged about on my site here on Blogger (theoffbeatdrummer.blogspot.com).

I stumbled upon your blog when trying to print out a large photo of the "Brainwashed" cover art. I am going next week to get a tattoo of the Hindu "OM" next to the Christian cross EXACTLY as George had drawn them underneath his signature on the album.

As far as Harrison's "conversion" to Christianity, I would agree with Bob speculating that IF George embraced Christianity towards the end of his life, and the "Brainwashed" cover isn't the only place I'd seen him sign with both the OM and the cross, he most likely looked upon it as something that could very well also have truth and meaning to it. He would've, at the very least, acknowledged Christ and Christianity, and I highly doubt he would've completely thrown away any of his Hindu faith. Yes, the album was the result of over a decade's worth of material, some of it Hindu laced (the chanting on "Brainwashed," for example, the line in "Pisces Fish" where he says "I think of all the gods and what they feel," though in that song he also acknowledges the Pope.

We'll never know, bottom line, what happened to Harrison's soul until we ourselves are united with him either in the Christian version of Heaven, meeting his soul in some sort of Nirvana, or if our souls (which I believe all souls do, go on for eternity) cross in the universe after we die.

Very interesting topic, thanks for posting.

KW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KW said...

When I was 3, my mom joined the Hari Krishna movement, and I went along for the ride. When I was 11, my mom was born again at a pentecostal country church and while I had no intension to follow along, God embraced me the following week.

You may be able to imagine, that the sights and sounds (and smells! - every time I walk into an Indian restaurant I am transported back to my childhood) of the Hari Krishna experience made quite a lasting impression on a 3-5 year old.

Many, many years later, I have come to understand that ISKON teaches a monotheistic view of Hinduism. Yes, there is a pantheon of gods, but there is a single God-head, Bramah; an expression of the person(s) of the God-head, Vishnu; and an avatar of Vishnu appearing to man-kind in the form of Krishna... (and again in the person of Jesus, among others). This is a gross simplification, but it hits the main idea.

It is important to understand, then, that Harrison's central conception of God even as experienced during his time in the Hari Krishna movement would still be essentially monotheistic.

Buddism is, of course, highly derivative of Hinduism, and while it uses the forms and even reinterprets the stories of the various gods of Hinduism, it is non-theistic... The gods of Buddism are characters in a story to illustrate a moral point.

Now, through all of the trials of my faith over the past 30 years, I remain a Christian, I profess the faith as summarized in the Appostle's Creed, yet my background in Hinduism colors my view... So I doubt that my view of Christianity is what most would call "traditional" (much of that tradition being rooted only in the past couple hundred years).

Harrison was always my "favorite" Beatle - at least from a musical standpoint, so I was delighted to learn about his profession of Christianity toward the end of his life in my men's Bible study this morning. While my own experience leads me to doubt that what he embraced was what many would call "traditional," I havd no problem believing that it was, indeed, Christian.

Bob K said...

I think it is interesting that this five-year-old post has gotten two comments recently. Thanks, to KW and Annie for bringing these new insights to the conversation.

What you both say makes sense to me as far as George's beliefs are concerned. Thanks

Annie Miklasz, Offbeat Drumming Lunatic said...

KW,

Thank you so much for explaining how ISKON actually worked. I admittedly dabble in more traditional Hinduism and was not aware that the Hari Krishna movement was essentially monotheistic, and actually embodied more of the version of "God" that Christians worship (the Holy Trinity, one God in three persons).

I'm not sure how long Harrison actually followed ISKON versus that of traditional Hinduism in his later years. I know he did a lot of musical work and advocating for them in the late 60's/early 70's.

I also don't know if Olivia was a practicing Christian when they met. Her history, other than that she was a secretary for Dark Horse Records, is limited.

KW, I was born, raised and still am Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, though it's one of the most conservative synods in all of Lutheranism. I don't agree with or go along with a lot of the practices of my own denomination, though I'm an active participant in my church's contemporary rock/pop band (drums). I brought "My Sweet Lord" to the band to cover (we do all covers, blech) and said we could just sing "Hallelujah" instead of the Krishna chants, and was blatantly rejected by the Pastor since, he said, the song wasn't WRITTEN by a Christian and that too many people would walk out of church humming "Hare Krishna" to themselves and OH MY that wouldn't be good. It remains my favorite song of all time.

People ask me all the time about my Harrison OM/Cross tattoo, and why I chose those two symbols, and it did turn out exactly like George drew it on "Brainwashed." I'm very pleased with it. My own blog post about the tattoo experience is at http://theoffbeatdrummer.blogspot.com/2012/02/on-what-wouldve-been-george-harrisons.html.

In thinking of my next tattoo, I'm considering the word "SAVED" in either Aramaic or Hebrew.

Thanks for your incredibly enlightening post and God bless.