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The Best of Dark Horse came up on my iTunes shuffle the other day, and I was struck by how many George Harrison songs can go with a sunny, breezy day. George has a (not wholly undeserved) reputation as the dour Beatle, but here’s a playlist of his solo songs that I think make for good summer listening.
1. “Blow Away” (1979) — A great hook (“Blow away, blow away, blow away!”) and lyrics that sound like a sequel to “Here Comes the Sun”:
All I got to do is to love you
All I got to be is, be happy
All it’s got to take is some warmth to make it
Blow Away, blow away, blow away!
2. “Got My Mind Set On You” (1987)– I can never hear this winningly punchy song without thinking of the surreal video for it. George wasn’t a Monty Python fan for nothing. (For awhile the VH-1 “Pop-Up Video” version of this was up on YouTube, and it’s amazing.) I also give George major props for avoiding most of the 80’s production excesses that Paul got sucked into.
3. “All Those Years Ago” (1981) — George’s loving tribute to John features Paul on backing vocals and Ringo on drums. A song about loss that’s all the more moving as a result of George’s lightness of touch on it.
4. “Gone Troppo” (1982) — Many loathe this whole album, but I’ve always enjoyed this song as a welcome reminder of George’s playful side. Yeah, the Jamaican dialect is iffy, but I can’t be mad at a catchy song that repeats “Troppo, gone troppo, troppo / It’s time you know I gone troppo.” A good song to enjoy with sangria or a margarita in hand.
5. “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” (2002) — A GREAT ukulele song. And even though it’s a cover, the lyrics are classic George: wise and wry. “I forgive you / ‘Cause I can’t forget you.”
6. “If Not For You” (1970) — Another cover, this one by George’s future fellow Traveling Wilbury Bob Dylan. For me it’s one of the highlights of All Things Must Pass.
7. “Cheer Down”(1989) — Co-written with Tom Petty, George did this for the Lethal Weapon 2 soundtrack — a truly bizarre pairing. This is in the running for my favorite post-Beatles George song, because only George could advise someone to “cheer down” instead of “cheer up.” It’s not a sad-sounding song, and the slide guitar is beautiful.
8. “What Is Life” (1970) — Besides the great guitar break, I love the brass in this song. A song that manages to sound both vulnerable and triumphant.
9. “My Sweet Lord” (1970) — Forget the plagiarism charge; this is George at his most sincere. He powerfully conveys the yearning to do and to be better, even though it “takes so long.” Amen, George.
10. “Any Road” (2002) — A song that seems more apropos every day, on both the personal and societal levels. The start of the song, where George says “Give me plenty of that gee-tar!” always makes me grin. This one features some pointed lyrics that can serve as a metaphysical warning and a reminder to pay attention to the signs during your summer road trip:
But oh Lord we’ve got to fight
With the thoughts in the head with the dark and the light
No use to stop and stare
And if you don’t know where you’re going
Any road will take you there.