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Cloud Nine

Remembering George Harrison on His 80th Birthday

We look back at 50-plus years of covering the Quiet One, with tributes from Steve Perry, Jim James, and more
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

G eorge Harrison would have turned 80 years old today. Though he died over two decades ago, his work continues to inspire people all across the globe.

Just this week, Yusuf, a.k.a. Cat Stevens, covered “Here Comes the Sun” and signed with Harrison’s label, Dark Horse Records. “While most of my generation were just into the music, I was a bit like George, where music became the key to something much higher,” he said. “I’m happy to sing one of his songs, especially as it represents the returning of light and hope to a seriously dark and broken world.”

In 2018, Steve Perry also sang a Harrison song, covering the Beatles’ “I Need You” on his 2018 solo album Traces. “The recording vocal style George got by doubling his voice is just beautiful,” the former Journey frontman tells us of the Help! track. “It has this creamy aspect to it, and when you couple that with the melody he wrote along with his guitar answers fading in and out after every vocal phrase, I had to play it over and over again.”

My Morning Jacket’s Jim James plays a different Harrison song on repeat: “My Sweet Lord.” “This song is a sacred mantra,” he says. “I live inside the womb of it for days at a time. It plays on repeat in my mind — sometimes I will go for weeks without ever listening to or thinking of any other song. I am singing along and we are all hearts afire, ready to hear it start all over again and again.”

To celebrate Harrison’s birthday, Rolling Stone has put together a special tribute, containing coverage of the Beatle across our 55-year history. “What you find is that you have a hit and suddenly everybody’s knocking on your door and bugging you again,” he told us in 1979, ever the Quiet One. “I enjoy being low profile and having a peaceful sort of life.”

From the Archive

The George Harrison Bangladesh Benefit
A report from the former Beatle’s concert to support the impoverished South Asian country

George Harrison: Lumbering in the Material World
Back on stage for his first post-Beatles tour, the famed singer, songwriter and guitarist slowly finds his voice again

A Conversation With George Harrison
The ‘Fab Four’ is done for, and George couldn’t be happier doing his own thing

George Harrison Gets Back
The mystical ex-Beatle, when he was riding ‘Cloud Nine’ back into the material world

George Harrison’s Greatest Musical Moments
The stories behind the songs

The Private Life of George Harrison
The youngest and the shyest of the Beatles retreated from the limelight early — but his life only got deeper, richer and wilder

10 Things You Didn’t Know George Harrison Did
From pranking Phil Collins to hosting Hells Angels, read lesser-known tales from singer-songwriter’s life outside the Beatles

Massive George Harrison ‘All Things Must Pass’: Inside New Reissue
Dhani Harrison, bassist Klaus Voormann, and others look back on the late Beatle’s 1970 solo masterpiece, and detail the making of a new deluxe reissue

Hear Beatles’ Previously Unreleased, Acoustic ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’
“Acoustic Version — Take 2” with just George Harrison on guitar and Paul McCartney on harmonium taken from upcoming, revelatory White Album box set