Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What Six George Harrison Songs Would you Take to Iraq?

You've heard the old question, if you were stranded on a desert island for the rest of your life, what one book would you take with you? (For me, the Bible, not just because it's, well, the Bible, but because it's simply the most interesting and varied collection of writings available.)

Well, in the Spring of 2004, I was facing a similar quandary. I was heading out for four months outside the US, one month in Egypt followed immediately by three months in Iraq. And I needed my tunes. That was back in the days when a collection of music meant making a compilation tape on a cassette. Did the iPod exist back in those days? I don't know. Maybe it did but it cost a thousand dollars. Doesn't really matter. I didn't have one.

Now, I've made no secret in this blog of how much I adore George Harrison. And so of course George had to come with me to Iraq. I was being reasonable and making just one ninety minute cassette to come along to listen to while I relaxed and worked out (I would bring two copies of it, just in case of breakage). So I made a decision that there would be six George songs on the tape.

Now, what six George Harrison songs would you take to Iraq?

Certainly, we're all different and, well, De Gustibus Non Disputandum Est (There is no argument concerning tastes). For what it's worth, the following are the songs that came with me, accompanied by descriptions as to why these made the journey.

1) "Faster," from the album George Harrison.

I found, as I was choosing songs to come to Iraq, that I wanted things that would give me strength and encouragement as I living in a war zone and facing, for the first time of my life. the very real issue of my mortality. Faster is about race car driving. It's about taking chances. And that's certainly what I was doing. It's also, like so many George songs, simply gorgeous and inspiring.

2) "Your Love is Forever," from the album George Harrison.

I wanted a song and sweet ballad. There are so many beautiful choices. But this song speaks of the change of seasons:

Sublime is the summertime, warm and lazy. These are perfect days like heavens about here. But unlike summer that came and went. Your love is forever. I feel it and my heart knows that we share it together.

I would be spending the entirety of a Summer in Iraq. This song helped me pass those days.

3) "Wake Up My Love," from the album Gone Troppo.

Now, I've discussed this song and its deep significance to me, my twin, and our father in another post. And the fact that I knew every day I would wake up and need to hit the day running meant that this song had to be a part of it.

4) "Looking for my Life," from the album Brainwashed.

George endured an assassination attempt in 1999 when a deranged man, Michael Abram would break into his house and stab George in the chest. His wife Olivia helped to disable the man, but George came close to death. Out of that experience, he wrote this song, which said things that I also felt. I had grown up in Wisconsin and never imagined how my life could evolve to find me serving my country in a war zone in far flung Iraq.

I never knew that life was loaded.
I'd only hung around birds and bees.
I never knew that things exploded.
I only found it out when I was down upon my knees.
Looking for my life.

I had hoped when I put this song on the tape that I would never hear an explosion, witness an attack. I was not so lucky. To this day, sudden noises spike my blood pressure. I suspect they always will.

5) "Dear One"
6) "Beautiful Girl," both from the album 33 1/3.

Now, I've grouped these last two songs because they rest on the album with barely a pause between them, as if George intended them to be understood as two acts of a single work. And they work gloriously together. Dear One is a tribute to Paramahansa Yogananda, whom George held as an influence in his life. Beautiful Girl is a song that George had written way back in his Beatles days but the Beatles never saw fit to put on one of their albums. Their loss. Together, these two songs were a salve to my soul as I lived through the toughest time of my life.

Thank you, George. From the bottom of my heart and from the very depths of my soul. Thank you.

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