Today is a somber day for me. It is the fourteenth anniversary of the passing of a man whom I never met.
Those who know me well know that I have an encyclopedic knowledge of The Beatles. It is both a useless and helpful quality of mine. I can usually default to it as an ice breaker or reference point. It is amusing for some when I can make analogy to The Beatles in any given situation. My wife sometimes muses that I need win big on “Jeopardy!” if the The Beatles were ever a category.
My useless knowledge actually earned me a Grand Prize for a Radio Contest about twelve years ago. We were living in Massachusetts at the time and a local Classic Rock Station was running a trivia call-in contest. I was driving home with the wife and kids, heard the question, called in on a whim and answered the question correctly. My name was then entered into a Grand Prize Drawing for dinner with musician Neil Innes at the upcoming Beatles Convention.
Yes, you heard correctly. There are fan conventions for Beatle Fans. One of these was coming to the Boston Area. Neil Innes is a musician and satirist. He appeared with his band, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, in The Beatles 1967 movie, “Magical Mystery Tour.” Later, Neil collaborated with the Monty Python comedy troupe. He is affectionately considered to be the “Seventh Python.” Innes was also responsible for The Rutles, a spot-on, cutting Beatles Parody.
Neil was also one of George Harrison’s best friends.
Surprisingly, my name was drawn for the Grand Prize for a three-day pass to The Fest for Beatles Fans Convention and dinner with Neil Innes. My wife and I had such an entertaining evening with Mr. Innes and a local DJ. We talked about many things from education to the prophetic nature of the film, “Network.” Neil was a witty and affable dinner companion. He possessed no star ego trips and provided the soft momentum for conversation.
This dinner had taken place a couple of years after George Harrison’s death. In the course of our conversation, Neil made a mild reference to a conversation he had with Paul McCartney at George’s private memorial service. It was a quick side bar from Neil but it was powerful. He shared a very poignant moment regarding his friend’s service. The reference humanized my icon for me.
When we got to the end of our time with Neil, my wife and I shared our favorite song by The Rutles and asked for an autograph. Neil complied with class and later dedicated our favorite song to Deb and me during his live performance.
There was so much more I wanted to share with Neil but it was time for us to move back to our respective pockets in the world. I wanted to tell Neil how his friend’s first solo album serves as soundtrack for solace for me. I wanted to tell him how his friend’s album, “All Things Must Pass” uplifts and inspires me on a daily basis. I yearned to share with him how Side 3 of that album carried me through the post-traumatic stress of being mugged at gunpoint when I was a college student in Washington, D.C. “Beware of Darkness” is the lead-off track on that Side 3 and the opening chords echo for me that the world is both a place of danger and safety. The song reassures me that the all will be well if you simply stay aware and that life’s pitfalls can be conquered.
I just wanted to say that Side 3 of “All Things Must Pass” was a pillar of solace for me during a difficult time. I wanted to express how grateful I was for his friend sharing his gifts of wisdom and music with so many.
I never did say those things.
George Harrison died fourteen years ago today. His album, “All Things Must Pass,” was recorded and released forty-five years ago.
I am forty-five years old.
George Harrison’s words and music continue to resonate for years to come. For me, there will always be Side 3.