George Harrison's 10 Biggest Billboard Hits
As we fondly remember the moment 50 years ago this week that the Beatles landed in American and performed on "The Ed Sullivan Show," we're also honoring each Beatle -- and today we celebrate George Harrison's 10 biggest Billboard hits, from his Beatle days to his thriving solo career through the 1970s and '80s.
George Harrison may have been known as "the quiet Beatle," but his nickname had little to do with his songwriting contributions. Throughout his time in the Fab Four, the guitarist developed his own songwriting talents despite the strength of the Lennon-McCartney partnership, penning classic tracks like "Here Comes the Sun" shortly before the band broke up. It was clear that Harrison had been bubbling with ideas all along when, in 1970, he released the triple album "All Things Must Pass," which went platinum six times and spawned two singles on this very list.
This tally of Harrison's 10 Biggest Billboard Hits is based on actual performance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100. Included are those singles he performed as a soloist, or wrote for himself (including the Beatles). Songs are ranked using an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at No. 100 earning the least.
10. "You" - George Harrison
Hot 100 Peak Position: 20 (1975) "You," the lead single off Harrison 1975 album "Extra Texture," is known more for its extended saxophone solo than Harrison's signature slide guitar, which doesn't make an appearance on the track. It's not so surprising when one considers that the music for "You" was originally recorded for Ronnie Spector -- who never used it -- during Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" sessions (alongside co-producer Phil Spector, also Ronnie's husband). When Harrison decided to use the upbeat song for himself, he added just a few simple lines about love and let the joyous instrumental jam speak for itself.
9. "Blow Away" - George Harrison
Hot 100 Peak Position: 16 (1979) Amidst marital bliss and the birth of his son Dhani, Harrison kept things sweet and simple with his self-titled 1979 album. "Blow Away," the first single off "George Harrison," saw a Valentine's Day '79 release and soon reached No. 16 on the Hot 100. One of his more straight-forward pop songs, it was all about the weather, from its cloud-filled music video to its "sunshine after the rain" lyrics. Metaphorically, of course.
8. "Dark Horse" - George Harrison
Hot 100 Peak Position: 15 (1975) A few years after the Fab Four dissolved, Harrison had transformed from the "Quiet Beatle" into the "Dark Horse." It wasn't just the name of Harrison's 1975 single, but also the title of his '74 album and his own record label. "Dark Horse" was ripe for puns: Harrison's voice sounded quite hoarse on both the album and the single, which highlighted the flute and keyboard more than Harrison's impressive guitar skills.
7. "What Is Life" - George Harrison
Hot 100 Peak Position: 10 (1971) Harrison cheerily questioned the point of living without his love on this 1971 hit, which he originally penned for Billy Preston. George decided the song was a better fit for his triple album "All Things Must Pass," however, and he was right: "What Is Life" made Harrison the first solo Beatle to score two Top 10s ("My Sweet Lord" being the first). Scads of "What Is Life" covers have appeared through the years -- including a charting version from Olivia Newton-John -- but the original has a special something (besides Harrison, of course): Eric Clapton on guitar.
6. "All Those Years Ago" - George Harrison
Hot 100 Peak Position: 2 (1981) Shock and sadness reverberated through the music world following John Lennon's December 1980 murder. His fellow Beatles mourned through song shortly after his death, banding together on this George Harrison-led tribute track, "All Those Years Ago." While the song served as a single off Harrison's album, "Somewhere in England," McCartney played bass, Ringo got behind the kit, and George Martin produced, just like old times. Beatle fans took notice, sending it to No. 2 on the Hot 100 during the summer of '81.
5. "For You Blue" - The Beatles
Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (1970) When Beatles classic "The Long and Winding Road" -- penned by McCartney -- hit No. 1 in 1970, it was a double A-sided single with the track that followed it on "Let It Be," Harrison's "For You Blue." The songs couldn't have been more different: While "Road" was a slow, sentimental song consisting of strings and piano, "For You Blue" was a jaunty, lap steel-led blues track. Harrison comments in the song's bridge (as an encouragement to John Lennon, who's playing the lap steel), "Go, Johnny, go!"
4. "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)" - George Harrison
Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (1973)Post break-up, the Beatles (and co.) still kept it cozy with their back-to-back Hot 100 domination in the summer of '73: George's "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on the Earth)" knocked Paul McCartney's "My Love" off the top of the chart, only to be replaced by collaborator Billy Preston's "Will It Go Round in Circles." Harrison's spiritual folk tune -- complete with slide guitar solo -- not only fared well on the Hot 100, but also the AC charts, leading the charge for Harrison's 1973 album, "Living in the Material World."
3. "Something" - The Beatles
Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (1969) While John and Paul were at each other's throats, George Harrison was off on his own, quietly writing one of the Beatles' most beloved love songs. Lennon and McCartney praised "Something" as one of Harrison's best at the time (alongside "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"), and the fans agreed: "Something," off "Abbey Road" though originally penned during "White Album" sessions, is the only Harrison-penned Beatles track to top the Hot 100 chart. As a single, the slow and sultry "Something" was paired with the down-and-dirty creep of "Come Together" in a double A-sided single.
2. "Got My Mind Set On You" - George Harrison
Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 (1988) With the success of his solo albums "All Things Must Pass," "Living in the Material World" and "Dark Horse," George Harrison was on quite the post-Beatles roll throughout the early 1970s. Yet his second biggest U.S. hit -- a sax-heavy cover of Rudy Clark's "Got My Mind Set On You" -- came from his triumphant "comeback" of the late 1980s. The song, released in late '87, hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 in 1988, fueling the success of Harrison's "Cloud Nine" album. Both song and album proved such a fruitful collaboration between Harrison and ELO frontman Jeff Lynne, who co-produced, that the two stuck together to form -- with the help of Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan -- the supergroup Traveling Wilburys later that year. Now that's getting by with a little help from his friends.
1. "My Sweet Lord / Isn't It A Pity" - George Harrison
Hot 100 Peak Position: 1 for four weeks (1970) "My Sweet Lord" not only landed Harrison at the top of the Hot 100 for four weeks in 1970, but in legal hot water as well. Despite the decade-long lawsuit against Harrison that found the he'd unconsciously plagiarized the melody of The Chiffons-sung "He's So Fine," "My Sweet Lord" is pure Harrison, from the Krishna-praising lyrics to the slide guitar. And to think the song was originally written for Harrison's good friend, Billy Preston. "My Sweet Lord," which was released alongside "Isn't It a Pity" in the States, served as the first single off Harrison's legendary triple album, "All Things Must Pass."
-Text by Jillian Mapes