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It's Not Always Going To Be This Grey: George Harrison's 'All Things Must Pass' At 50

George Harrison c.1970/1971

Photo: GAB Archive/Redferns

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It's Not Always Going To Be This Grey: George Harrison's 'All Things Must Pass' At 50

On the 50th anniversary of the chart-topping, GRAMMY-nominated album, GRAMMY.com explores all the reasons why 'All Things Must Pass' remains an important landmark in George Harrison's legacy and his most enduring solo testimony

GRAMMYs/Nov 27, 2020 - 08:33 pm

In 1970, Let It Be, the documentary chronicling The Beatles' final studio album of the same name, hit theaters worldwide, providing a blunt answer to the whys and the hows for those who might still be in denial about the group's inevitable separation. The film unmercifully exposed numerous cracks in their interpersonal relationships, only letting us see fragments of what had once been a cohesive, seemingly indivisible unit. Although incredibly frustrating to many fans, this portrayal proved crucial for an adequate understanding of each member's personal and professional motivations at the time—particularly George Harrison, whose creative persona was undergoing a vital and revolutionary change.

Those sessions, which author Peter Doggett describes in his book, "You Never Give Me Your Money," as "a drama with no movement or character development," showcase Harrison's growing exasperation with the part he'd been given to play within The Beatles' equation as well as a certain impatience and dissatisfaction replacing his acquiescence of previous years. Recently returned from a stay with Bob Dylan at Woodstock to what he would later call "The Beatles' winter of discontent" in "The Beatles Anthology," Harrison continued to see his musical contributions systematically met with disdain from his bandmates. It soon became obvious that challenging the John Lennon/Paul McCartney power axis would be an impossible task while the band was still together—a realization that further accelerated The Beatles' disintegration.

All Things Must Pass is a direct result of this unmaking. Released November 27, 1970, All Things Must Pass was technically Harrison's third studio album yet his first fully realized solo release following two slightly niche LPs prior: Wonderwall Music (1968), the mostly instrumental soundtrack to Joe Massot's film, Wonderwall, and Electronic Sound (1969), a two-track avant-garde project.

The imbalance in group dynamics made evident in the Let It Be documentary is essential to understand the genesis of All Things Must Pass since the two projects are irrevocably intertwined—perhaps more so than Lennon's or McCartney's respective debuts, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and McCartney, which also released in 1970. While his bandmates had long made peace with their prime status as composers, Harrison's mounting refusal to be repeatedly pushed to second best was reaching a boiling point, and his creativity soared in proportion. By then, the material he'd been putting in the drawer was far too vast to fit in a single album alone. 

For anyone doubting Harrison's ability to stand on his own two feet as a solo artist, All Things Must Pass must have hit like a ton of bricks. Composed of three records, two LPs plus an extra disc titled Apple Jam that mostly contained improvised instrumentals, the album emerged as Harrison's definite and irrevocable declaration of independence. 

Still, the album was colored with references to a painful recent past: These are visible in the cryptic album art showing Harrison in his Friar Park estate surrounded by four gnomes, often interpreted as the musician removing himself from The Beatles' collective identity. There are also the not-so-veiled attacks on his bandmates in "Wah-Wah," the sad contemplation of a breakup in "Isn't It A Pity?" and the inclusion of several compositions that had been turned down by The Beatles, such as "Art Of Dying," "Let It Down" and the album's title track, which Harrison can be seen playing to the other three in Let It Be.

The album, recorded between May and October in 1970, gathered an impressive supergroup of backing musicians that included bassist (and Revolver cover artist) Klaus Voormann, members of Badfinger and Delaney & Bonnie, Let It Be keyboardist Billy Preston, Eric Clapton and even Ringo Starr, the only Beatle who seemed to have no major feud with the other three. 

Although Harrison had a very clear idea of what he wanted, things did not always go so smoothly. By summer, sessions came to a temporary halt as he made regular visits to see his dying mother in Liverpool. At the same time, further pressure came from EMI, who grew preoccupied with the alarming costs that a triple album would ensue. This, combined with Clapton's escalating heroin addiction and infatuation with Harrison's wife, Pattie Boyd, who he would eventually marry, contributed to a strained ambience that might at times have struck a chord of déjà vu for the Beatle. 

Producer Phil Spector's erratic behavior didn't help either: Having been recruited by both Harrison and Lennon for their solo debuts following his impressive work on Let It Be, he was frequently unfit to function or nowhere to be found, forcing Harrison to take production matters into his own hands.

Despite all the delays and behind-the-scenes tension, some of it still resulting from the ongoing legal disputes between the four Beatles, All Things Must Pass triumphed. The album received a nomination for Album Of The Year at the 1972 GRAMMYs, while its No. 1 single "My Sweet Lord," for which Harrison was sued for copyright infringement and ultimately lost, was nominated for Record Of The Year. All Things Must Pass was ultimately inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 2014; Harrison was honored with the Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award one year later.

While a triple album could have easily been dismissed as self-indulgence as pop crossed over to the individualistic '70s, the reception of All Things Must Pass was so indisputably solid and favorable that some music critics claimed it eclipsed Lennon's and McCartney's solo efforts. Maybe it was the surprise factor, too. Melody Maker's Richard Williams would best summarize this in his review of the album with the famous line, "Garbo talks! - Harrison is free!"—a reference fitting of how it felt to witness "the quiet one" finally raising his voice. 

All Things Must Pass opened the gates to a world the public had only glimpsed during The Beatles years, proclaiming a coming of age that had been delayed for too long. Encapsulating Harrison's serenity without falling into a trap of passiveness, the album acted simultaneously as epilogue and opening chapter by precipitating both public and personal healing.

But the ghost of Beatles past would still come back to haunt Harrison as he, like the other three, quickly realized one doesn't simply cease to be a Beatle. Recurrent comparisons and undeclared fights both in and outside the charts persisted throughout the years, bringing back the vestiges of a narrative he hadn't fully absconded yet no longer defined him. "We've been nostalgia since 1967," Doggett quotes Harrison as saying at the time of the album's release, commenting on The Beatles' inability to escape a very specific, even if outdated, image that had been crystallized in the public's collective imagination. 

Fifty years later, All Things Must Pass remains an important landmark in George Harrison's legacy and his most enduring solo testimony—something music journalist Paul Du Noyer points out on the text "When 1 Becomes 4" as a slight irony, since the title refers precisely to "the impermanence of things." But more than that, the album is a fascinating and detailed snapshot of the exact moment Harrison officially announced he was willing to move on from a game whose rules had long ceased to serve him.

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

 
This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.

Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream

Brittany Howard

Photo: C Brandon/Redferns/Getty Images

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Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream

Proceeds from the event will be go toward loans to small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses, via Accion Opportunity Fund

GRAMMYs/Jun 16, 2020 - 04:13 am

This Saturday, June 20, artists including Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz and more will come together for Small Business Live, a livestream fundraiser event for small businesses facing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Proceeds from the livestream will go to Accion Opportunity Fund to support small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses.

“Entrepreneurs of color are denied credit more often and charged higher rates for money they borrow to fund their businesses. We need to accelerate support to underserved businesses in order to reach our full potential,” Accion Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia said. “We have to decide what we want our Main Streets to look like when this is over, and we must act decisively to keep small businesses alive and ready to rebuild. This is a fun way to do something really important. Everyone’s support will make a huge difference to small business owners, their families and employees who have been devastated by this pandemic, the recession, and centuries of racism, xenophobia and oppression.”

Tune in for Small Business Live Saturday, June 20 from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. EDT on smallbiz.live. The site also provides a full schedule of programs and links to watch the livestream on all major digital platforms. To learn more about Accion Opportunity Fund, visit the organization's website.

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Iggy Pop Announces New Album, 'Free', Shares Title Track

Iggy Pop

Photo: Harmony Korine

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Iggy Pop Announces New Album, 'Free', Shares Title Track

"By the end of the tours following Post Pop Depression, I felt sure that I had rid myself of the problem of chronic insecurity that had dogged my life and career for too long. But I also felt drained… I wanted to be free," the Godfather of Punk explained

GRAMMYs/Jul 18, 2019 - 11:47 pm

Today, GRAMMY-nominated punk forbearer Iggy Pop revealed the details for his forthcoming 18th solo studio album, along with its short—at under two minutes—yet spacious title track, "Free." The 10-track LP is due out Sept. 6 and follow's 2016's GRAMMY-nominated Post Pop Depression.

"This is an album in which other artists speak for me, but I lend my voice," Pop explains in a press release.

The statement notes jazz trumpeter Leron Thomas and L.A.-based electric guitarist Noveller as the "principal players" collaborating with Pop on this exploratory new project. On "Free," Thomas' horn and Noveller's guitar add layers of depth, somberness and exploration, as Pop's echoing voice cuts through twice to proclaim, "I want to be free."

Pop adds that his last tour left him feeling exhausted but ready for change, and the shifts eventually led him to these new sounds:

"By the end of the tours following Post Pop Depression, I felt sure that I had rid myself of the problem of chronic insecurity that had dogged my life and career for too long. But I also felt drained. And I felt like I wanted to put on shades, turn my back, and walk away. I wanted to be free. I know that's an illusion, and that freedom is only something you feel, but I have lived my life thus far in the belief that that feeling is all that is worth pursuing; all that you need—not happiness or love necessarily, but the feeling of being free. So this album just kind of happened to me, and I let it happen."

Post Pop Depression earned the former Stooges frontman his second GRAMMY nod, at the 59th GRAMMY Awards for Best Alternative Music Album. It was produced by GRAMMY winner Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and as a tribute of sorts to David Bowie, Pop's longtime friend the producer of his first two solo albums, and was released shortly after Bowie's surprising passing.

As the press release states, "While it follows the highest charting album of Iggy's career, Free has virtually nothing in common sonically with its predecessor—or with any other Iggy Pop album."

You can pre-order and pre-save the new album now for the Sept. 6 release here. You can also check out Pop's new book, 'Til Wrong Feels Right, on Sept. 26.

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