Living in the Material World is a two-part documentary about George Harrison that will air this October on HBO.
It’s a documentary I’m really looking forward to seeing, because Harrison is my favorite Beatle, and Martin Scorsese, my favorite filmmaker, directed it. It’s a good match because of the spiritual nature of Harrison’s life and music, and Scorsese also brings a lot of his religious background to his films as well.
Living in the Material World is over three hours total, and features interviews with Eric Clapton, Terry Gilliam, George Martin, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Phil Spector before he went off to the big house, Pattie “Layla” Boyd, and his wife and son Olivia and Dhani Harrison.
Part One covers George’s life from the beginning up until Yoko Ono makes her presence known with the Beatles, then Part Two goes into Harrison’s solo career, which began with a big stockpile of songs he’d been putting aside while he was in the Beatles, all the way up to his untimely passing in 2001.
An early review of the documentary in the Hollywood Reporter says, “Using compelling personal interviews and footage, Martin Scorsese creates another epic music documentary on The Beatles George Harrison… Extraordinary footage from both the Beatles era and post-’60s period, along with revelatory, often beguiling commentary from a host of intimates and a treasure trove of musical delights, combine to create a personality portrait of welcome depth about a musical giant who often seemed to stand a bit in the shadows of his more exuberant peers.”
Indeed, even though he was in the biggest band in the world, I still feel Harrison is under-rated as a songwriter and guitarist. By turns, Harrison’s music, like Harrison himself, was lovely, moody, introspective, whimsical, moving, and often searching and seeking for answers.
“I don’t believe I have great musical ability or great lyrical ability,” Harrison said in his last television interview. “I could write hundreds of songs, I could churn them out, but I don’t want to. If I’m going to say something, I’d like to have some kind of importance, some value, so in twenty years time it’s not just some dumb song that made some royalties. The royalties are nice, but it would be good to have something deeper.”
For the first part, Harrison definitely was selling himself short, because he did have great lyrical and musical ability in that his music moved millions of people, and made history. As for the second part, he did indeed leave music behind that indeed had much deeper meaning and feeling.
Perhaps George said it best himself when CNN quoted him as saying, “I think people who can lifve their life in music are telling the world: ‘You can have my love, you can have my smiles. Forget the bad parts, you don’t need them. Just take the music, the goodness, because it’s the very best,’ and it’s the part I give most willingly.”