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Somewhere to the west of Friar Park

Earlier this afternoon, many of our participating musicians gathered in a Hillsborough field somewhere to the west of Friar Park near Henley-on-Thames for a photo honoring the iconic “All Things Must Pass” cover. Extra points if you spot the gnome.

Mr. Peter Holsapple

 

Pete Drake.

Nashville pedal steel virtuoso Pete Drake came to London for a week of the All Things Must Pass sessions. Luckily, someone had a camera.

George At Bob’s.

A photo from George’s visit to Dylan’s home in Woodstock. Thanksgiving 1968, if memory serves. (I could drag out a Beatle or Dylan geek book and find the actual date, but I won’t.)

That Jakob’s throwing back the bottle.

Why would a musician devote more than 200 hours over four months and drive the equivalent of Raleigh to Bangor, Maine, to and from more than a dozen rehearsals (consuming more than $100 in gasoline) – all to perform one album on one night?

With less than three weeks until the February 26 tribute to George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass at Cat’s Cradle, I can only ask: Why wouldn’t he?

I’ll get to the reasons why this project has been so full of joy and rewards that can’t be measured in time or dollars spent, but first I must sort through my own wonderment that I am not utterly sick of this album.

Jeff Hart asked me to join the project November 5.  Since then, I’ve driven from my home in Raleigh to rehearsals in Carrboro or
Hillsborough once or twice a week; played along with the album at home dozens of times; watched The Concert for Bangla Desh from 1971 on DVD a few times to steal ideas from bassist Klaus Voormann; watched 2002’s Concert for George to steal ideas from bassist Dave Bronze; examined various alternate takes of the songs on bootleg recordings; and, as if all that weren’t enough, kept the CD box set of All Things Must Pass in my car for occasional studying. One Sunday early on, I was playing along repeatedly with “My Sweet Lord.” I went to the kitchen to get a drink and noticed my wife scowling. “You know,” she said, “I used to really like that song.  Do you think you’re going to play it another 20 times?”

And yet, occasional wifely disapproval aside, I remain infatuated by the album.

Though All Things Must Pass sold more than 1 million copies and is one of Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums of all time, most people I know, including fellow musicians, are under-aware of its majesty. Before this project, you could have said the same about me. Sure, I love The Beatles and George Harrison, and always enjoyed listening to the better-known tracks such as “My Sweet Lord,” “If Not For You” and “Isn’t It A Pity.” But the crushingly sad beauty of “Beware of Darkness”? The R&B romp of “Awaiting on You All”?  The transportive spiritualism and musical grandeur of “Hear Me Lord?” It had been a long time.

This album is so rich, in so many ways – and a hell of a lot of fun for the bass player, I might add – that for me to say I’m tired of
All Things Must Pass would be like saying I’m sick of the sky.

And the music is only half the story of this project.  From the start, “If Not For You” has been infused with extraordinary camaraderie and generosity. I’m merely one of a bunch of folks dedicated to this. So I’ll end up driving some 900 miles to and from rehearsals winterlong? Jeffrey Dean Foster logged 150 in a single night, traveling from Winston-Salem to Hillsborough to sing a single song three times. Keyboardist Greg Bell is playing though a broken arm (and sounding great). Jeff Hart, our Harrison-esque ringleader, provided his home — the best man cave in Carrboro — for rehearsals. And when we outgrew Jeff’s place, guitar player Bryon Settle happily offered his. Chris Chamis…. Pete Gamble…. Lindsay Rosebrock… plus so many other musicians who have been working on their parts while the core house band rehearses.  And, on the non-music side, the same thing is happening. From the Caring Community Fund itself to the designer, illustrator and photographer, people are giving their time, talents and best efforts — often to honor someone they’ve lost to cancer. This project epitomizes the cliché: Labor of love.

For George Harrison, All Things Must Pass was largely spiritual, an expression of love of God. My feelings about the “All Things Must Pass” tribute are a bit more earth-bound but still mystical and powerful. It’s an honor to serve the memory of George Harrison, and to play this incredible music. And to do so for a great charity. And to be part of something… bigger.  All the while building new or stronger friendships.

These are things that won’t pass.

Great video of the 2009 ceremony when George Harrison was honored with a star on Hollywood Blvd. Guest speakers included Sir Paul McCartney, Tom Hanks, Eric Idle, Olivia Harrison and Dhani Harrison.

And Tom, we couldn’t agree more.