I suppose it’s odd that George Harrison remains my favorite Beatle considering how virulently anti-Catholic some of his songs can be. Still, based on lyrics such as the ones you hear in compositions like “Awaiting on You All,” it’s actually pretty easy to dismiss his criticisms as a misguided ignorance of the faith (Harrison was baptized Catholic, but never confirmed). The truth is, he doesn’t really say anything about the Church that I myself didn’t believe at one point in my life before taking the time to actually seek out the truth. It’s like the old familiar quote from Archbishop Fulton Sheen says, “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church - which is, of course, quite a different thing.” And while George hailed from jolly old England rather than the States, I think Sheen’s words still apply.
But you know, as much as I bemoan Harrison’s misconceptions about my faith, I’ve always admired his commitment to his own. While the rest of the Fab Four quickly abandoned the spiritual teachings they dabbled with in the East, Harrison himself became a lifelong devotee to the Hare Krishna strand of Hinduism up until the time of his death, doing his best to live by the religion’s beliefs. He gave up meat, gave up drugs, and limited his sexual activities to marriage, though by all accounts he was a little slow getting around to that last one. Well, nobody becomes a saint overnight, I suppose.
In fact, if his loved ones are to be believed, Harrison was never really satisfied with the pace with which he was advancing in his faith, always feeling guilt whenever he stumbled (guess it’s true, you can take the boy out of the Catholic church, but you can't take the Catholic out of the boy). Perhaps that’s why on the same album on which we find his chart topping paean to Krishna, “My Sweet Lord,” we also hear Harrison begging for help and forgiveness with “Hear Me Lord”…
Forgive me lord
Please, those years when I ignored you, hmm
Forgive them lord
Those that feel they can't afford you, hmm
Help me lord, please
To rise above this dealing, hmm
Help me lord, please
To love you with more feeling, hmm
At both ends of the road
To the left and the right
Above and below us
Out and in, there's no place that you're not in
Oh, won't you hear me lord
As with anything so blatantly religious, “Hear Me Lord” received mixed reactions, with some like sociologist Ian Inglis finding the tune a bit too evangelical and self-righteous. Others like NME’s Alan Smith and Rolling Stone’s Ben Gerson, however, recognized the song for what it was and heralded the raw emotion in the song. Of course, it probably didn’t hurt with the professional music critics that the song contained contributions from the likes of Phil Spector, Billy Preston, Gary Wright, and Eric Clapton, but still, they loved it. In the end, “Hear Me Lord” is an undeniably sincere plea to God for aid, and one that most Christians should find very familiar…
“Hear my voice, LORD, when I call; have mercy on me and answer me. ‘Come,’ says my heart, ‘seek his face’; your face, LORD, do I seek! Do not hide your face from me; do not repel your servant in anger. You are my salvation; do not cast me off; do not forsake me, God my savior!.” ~ Psalms 27:7-9
So maybe that’s why Harrison has always held the greatest appeal to me where The Beatles are concerned. Many have made the argument that Paul and Ringo were better musicians, or that Paul and John were better writers, but when it came to who was the true Psalmist of the band, well, that was George and no one but George, hands down. Godspeed, Dark Horse, I pray the Lord heard you when you called.