George Harrison’s widow Olivia hopes to add more perspective on the reticent Beatle with her new digital book, and fill in the blanks left by Martin Scorsese’s recent documentary.
Based on Scorsese’s “George Harrison: Living in the Material World,” the multi-touch book of the same name is available Tuesday on iBookstore. It includes audio, video material from the film along with personal photographs, letters, and memorabilia never seen by the public (a traditional print edition of the book has been in stores).
Along with the multi-touch book, the DVD of the documentary also comes out on Tuesday.
Scorsese’s three-and-a-half hour film on Harrison shows his spiritual side, from his early days with the Beatles to his exploration of Eastern music and religion, and also includes his death in 2001. In a telephone interview from London, Olivia Harrison, who served as one of the film’s producers, said she loved the message of the film, but felt it didn’t cover her husband’s other “sides.”
“Marty chose the music for the narrative and it drives the story. I think he fit the music perfectly in there, but there’s was a point when I realized, ‘Oh wow, we’re not going to get past 1975,’“ Harrison said. She noted the absence of the song “Taxman” and his 1987 comeback album, Cloud Nine.
“It was clear, pretty quickly, that we could not fit everything,” she acknowledged.
And she notes that the Harrison documentary, which aired last year on HBO, includes more of the ex-Beatle’s career in comparison to Scorsese’s “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan,” which covered Dylan from when he arrived in New York in 1961 to his eventual switch to “electric.”
“You know, that documentary ends in 1966. That’s it. And you know the volume of music that Bob (Dylan) has produced since then,” Harrison said. “Both are three-plus hour movies, yet this one covers a bigger span of George’s life.”
The documentary covers his early years with the Beatles and post-Beatles solo career. Much of the emphasis is on the former Beatle’s travels to India as he explored both the spirituality and music of the country, as well as his collaboration with Ravi Shankar.
Giles Martin, son of the Beatles legendary producer George Martin, did some of the music production on the film. He said Harrison enlightened his father when it came to Eastern music and instrumentation.
“He pushed the boundaries with his journey through Indian music,” Martin said.
“My dad said when George brought (his song) ‘Within You Without You’ to (the Beatles album) Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, he didn’t know what to make of it. In that context in that time, 1966, world music wasn’t readily available,” he added. “So he introduced my dad to the sitar.”
Harrison said her husband’s ability to translate what he felt in the world in a way that speaks to everyone was at the heart of his gift.
“I think it was the dilemma of life, and where you find yourself, that appealed to him most,” Harrison said.