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George Harrison – First Selfie of the World

This week’s Friday Photo comes from Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison when he clicked a selfie at Taj Mahal during his India visit in 1966. This photo is regarded as the First ever selfie taken before the launch of modern day camera phones.

At the age of 23, George Harrison visited India as an ordinary tourist and took this selfie in front of Taj Mahal in Agra while he was learning to play Sitar (a type of Indian Musical instrument) from his guru; the sitar maestro Ravi Shankar.

George Harrison, (25 February 1943 – 29 November 2001) was an English musician, singer and songwriter who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of the Beatles. Although John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the band’s primary songwriters, most of their albums included at least one Harrison composition.

By 1965 he influenced and lead the Beatles into Indian classical music through his use of the sitar on “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”. Late he developed an interest in the Hare Krishna movement and became an admirer of Indian culture and mysticism and introduced the Indian culture to the other members of the Beatles and their Western audience by incorporating Indian instrumentation in their music.

During the Beatles’ American tour in August 1965, Harrison’s friend David Crosby introduced him to Indian classical music and the work of sitar maestro Ravi Shankar. Harrison described Shankar as “the first person who ever impressed me in my life … and he was the only person who didn’t try to impress me.”

Harrison became fascinated with the sitar and immersed himself in Indian music. According to Lavezzoli, Harrison’s introduction of the instrument on the Beatles’ song “Norwegian Wood” “opened the floodgates for Indian instrumentation in rock music, triggering what Shankar would call ‘The Great Sitar Explosion’ of 1966–67.” Lavezzoli described Harrison as “the man most responsible for this phenomenon”

After the band’s break-up in 1970, Harrison released the triple album All Things Must Pass, from which two hit singles originated. He also organized the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh with Ravi Shankar, a precursor for later benefit concerts such as Live Aid.

He was ranked number 11 in the list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” by Rolling Stone magazine.

Harrison studied the instrument until 1968, when an encounter with Clapton and Hendrix at a hotel in New York convinced him to put down the instrument and return to guitar playing. He commented: “I decided … I should get back to the guitar because I’m not getting any better at it, and I’m not going to be a great sitar player … because I should have started at least fifteen years earlier.

Harrison became a vegetarian in the late 1960s, and a devotee of the Indian mystic Paramahansa Yogananda. In mid-1969, he produced the single “Hare Krishna Mantra”, performed by members of the London Radha Krishna Temple. Soon after, Harrison embraced the Hare Krishna tradition, particularly japa-yoga chanting with beads, and became a lifelong devotee. He respected people of other faiths and once remarked: “All religions are branches of one big tree. It doesn’t matter what you call Him just as long as you call.

Harrison’s first marriage, to Pattie Boyd, ended in divorce in 1977. Later he married Olivia Trinidad Arias, with whom he had one son, Dhani.

Harrison died on 29 November 2001, aged 58, from metastatic  lung cancer. He was cremated at Hollywood Forever Cemetery and his ashes were scattered in the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers near Varanasi, India, by his close family in a private ceremony according to Hindu tradition. On his death he left almost £100 million in his will.

His final album, the posthumously released Brainwashed (2002), was completed by his son Dhani and Jeff Lynne. Included in the album’s liner notes is a quotation from the Bhagavad Gita: “There never was a time when you or I did not exist. Nor will there be any future when we shall cease to be.”

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