Bob Dylan and George Harrison became friends and bandmates because they knew they were kindred spirits. George was fascinated by everything that Dylan did. Dylan was likewise intrigued by the former Beatle, including how he found his chords.
Bob Dylan and George Harrison were in awe of each other
Throughout the 1960s, Dylan and George admired each other from afar, which was surprising because very few people impressed either artist. Besides his songwriting, George admired Dylan's willingness to take risks and follow his own path. As a Beatle, George couldn't always do that. Meanwhile, Dylan could never figure out George's songwriting method.
The pair grew closer toward the end of the 1960s when George increasingly lost patients with The Beatles and craved change. He wanted to collaborate with other musicians too. George got his chance to do just that when he visited Dylan and The Band during Thanksgiving, 1968.
The "Blowin' in the Wind" singer was slowly reemerging from his self-imposed exile, but he was still closed off. So, George took out the guitars and asked his friend to write a song with him. The result was "I'd Have You Anytime."
In 1977, George told Crawdaddy (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters), "He sang me that song and he was, like, very nervous and shy, and he said, 'What do you think about this song?'"
In his 1980 memoir, I Me Mine, George wrote, "I was saying to him, 'Write me some words,' and thinking of all this 'Johnnie's in the basement, mixing up the medicine,' type of thing and he was saying, 'Show me some chords, how do you get those tunes?'
"I was saying to Bob, 'Come on, write some words.' He wrote the bridge: 'All I have is yours/ All you see is mine/ And I'm glad to hold you in my arms/ I'd have you anytime.' Beautiful!—and that was that."
Bob Dylan couldn't understand where George got his chords
Dylan, one of the best singer-songwriters, couldn't understand how George got his chords in 1968. However, he continued to be baffled by his friend's abilities throughout their friendship.
Dylan understood that being a Beatle held George back and that he was caught between the brilliance of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. But Dylan also knew that if George had had his own group and written his own songs, he would've been just as big as any group. If Dylan couldn't figure out where George got his chords, then any kind of act George put together would've been big.
"George had an uncanny ability to just play chords that didn't seem to be connected in any kind of way and come up with a melody and a song," Dylan told Rolling Stone in 2007. "I don’t know anybody else who could do that, either. What can I tell you? He was from that old line of playing where every note was a note to be counted."
Dylan once expressed his love for George
In a special edition of Rolling Stone, called "Remembering George," published shortly after George's 2001 death, Dylan spoke more about his love for George.
"He was a giant, a great, great soul, with all the humanity, all the wit and humor, all the wisdom, the spirituality, the common sense of a man and compassion for people," Dylan wrote. "He inspired love and had the strength of a hundred men.
"He was like the sun, the flowers and the moon, and we will miss him enormously. The world is a profoundly emptier place without him." It's not surprising that Dylan was so poetic about his friend. George often quoted Dylan like Scripture.
It's fortunate that George and Dylan were able to connect with each other on a deep level, even if they didn't always understand each other's creative processes. They inspired each other, and it reflected in their music.
Stairway to 11 is dedicated to providing news, reviews, and original content covering classic rock, oldies, and old-school music of all genres. This site also serves as a community for like-minded fans to catch up on the latest news and discuss their passion. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.