Louise Harrison, older sister of the late Beatle George Harrison, is working to Help Keep Music Alive—the music her brother spent his life creating.
Today, Harrison’s music is being learned and performed by young, aspiring musicians in schools all across the country.
Harrison was in New York City this week to promote a recently released CD of music the Beatles recorded 50 years ago when they made their first studio recordings in Hamburg, Germany.
And while she is on the media circuit, Harrison is taking the opportunity to raise awareness about her latest effort to promote music education through her organization, Help Keep Music Alive.
The nonprofit organization raises money for school music programs via performances by a Beatles tribute band, the Liverpool Legends, which travels to high schools and colleges.
Help Keep Music Alive, were George’s words, his sister noted, and this work will be “carrying on in the spirit of what he wanted.”
Harrison, who was speaking from New York by telephone on Tuesday (the 10th anniversary of George Harrison’s death from cancer), said this program grew out of a public service announcement George did in conjunction with the 1995 movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus”, about a dedicated high school music teacher, in which George stressed the importance of education and encouraged young people to take their musical aspirations seriously.
The program, still in its very early stages, would like to partner with schools that have performance spaces capable of holding 800 or more, arranging a Liverpool Legends appearance at the school with band members portraying the Fab Four during various stages of their career. The Liverpool Legends will incorporate some of the school’s students into their show, giving the young artists a showcase, and the proceeds from the performances, with the exception of expenses, would go to the educational institution.
The band has performed for schools four times so far, with two taking place in Chicago last weekend. And at one of the shows, Harrison said, a 16-year-old musician approached the “George” character afterwards saying, “This is an evening that I will be able to tell my grandchildren.”
“It was really, really gratifying,” to hear that, she said.
And who knows what that student may achieve one day, she observed.
Louise has lived in the U.S. since around 1963, but still possesses that distinctive Liverpool lilt, that, for those of a certain generation, immediately conjures up images of John, Paul George and Ringo in the skinny suits and mop-top haircuts of the early ‘60s. Louise told of her brother’s beginnings in music. When George was about 14 he saw an early performance of Elvis Presley on TV, “with the girls screaming and everything,” and it struck him, Louise said. A few nights later George approached his mother and asked, “Hey, Mum, do you think you could buy me a guitar? I think that is the kind of job I could do.”
“A typical 14-year-old boy’s idea, let me do something that would make all the girls scream,” Louise said. With the guitar, he continued to hone his playing his entire life and career. “All the time, his whole life, he was saying, ‘I hope one day I could be good at this,’” she recalled.
That early innocence and vitality and raw energy is on this CD, “The Beatles with Tony Sheridan: First Recordings 50th Anniversary Edition, Louise explained. And that is reflected on the CD’s cover with the four band members (with Peter Best, in the days before Ringo joined as drummer), clad as American rockers in Brylcreem-ed hair, leather jackets, white tee shirts and leather jackets, expressing their joy in early American rock and roll.
“You get a sense they were starting to get to be pretty proficient musicians,” when you listen to this recording, she said.
And from there they grew and matured as artists, spreading a musical message that still resonates today, 40 years after the breakup of the band.
“Their message was just so positive,” Louise said, “to encourage people to be loving and caring about each other, to care about the home you live in, the planet that we live on,” she explained, “and to try to live together in peace and harmony.”
“All these things, they’re messages that have been given to humanity throughout the ages,” Harrison noted.
All you need is love.