Brian May’s favourite George Harrison song: “He was an inspiration”

Brian May and George Harrison undeniably lead the way. As the guitarists for Queen and The Beatles, the two bands sit at the very top as the two biggest bands the UK has ever made and the world has ever known. But as May talks about the influence the Beatle passed on, maybe it’s more accurate to say that Harrison led, and the Queen player was one of his thousands of dedicated disciples.

Really, Queen were one of the many vital artists that popped up to fill the void left by the Beatles calling it quits. As they split in 1970 and the hazy optimism of the 1960s gave way, there was a moment of uncertainty. It seemed that counterculture was looking around, wondering what might come next. How would rock and roll adapt or reinvent itself into something new, or at least something equally as exciting?

When Queen’s self-titled debut was released in 1973, with the high-octane first single ‘Keep Yourself Alive’, the answer was in. Glam rock would be the next big thing, and Freddie Mercury and Brian May would be the face of it. As Elton John also broke through into the big time, David Bowie morphed into Ziggy Stardust, and acts like T. Rex or Roxy Music popped up, and the look and sound of the new decade were set.

But clearly, The Beatles weren’t just left in the dust. Here we are, still talking about them decades on. It’s impossible to understate their influence or the sheer volume of inspiration they delivered not only to the era directly after them but for generations to come. Brian May knows that well, holding his hands up to being a devout follower and fan of Harrison.

“He was an inspiration,” May said, revealing his lifelong interest in the band that ended up being part of his youthful rebellion. “I wasn’t allowed to go to see The Beatles in concert when I was a kid. My parents thought pop concerts were attended by the wrong sort of people. So I never got to see the 20th century’s biggest phenomenon live,” he revealed. “But from the moment I heard ‘Love Me Do’ on the radio, I knew this bunch of guys were magic. That they voiced all my hidden joy and yearnings as a teenager struggling to make his way into the world of the ‘60s.”

He paid homage to Harrison clearly in 2013 when he recorded a cover of ‘Something’ for his live album, Acoustic by Candlelight. Before he started playing, you can hear him talking about the quiet Beatle and his all too often overlooked impact. “Most of the big, big, big Beatles hits were written by Lennon and McCartney, right? A massive songwriting team, John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote these worldwide smash hits,” he said, acknowledging the band’s principal writers.

But for him, it always comes back to Harrison. “But there was another member of the band who was very quiet and shy, the youngest boy in the band,” he continued, “He was called George Harrison.”

When it comes to his favourite George Harrison song, the answer feels like an obvious one. What track would one of the biggest and most beloved guitar players in the world likely end up loving? ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’.

Not only does it contain some of Harrison’s finest guitar moments, engaging in an instrumental breakdown with Eric Clapton in the final act of the song as their guitars genuinely sound like they’re weeping with the players pouring so much emotion into it. But for May, the track’s greatness lies in its tenderness. “I’ve discovered it takes courage to be gentle,” he said, calling Harrison and the song an inspiration.

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