Why did Martin Scorsese present the Quiet Beatle as the Boring Beatle?

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Oct. 4 2011 6:04 PM

The Boring Beatle

Martin Scorsese's new documentary neuters George Harrison.

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It's a deflating line, and one I think that he doesn't deserve to leave as an epitaph. I like more songs than Harrison's six or seven good ones; The Concert for Bangladesh film alone is a great legacy, and I celebrate his quirks, like his lifelong, fruitless battle against Britain's high tax rates. (In I Me Mine he reproduces a 1-million-pound check he'd sent to the U.K. tax authorities. That was a mind-blowing amount of money in 1973.) Just in Beatles lore alone, he's something of a relief, particularly when set against Paul McCartney's fatuousness, Lennon's malevolence, and Starr's chirpiness. Perhaps the odd behavior his first wife observed had something to do with depression over the declining critical and commercial appeal of his work. These are all elements that would have broadened our understanding of Harrison the man. By removing the edges that gave the man's life some bite, Martin Scorsese hasn't done George Harrison's legacy any favors.

Bill Wyman is the former arts editor of NPR and Salon. More at www.hitsville.org.