LSD has been a significant influence in many pieces of art, whether that is in design, writing, film-making, or, in the example of George Harrison, music. The impact that LSD can have on people varies depending on their mindset at the time of taking it and their surroundings; in Harrison’s case, it helped him to focus on the afterlife.
As a Beatle, George Harrison already had a relatively extensive back catalogue of songs. Some of his contributions made it as releases, but many of them didn’t fit the Lennon and McCartney brand that the band relied on so heavily. As such, when the band split and he decided to focus on his solo work, there was already much to draw inspiration from.
One of the songs he decided to run with was inspired by the first time he tried LSD. This was with Lennon, an experience Harrison would later refer to as a doorway to his spiritual awakening and introduction to Hinduism.
It was a big deal when people found out the Beatles took LSD. The band had always been branded as witty Englishmen who could never put a foot wrong. Naturally, in the ’60s, when they first announced their affinity for the drug, many conservative listeners turned their noses up at them.
It was Harrison and Lennon who embraced the drug the most, taking it in the spring of 1965 and never really looking back. The drug had a significant impact on their career, causing a major shift in their sound (which is heard most notably on the albums Revolver and Sgt Pepper) but also caused a significant change in how the public perceived the band.
They were not the first and would not be the last to allow LSD to have an impact on their art. The drug has often given creative people a boost. It is arguably a massive influence on the development of Western culture as a whole, thanks to how it leads to the symbolic and abstract depiction of objects, oversimplification and a great intensity toward colour and light. People can hone in on thoughts more clearly, and their depiction of them becomes more psychedelic and interesting in the process.
Despite the fact the band would later denounce the drug and opt instead for meditation, Harrison allowed its influence to continue to feed into his solo work. This is especially seen in the hit ‘Art Of Dying’, featured on his debut LP.
Harrison states that the first time he took LSD, he continued to think of the Yogis of the Himalayas. He said that through this awakening and the learning of the religion, he began to embrace reincarnation, the theme behind ‘Art of Dying’.
Harrison was never afraid of death, and this experience likely contributed towards that fearlessness. He believed that death would take him to a better place, and as such, upon being diagnosed with cancer and following his long battle with the disease, he was always at peace with the idea of dying. His ashes were poured into the Ganges River in India before the public became aware of his passing.
George Harrison seems to have been influenced by LSD throughout his life, not only in his art but also in his personal life, too. The song that reflects his attitude towards the drug and its impact on him is ‘Art of Dying’, which doesn’t only show his affinity towards the drug but how at peace with death he was.