George Harrison died of cancer November 29, 2001 at the age of 58. He had not released a studio album since 1987’s Cloud Nine. His participation with the Traveling Wilburys, a tour with Eric Clapton and its resultant live album (Live in Japan), plus his work on The Beatles Anthology project had kept him out of the studio for well over a decade.
He had been working on a new release for a while but once he realized that his latest cancer diagnosis was not treatable he began a final push to complete the album. He died before finishing but left notes for his son, Dhani, and longtime friend, Jeff Lynne, concerning its completion. It took a number of months to finish the work but it was finally released just about a year after Harrison’s death in November of 2002.
Brainwashed was a worldwide commercial success and received a gold record award for sales in the United States.
While a number of musicians appeared on various tracks, the core band consisted of only four people. Harrison provided the vocals, lead guitar, ukulele, plus some keyboards; Jeff Lynne played bass, keyboards, and guitar, Dhani Harrison was on guitar and piano, and old friend Jim Keltner was the drummer.
The album had a distinct advantage over most posthumous releases in that it was always intended as a real album rather than just an assemblage of tracks after the artist’s death. It may not be Harrison’s best work, but it is still very good in its own right and the poignancy behind its release certainly made it the most emotional.
“Any Road” has a flowing melody, tight harmonies, and reminds one of his work with the Traveling Wilburys. “Looking For My Life” is an introspective piece which is representative of his facing his mortality. “Marwa Blues” is a beautiful instrumental and may be the album’s best track. The only non-original cut is a cover of the old “Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea,” which he resurrects as an upbeat ukulele driven tune. The album ends appropriately with the title song, which is a criticism of the material world, allowing him to be true to himself right to the end.
Brainwashed is the last musical will and testament of George Harrison. As the final chapter of his life it is memorable, touching, and ultimately triumphant.