Sunday, December 13, 2015

Timothy Leary and the Beatles


Tim and Rosemary Leary, John Lennon and Yoko One, at Bed-In for Peace, 1969. 

There's probably a pretty good book that could be written on Timothy Leary's influence on pop culture over the years. If you are curious about his influence on the Beatles, you can consult a new book, The Complete Beatles Songs by Steve Turner.

I have mostly quit reading books about the Beatles, because by now I have read so many there are few surprises left for me. Still, Turner worked hard on this book, and I enjoyed gleaning bits about the origins of Beatles songs when my wife brought this home from the library and I flipped through it.

I already knew that The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based On The Tibetan Book Of The Dead by Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and Ralph Metzner provided the inspiration for "Tomorrow Never Knows." That's where John Lennon got the "Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream" lyric. 

But I didn't know that Leary has played a role in George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass," the title song of George Harrison's most famous and most successful solo album. The song was written while Harrison was a Beatle and finally released in a Beatles version in Anthology 3.

See if you can spot what made me smile in this bit from Turner's book:

The lyric was based on a poem from Timothy Leary's Psychedelic Prayers After the Tao Te Ching (Poets Press, New York, 1966.) The poem was a "translation from English to psychedelic" of part of the 23rd chapter of the Tao that Leary has titled 'All Things Pass': 'All things pass/A sunrise does not last all morning/All things pass/A cloudburst does not last all day ... " As George was to admit, "I remembered one of these prayers and it gave me the idea for this thing." 



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