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George Harrison was rarely a provocateur, however, he called his final album Brainwashed. Accusing anyone of being brainwashed is pretty bold! One of George’s British Invasion peers explained the origin of that memorable title. Notably, it had a connection to George’s spiritual views.

Donovan said George Harrison’s album ‘Brainwashed’ was a reaction to materialism

Two kindred spirits in the 1960s counterculture were George Harrison and Donovan. Both artists were folk-rockers who explored spirituality through their songs. George’s songs were often expressions of his Hindu faith, whereas Donovan sang about common New Age topics like Atlantis and witchcraft. Both of them were also environmentalists.

During a 2018 interview with Goldmine, the “Mellow Yellow” singer discussed his feelings about the planet and George’s — and what they both learned from the books they read. “That the older generation was destroying the ecosystem with no consideration whatsoever for the inner world of plants, for the inner world of children, and they were trying to brainwash the younger generation to follow in their insidious desire for all things materialistic, including an exploitation of natural resources and a greedy lust for as much money as possible,” he said. “These books George and I shared spoke to that.

“They spoke of the reason why the human race had arrived at this stage,” he said. “It wasn’t just greed and being evil, there was a psychosis going on. It was a brainwashing. George put all this into his music, even calling his very last album Brainwashed.”

Donovan felt he and George Harrison owned books that ‘were hidden in the West’

Donovan felt a particular religion had suppressed the knowledge that he and George were learning. “These books were hidden in the West,” he said. “They were not available.

“The reason why this kind of teaching was lost in the West, buried, hidden, gone underground, was because of the enormous job that the new religion called Christianity had done for well over a thousand years,” he said. Donovan went on to criticize Christianity for murdering thousands of so-called “witches.” He opined that only Eastern literature and drugs had the ability to help people enter their inner world.


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The former Beatle didn’t get to finish the album

Sadly, George was not able to complete Brainwashed before his death in 2001. According to a 2002 video on George’s YouTube channel, two other producers finished what George couldn’t. One was George’s only child: Dhani Harrison. The other was Jeff Lynne, a member of George’s band, the Traveling Wilburys, and the producer of The Beatles’ songs “Free as a Bird,” “Real Love,” and “Now and Then.” Dhani and Lynne both decided to make sure Brainwashed sounded as much as possible like a George project without any traces of their personal musical styles.

Spiritual topics come up multiple times on Brainwashed. In “P2 Vatican Blues (Last Saturday Night),” George calls the Roman Catholic Church a sham (albeit a visually pleasing sham). Brainwashed also includes a cover of the traditional pop song “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.” Considering the album it’s on, one could read a lot into George’s decision to record that song. In addition, the Lewis Carroll-paraphrasing track “Any Road” seems to be about feeling spiritually lost.

On Brainwashed, George proved his hippie spirituality could have a sharp tongue.