Zakk Wylde on George Harrison’s “amazing” guitar abilities

As the frontman of Black Label Society and lead guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde is more at home churning out metal riffs than he is with the airy pop output of The Beatles. Wylde’s spell on tour with Osbourne captivated metal fans and had the Black Sabbath singer praising his fast-playing and hard-working nature. Wylde, in turn, took time to praise an unlikely idol in George Harrison in 2021.

During an interview with Guitar World, Wylde reflected on the brilliance of the seminal ‘Something’ track on 1969’s acclaimed Abbey Road. “What an amazing song,” he said of one of the most delightful love tracks to grace The Beatles catalogue. “He even got Sinatra and Elvis covering that one, which goes to show how amazing it is,” Wylde added.

Wylde continued: “Me and John DeServio, who plays bass with me, often talk about George [Harrison] – whenever he solos, you always know it’s him. Even when he was playing in The Traveling Wilburys, you could always tell.”

As part of the supergroup formed in 1998, Harrison joined Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty following the release of his own album, Cloud Nine. Petty described Harrison as something of a manager and leader for the group, but the onus was always on friendship and collaborating with great musicians.

“From my point of view,” explained Harrison in The True History of the Traveling Wilburys, “I just tried to preserve our relationship. I worked so hard to make sure that all the guys who were in that band, and consequently on record and film, that their friendship wasn’t abused. Just to preserve our friendship, that was the underlying contribution.”

While Wylde admired his audible contributions to the band, he did joke that he “wasn’t shredding any Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, or Paco [de Lucía] stuff.”

But Wylde acknowledged that Harrison didn’t need to, and it “wasn’t who he was”, and it never tampered with Wylde’s admiration of his style. “His solos were always so melodic and with so much of his own feel, which is crazy,” Wylde continued. “No one talks about George Harrison the way they talk about [Jeff] Beck, [Eric] Clapton, or [Jimmy] Page. But he’s the guy.”

The unashamedly romantic track by Harrison remains the song that drew him out of the shadows of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, proving he had the creative ability to pen a ballad as beautifully as they could. Although his sound doesn’t sound a complete match with the heavy riffing thunder of Wylde’s, it’s easy to see why Harrison’s sound captivated him.

“He really had a voice on the instrument,” concluded Wylde. “And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.”

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