Sheffield in effect tells us that George is the Beatle he most identifies with, mostly or most likely because George was a Beatles' fan, too (before and during George's tenure as a Beatle). This of course raises the question of who is your favorite Beatle - or, what Beatle or Beatles produced work that you most admire. And this gets at the very heart of everyone's experience with the Beatles. For me, I always found George's contribution almost impossible to gauge in comparison to John and Paul's. Although some of George's songs - both as a Beatle (Taxman, While My Guitar Gently Weeps) and after (All Things Must Pass) are among my all-time favorite songs/recordings, period, I still see him as a little below Paul and John because their contributions were either somehow even a little better, or definitely more numerous (She Said, Penny Lane, Across the Universe, every Lennon-McCartney song on Rubber Soul for starters).
So George is in the paradoxical position of being at the top of the human game of music, yet still being secondary, at least in my mind, to John and Paul. Further, there's no doubt in my mind - and I'm sure everyone else's - that The Traveling Wilburys were light-years better than Wings, even though Wings was great, and this is not a shot against Linda or Denny Laine. The Wilburys were astonishing in significant part because of George's songwriting, and the sound he contributed to this superstar group, which often sounds just like him.
Sheffield also notes that George's fame as the "Underrated Beatle ... raises the question of how famous it's possible to get for being overlooked and still qualify," which is a great example of another kind of paradox, and one that deepens our difficulty in understanding and evaluating George and his contribution. Ringo became and is still very famous, too, but there's nothing paradoxical about that, since no one would consider him "underrated".
Sheffield quotes John in 1980, about how George before the Beatles used "to follow me" after school, "hovering around like those kids at the gate of the Dakota now". Quotes like that can bring you to tears, not only because of what would soon happen to John, but because George died far too early, too.
The Beatles Channel and books like Sheffield's can provide some measure comfort. But there's not a day that goes by when I don't wish that all four of The Beatles were still around.
And I'll be back soon with more.
See also Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 1 of X: The Love Affair ... 2 of X: The Heroine with a Thousand Faces ... 3 of X: Dear Beatles ... 5 of X: The Power of Yeah