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Net gently weeps for Beatle Harrison

Fans crowd online message boards and chat rooms to express their sadness over the death of former Beatle George Harrison.

Fans crowded online message boards and chat rooms Friday to express their sadness over the death of former Beatle George Harrison.

Harrison, 58, died Thursday in Los Angeles after a prolonged struggle with cancer. Harrison wrote some of the Beatles' best-known songs, including "Here Comes the Sun" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," and infused Eastern mysticism into the band's music and trend-setting attitude.

Besides erecting makeshift vigils in Harrison's birthplace of Liverpool, England, and at Strawberry Fields in New York's Central Park, fans have turned to the Internet to express their grief. As of midday Friday, America Online members had posted 3,000 messages, nearly 2,000 messages had been posted on Yahoo, and a flurry of messages had appeared on news sites around the Net.

Online retailer said sales of Harrison's solo albums skyrocketed Friday. Harrison's 1970 triple album "All Thing Must Pass," now ranks No. 5 in Amazon's top 10 list for CD sales. Last week it ranked No. 616. More dramatically, "The Best of George Harrison" reached No. 34 in the retailer's sales charts, skyrocketing from No. 5,279 last week.

Many of the messages posted Friday expressed the personal bonds that Beatles fans felt for each of the band members and discussed the influence of their songs.

"George, you were my faithful, kind, gentle, sensitive, smart companion on numerous escapes from an awful reality," one AOL member wrote.

Other fans found solace on the Internet by reliving their first moments of Beatlemania.

"When I first saw Harrison on TV in the '60s, I started dancing around the room, saying, 'Oh my goodness, I'm in love,'" wrote one reader. "My father came in and said, 'Get that trash off!' I never stopped listening to his music."

But overwhelmingly, Web users displayed feelings of despair and introspection over the loss of another icon from a graying generation.

"Losing George is losing a security blanket or turning out a light," wrote a reader. "Thank God, I will always be able to reach out for him, and hear him in the darkness, and his music brings warmth and light to me. Say hi to John for me please, George, and thank you."