Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Sweet Lord

George Harrison, the quiet member of Beatles, released "My Sweet Lord" as a single in the U.S. on November 23, 1970 and in the UK on January 14, 1971. Many facts are associated with the song, starting with the above release dates. Harrison had decided not to release the song as a single so as not to hurt sales for album on which it was featured, All Things Must Pass. When Harrison, EMI, and Apple relented, the song hit the number one position on charts in America and Britain and was therefore the first song by any of the former Beatles to top the charts. In England, the B Side was "What Is Life," while in America, the B Side was "Isn't It a Pity." "My Sweet Lord" was produced by George Harrison and Phil Spector.

The song was originally written for Billy Preston's LP Encouraging Words, although Harrison's version became the mega-hit. Preston's version was produced by Harrison and featured Alan White (from Yes) on drums.

Harrison played the song on a Gibson Hummingbird, which helps produce the rich, dominant tones that open the song. Early in the song, and continuing throughout, are various chants and mantras, such as the Hindu "Hare Krishna/Hare Rama." A chorus is also heard singing "Hallelujah." Harrison would often change the chant in concert so as not to single out any denomination, at times using the word "Christ" in a respectful manner. He performed the song during The Concert for Bangladesh. As he opened the song with the famous minor-to-major chord strumming, the crowd erupted, and a brief smile crossed Harrison's face.

The song was covered by many other artists: Andy Williams, Peggy Lee, John Mayer, to name just a few.

Although Harrison claimed that the song's inspiration came from "Oh Happy Day" by the Edwin Hawkins Singers, George's music publishing company, Harrisongs, was sued because of the similarities between the Chiffon's "He's So Fine" and "My Sweet Lord." A United States Federal Court ruled in the favor of Bright Tunes Music, which governed rights to the Chiffon's song, and Harrisongs was ordered to pay a sizable portion of the royalties form "My Sweet Lord" and partial royalties from All Things Must Pass. Harrison later wrote a satire on the protracted legal battle called "Sue Me, Sue You Blues." His "This Song" also alludes to the lawsuit. The Chiffons later recorded "My Sweet Lord" as well.

The song's legacy is safe, however. Harrison later bought the rights to "He's So Fine," and he recorded a different version of "My Sweet Lord" for the 2000 re-issue of All Things Must Pass. The song is also listed as one of Rolling Stone's best 500 songs, and the song was performed by Dhani Harrison and others at The Concert for George in 2002 at London's Royal Albert Hall.

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