My Sweet Lord: Wikis

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"My Sweet Lord"
Single by George Harrison
from the album All Things Must Pass
A-side "My Sweet Lord"
B-side "Isn't It a Pity" (US)
"What Is Life" (UK)
Released 23 November 1970 (US)
15 January 1971 (UK)
Format 7"
Genre Rock, folk rock, gospel
Length 4:39
Label Apple Records
Writer(s) George Harrison
Producer George Harrison,
Phil Spector
George Harrison singles chronology
"My Sweet Lord"
(1971)
"What Is Life"
(1971)
Alternate cover
2002 reissue cover
George Harrison singles chronology
"Cheer Down"
(1989)
"My Sweet the Lord"
(2002)
"Stuck Inside a Cloud"
(2002)

"My Sweet Lord" is a song by former Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison from his UK number one hit triple album All Things Must Pass. The song is primarily about Hindu God Krishna.[1] It is ranked #454 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time."

Contents

Writing and recording

The song was originally intended for Billy Preston, who had a minor hit with it in early 1970, in his album Encouraging Words. It was written in December 1969, when Harrison and Billy Preston were in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The recording of the song took place in London. Preston was the principal musician while Harrison was engineering the sessions.

Single release

When released as a single, "My Sweet Lord" topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. In October, 1970, Harrison told the British press that it was going to be his first solo single, but a few days later he changed his mind and said it would not be made available thus, as he did not want sales in that format to detract from those of the album. (The other three former Beatles had also released solo albums earlier that year, without releasing a single in Britain from any of them). It was released as a single in the US (Apple 2995) on 23 November 1970. Within a few weeks, EMI and Apple Records bowed to media and public demand, and the UK release (Apple R 5884) followed on 15 January 1971.

Entering the British charts in the first week at number seven and then hitting the summit for five weeks, it was the first single by an ex-Beatle to reach number one. It did so again in the UK when reissued in January 2002 after Harrison's death from cancer. It reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 on 26 December 1970, remaining on top for four weeks.

In Britain, the original single was officially a double-A Side with "What Is Life". In the US it was a double-A-side with "Isn't It A Pity"- with both sides featuring a full Apple label.

Legal controversy

Following the song's release, musical similarities between "My Sweet Lord" and The Chiffons' hit "He's So Fine" led to a lengthy legal battle over the rights to the composition. Billboard magazine, in an article dated 6 March 1971, stated that Harrison's royalty payments from the recording had been halted worldwide. Harrison stated that he was inspired to write "My Sweet Lord" after hearing the Edwin Hawkins Singers' "Oh Happy Day".

In the U.S. federal court decision in the case, known as Bright Tunes Music v. Harrisongs Music,[2] Harrison was found to have "subconsciously" copied the earlier song. He was ordered to surrender the majority of royalties from "My Sweet Lord" and partial royalties from All Things Must Pass. Former manager Allen Klein, who earlier had supported Harrison's case, became the owner of Bright Tunes, after they parted ways. In the long run this worked against Klein, but it resulted in the case continuing for years in court. Interestingly Harrison claimed in a BBC interview with Annie Nightingale that the Judge in the case said that he liked Harrison's version of "My Sweet Lord" more.

The Chiffons would later record "My Sweet Lord" to capitalize on the publicity generated by the lawsuit. Country singer Jody Miller recorded a country chart top-five cover of "He's So Fine", which plays on the two songs' similarities by featuring the same guitar breaks played on the Harrison recording.

Shortly thereafter, Harrison (who would eventually buy the rights to "He's So Fine")[3] wrote and recorded a song about the court case named "This Song", which includes "This tune has nothing 'Bright' about it." "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" and "Rescue Me" are also mentioned in the record.

Vaisnava Hindu prayers

Early in the song, the background singers repeat the Christian and Jewish word of praise, "Hallelujah". Later, the background singers chant two Vaisnava Hindu prayers:

This prayer consists of part of the principal mantra of devotees of the Gaudiya Vaisnavite faith, popularised in the Western world by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), colloquially known as the 'Hare Krishnas'. Harrison was a devotee of this religious path.

The mantra in full is "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare, Hare."

  • Gurur Brahmā, gurur Viṣṇur, gurur devo Maheśvaraḥ
  • gurus sākṣāt paraṃ Brahma, tasmai śrī gurave namaḥ

This prayer is chanted by Hindu devotees prior to beginning any action, after hymns to Ganesha and Sarasvati. The prayer is dedicated to the spiritual teacher of the devotee which is equated with the Hindu Trinity Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva (Maheshvara) and with the Supreme Cosmic Spirit or Absolute Reality (Brahman). The prayer translates as:

The teacher is Brahmā, the teacher is Viṣṇu, the teacher is the Lord Maheśvara, Verily the teacher is the supreme Brahman, to that respected teacher I bow down.

The prayer is the first verse of the Guru stotram, a fourteen verse hymn dedicated to the spiritual teacher.[4]

Various Christian fundamentalist anti-rock activists have objected to the chanting of 'Hare Krishna' in the song as anti-Christian or satanic while some born-again Christians appear to have mistakenly adopted the song as an anthem.[5]

During his live performances of "My Sweet Lord", Harrison has tried to engage his audience into the practice of "chanting the holy names of the Lord" (kirtan):

Breaking into the thundering rhythm guitar intro to “My Sweet Lord,” Harrison would soon begin to invite the cheering, largely stoned crowd to “chant the holy name of the Lord.” Few responded. Switching messiahs midstream, he would then rocket into the famous Krishna Hallelujah chorus and begin singing, “Om Christ, Om Christ, Om Christ” over and over, adding, “I know a lot of you out there think that’s swearing, but it’s not! If we all chant together purely for one minute, we’ll blow the roof off this place.[6]

Charts

Chart (1970/1971) Peak
position
Australian Kent Music Report 1[citation needed]
German Singles Chart 1[citation needed]
Irish Singles Chart 1[citation needed]
Japan Oricon Weekly Singles Chart 4[citation needed]
New Zealand Singles Chart 1[citation needed]
Norwegian Singles Chart 1[citation needed]
Swiss Singles Chart 1[citation needed]
UK Singles Chart 1[citation needed]
US Billboard Hot 100 1[citation needed]
Chart (2002) Peak
position
Dutch Singles Chart 46[citation needed]
Japan Oricon Weekly Singles Chart 96[citation needed]
Norwegian Singles Chart 18[citation needed]
Swedish Singles Chart 56[citation needed]
Swiss Singles Chart 69[citation needed]
UK Singles Chart 1[citation needed]
US Billboard Hot 100 94[citation needed]

George Harrison's versions

Harrison himself performed the song in a self-parody for Eric Idle and Neil Innes' Rutland Weekend Television Christmas special, broadcast 26 December 1975 on BBC2. Harrison closed the show performing lip-sync'ed to a previously recorded track which started with the song, and changed to a pirate shanty once Harrison started 'singing'. A clearly befuddled "Fatso" (Innes' band on the show backing Harrison) stop and eventually follow along and a group of dancers come out to join in the fun as the closing credits roll, while "host" Idle frequently walks onscreen, bewildered at Harrison's performance. This version is known as a "Pirate Song".

With re-issued All Things Must Pass for its thirtieth anniversary in 2000, surfaced a new version of the song, added as a bonus track, with Harrison sharing vocals with Sam Brown.

Other versions

  • Andy Williams covered "My Sweet Lord" on his 1971 Love Story album, backed up by members of the choir of the Wee Kirk o' the Valley of Reseda, California.
  • Edwin Starr recorded his version in 1971.
  • Peggy Lee covered the song in April 1971 on her album Where Did They Go?. Lee's version was arranged by Don Sebesky. It was released on CD in 2008.[7]
  • The Top of the Poppers recorded a version in 1971, which can be found on their The Best of Top of the Pops '71 album.
  • In 1972, Nina Simone performed a 18-minute version of "My Sweet Lord" at Fort Dix before a group of black soldiers (recorded on Emergency Ward). She mingled the song with the David Nelson poem "Today is a killer", in which at the end God is accused of being a killer, giving the otherwise exuberant atmosphere of the performance an apocalyptic ending. No references to Krishna were used.
  • In 1975, Julio Iglesias covered the song on his album El Amor. Iglesias sang it in English even though the song was retitled in Spanish as "Mi Dulce Señor (My sweet Lord)".[8]
  • On his 1981 Don't Give In album, Leon Patillo recorded a heavily revised version (among other things as this was a Christian album, the entire background "Hallelujah" section is replaced with "Jesus").
  • Five Thirty covered the song for the anti-poll tax album Alvin Lives (in Leeds) (1990).
  • Boy George had his own version of the song in 1992 for NME's Roaring Forty compilation album.
  • Stacey Q covered "My Sweet Lord" on her 1997 album, Boomerang.
  • Brainpool recorded and released the song as a single in 1997, as a medley of "My Sweet Lord" and "He's So Fine".
  • Les Fradkin has a cover version of "My Sweet Lord" featuring a guest appearance from Richie Furay and Lon Van Eaton (former Apple Records recording artist).
  • Girlyman also covered this song on their album Remember Who I Am.
  • At the Concert for George in November 2002, the song was performed by Preston, with Sam Brown joining on background vocals.
  • Kevin Max covered this song with no references to Krishna for Christian audiences.
  • Nina Hagen recorded (with Loka Nunda) her version of "My Sweet Lord" in 2008.
  • Jim James covered six of Harrison's songs, including "My Sweet Lord", on his 2009 Tribute To album.
  • Richie Havens covered this song on his 1987 album Sings Beatles and Dylan.
  • Elliott Smith covered this song together with Grandaddy.
  • Osibisa covered this track on their 2009 album Osee Yee.

Notes

  1. ^ Newport, John P. (1998). The New Age movement and the biblical worldview: conflict and dialogue. Eerdmans. p. 70. http://books.google.com/books?id=Rxss1cqHWYIC&pg=PA70. 
  2. ^ "Bright Tunes Music v. Harrisongs Music, 420 F. Supp. 177 (SDNY 1976)". http://cip.law.ucla.edu/cases/case_brightharrisongs.html. 
  3. ^ Huntley, Elliot J. (2004). Mystical One: George Harrison: After the Breakup of the Beatles. Guernica Editions. ISBN 1-55071-197-0. 
  4. ^ Hymns and Prayers to Gods and Goddesses, Advaita Ashrama, 2005, Compiled by Swami Pavitrananda.
  5. ^ Sullivan, Mark (October 1987). "'More Popular Than Jesus': The Beatles and the Religious Far Right". Popular Music 6 (3): 319. 
  6. ^ Giuliano, Geoffrey (1990). Dark Horse: The private life of George Harrison. New York: Penguin Books. 
  7. ^ Mercado, Iván Santiago. "Peggy Lee Discography and Videography". JazzDiscography.com. http://www.jazzdiscography.com/Artists/Lee/capitolee2c.html. 
  8. ^ Adaime, Iván. "Review of El Amor". AllMusic. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:hpfyxqr5ldke~T1. Retrieved 5 January 2009. 

External links

Preceded by
"The Tears of a Clown" by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
December 26, 1970 (4 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Knock Three Times" by Dawn
Preceded by
Grandad by Clive Dunn
UK number-one single
January 30, 1971 (5 weeks)
Succeeded by
Baby Jump by Mungo Jerry
Preceded by
More Than a Woman by Aaliyah
UK number-one single
January 20, 2002 - January 26, 2002
Succeeded by
Hero by Enrique Iglesias

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