This is far from being George Harrison's only religious song, for Mr. Harrison was heavily into Krishna and Eastern mysticism for some time before this song was written.

It was released in 1970 as the first single from All Things Must Pass, his first solo album. But the thing about this song that is probably the most remembered is that it led to a court case.

The publishers of the song "He's So Fine", recorded in 1963 by the Chiffons and scoring a minor hit for them, brought Harrison to court on charges of copyright infringment; the song was seemingly too similar in melody, rhythm, and phrasing to the earlier hit for it to be a coincidence.

The song was written in 1969, based on a jam by Harrison and Billy Preston, with Preston supplying the basic theme of the song (the call and response parts in the lyrics). The pair probably didn't realise from where the idea might have come.

The judge took this all into account, and found Harrison guilty, judging that 75% of the song's popularity (and the royalties received as a result) was due to the popularity of the earlier song, and that

"(Harrison's) subconscious knew it already had worked in a song his conscious did not remember... That is, under the law, infringement of copyright, and is no less so even though subconsciously accomplished."

--from the judge's ruling

That's right, folks, you can be guilty of copyright infringement without even realising it.

http://www.copyrightwebsite.com/audio/harrison/harrison.asp offers sound samples of the two songs, so that the listener may determine the similarity for his/herself.

My Sweet Lord

    My sweet lord
    Hm, my lord
    Hm, my lord

    I really want to see you
    Really want to be with you
    Really want to see you lord
    But it takes so long, my lord

    Chorus

    I really want to know you
    Really want to go with you
    Really want to show you lord
    That it won't take long, my lord (hallelujah)

    My sweet lord (hallelujah)
    Hm, my lord (hallelujah)
    My sweet lord (hallelujah)

    I really want to see you
    Really want to see you
    Really want to see you, lord
    Really want to see you, lord
    But it takes so long, my lord (hallelujah)

    Chorus

    I really want to know you (hallelujah)
    Really want to go with you (hallelujah)
    Really want to show you lord (aaah)
    That it won't take long, my lord (hallelujah)

    Hmm (hallelujah)
    My sweet lord (hallelujah)
    My, my, lord (hallelujah)

    Hm, my lord (hare krishna)
    My, my, my lord (hare krishna)
    Oh hm, my sweet lord (krishna, krishna)... Hm, my lord (hallelujah)
    My, my, my lord (hare krishna)
    My sweet lord (hare krishna)
    My sweet lord (krishna krishna)
    My lord (hare hare)
    Hm, hm (Gurur Brahma)
    Hm, hm (Gurur Vishnu)
    Hm, hm (Gurur Devo)
    Hm, hm (Maheshwara)
    My sweet lord (Gurur Sakshaat)
    My sweet lord (Parabrahma)
    My, my, my lord(Tasmayi Shree)
    My, my, my, my lord (Guruve Namah)
    My sweet lord (Hare Rama)

    fade:...

    (hare krishna)
    My sweet lord (hare krishna)
    My sweet lord (krishna krishna)
    My lord (hare hare)
    George Harrison (1943-2001)


My Sweet Lord was one of my favorites whenI was a teenybopper and I've got a 45 RPM stashed around the house somewhere scratched and lovingly worn. I grooved on as in really dug the song but truely never caught onto the hare krishna connection.

George Harrison has re recorded My Sweet Lord recently in his three CD 30th anniversary edition of All Things Must Pass. George's first two solo albums, 1970's three-record set All Things Must Pass and 1973's Living in the Material World, each hit Number One, spawning the two number one singles My Sweet Lord and Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth), respectively.

In the years after the Fab Four split and the ex-Beatles achieved varying degrees of success. The original version of My Sweet Lord was released in December 1970. Harrison was looking for a way to separate himself from long shadows cast over the Beatles' legacy by the creative dominance of Lennon/McCartney and was released just as the band was finally falling apart. Harrison's ode to his Lord Krishna became an instant hit and gave him the distinction of being the first ex-Beatle to have a chart-topping single. The other half of the single, Isn't It a Pity was seen as a commentary on the breakup of the Beatles giving fans all the more reason to buy it.

With charges of plagiarism from Bright Tunes that Harrison had modeled the song after The Chiffons 'He's So Fine,' all royalties were frozen until a judge determined that he was guilty of "unconscious plagiarism," the similarities were more than a coincidence and it is this controversy for which My Sweet Lord is best remembered. It's of interest to note that Harrison said he had had a different song in mind when he wrote My Sweet Lord, a song that was in the public domain. On September 7th 1976 Harrison was found guilty of plagiarizing 'He's So Fine' for My Sweet Lord and he paid Bright Tunes $587,000.

This Song was George's answer to the whole ordeal. In it, he says, "This song...as far as I know, don't infringe on anyone's copyright..." and "This tune has nothing Bright about it." A top 40 hit for George, reaching the 25th spot, not everyone knew about the story. Radio station copies featured a different title sleeve, containing "the story behind 'This Song'," so that at least the DJ's would be aware of what had happened.

The most religious song on the album Harrison said in his autobiography, I Me Mine is that he was inspired to write the song by the Edwin Hawkins Singers version of 'Oh Happy Day.' He later told the Hare Krishna movement in their book, Hare Krishna Mantra--There's Nothing Higher:

I wanted to show that Hallelujah and Hare Krishna are quite the same thing. I did the voices singing 'Hallelujah' and then the change to 'Hare Krishna' so that people would be chanting the maha-mantra-before they knew what was going on! I had been chanting Hare Krishna for a long time, and this song was a simple idea of how to do a Western pop equivalent of a mantra which repeats over and over again the holy names. I don't feel guilty or bad about it; in fact it saved many a heroin addict's life."

"Hallelujah" is a joyous expression the Christians have, but "Hare Krishna" has a mystical side to it. It's more than just glorifying God; it's asking to become His servant. And because of the way the mantra is put together, with the mystic spiritual energy contained in those syllables, it's much closer to God than the way Christianity currently seems to be representing Him. Although Christ in my mind is an absolute yogi, I think many Christian teachers today are misrepresenting Christ. They're supposed to be representing Jesus, but they're not doing it very well. They're letting him down very badly, and that's a big turn off.

My idea in "My Sweet Lord," because it sounded like a "pop song," was to sneak up on them a bit. The point was to have the people not offended by "Hallelujah," and by the time it gets to "Hare Krishna," they're already hooked, and their foot's tapping, and they're already singing along "Hallelujah," to kind of lull them into a sense of false security. And then suddenly it turns into "Hare Krishna," and they will all be singing that before they know what's happened, and they will think, "Hey, I thought I wasn't supposed to like Hare Krishna!"

As irony would have it at the same time George was mixing All Things Must Passz at Abbey Road Studios in October 1970 John Lennon was in the same building recording the 'Plastic Ono Band' album and singing 'God is a concept by which we measure our pain.'

Harrison explains that he re-released the song, "because the point of My Sweet Lord is just to try to remind myself that there's more to life than the material world. Basically, I think the planet is doomed, and it is my attempt to try to put a bit of a spin on the spiritual side, a reminder for myself and for anybody who's interested."

The new version features Harrison's 22-year-old son, Dhani, playing acoustic guitar.My Sweet Lord is one of the top five solos recorded by the Beatles and undoubtedly one of the most important singles George Harrison ever made.

Sources:

George Harrison, 1968-1982:
http://meltingpot.fortunecity.com/

HARRISON SHARES HIS SWEET LORD AGAIN:
http://www.dotmusic.com/news/December2000/

The Making of All Things Must Pass:
http://www.beatlesnews.com/allthingsmustpass.htm

CST Approved.

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