My Sweet Lord: He’s So Fine.
George Harrison wrote My Sweet Lord in late 1969. Yet seven years later it was the cause of a huge court hearing.
His fellow ex-Beatle, John Lennon, wanted peace for the world. Spiritual George wanted peace within the many different religions of the world. Hence the chorus includes both ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Hare Krishna’.
The song was written when Harrison was touring with Delaney and Bonnie, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston and others. Preston also had input into the composition. In fact, George was still officially member of the Beatles at that time and had no intentions of recording the song – so Billy Preston did.
It achieved a moderate success in Europe.
But once the Beatles had split up, George decided to record the song on his album, All Things Must Pass, created in 1971. Significantly, this was produced by Phil Spector.
Spector was an American producer and had been largely responsible for the female singing group sound in the 1960s.This was to prove to be important.
In 1963, the American all-girl group ,the Chiffons, had released a song called He’s So Fine and the copyright to the song was held by a firm called Bright Tunes.
Bright Tunes accused George Harrison of plagiarism
You can listen to both songs below. I’ve added a song called Oh Happy Day which Harrison alway said was the inspiration for My Sweet Lord. It’s interesting to note that George Harrison was originally reluctant to record the song, believing that it was too overtly spiritual. Despite popular belief, he had no affiliation to any particular religion or faith – he was an open minded student of the religions of the world.
The verdict of the court case was:
I find that a little confusing. The verdict was that the plagiarism was subconscious (something that must happen all the time) and yet it is still classed as plagiarism.
Harrison was ordered to pay compensation to the now-ailing company, Bright Tunes. Why,I wondered, didn’t they sue Billy Preston who recorded the song first? Could it be that they knew that they’d make more money from a huge star like George Harrison? It’s also worth noting that the Chiffons – shortly before the case came to court – recorded My Sweet Lord as a way to draw attention to the whole business.
However, I’d still like to know:
How did Phil Spector not recognise the tune?
But let the final word go to Ringo Starr.
My Sweet Lord
Oh Happy Day
He’s So Fine
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
March 9, 2015
One of the all time great songs. It always takes me “there” … to that sunny day at dawn. What beelidwrs me, and something that we may never know, is how George Harrison didn’t become more of a musical and literary force after his Beetle days. He was the moving force arguably behind their masterpiece — Revolver. But I should be thankful for what he did give us!