Song of the Day: My Sweet Lord – George Harrison

George Harrison wrote in the linear notes for the remastered version of All Things Must Pass that Phil Spector’s production on the album might have been over-done. Harrison released an updated version for the remaster, as if to prove Spector’s production was out of favor.  The new version of “My Sweet Lord” sounds thin, and lacks the warmth of the original.

For me, the warmth and comfort in the sound is one of the most appealing things about “My Sweet Lord”.  It underlines Harrison’s message of wanting to be with the lord.  Even while he was in the Beatles, Harrison was known for his interest in Eastern philosophy eventually becoming a devotee of the Gaudiya Vaisnavite faith.

“My Sweet Lord” begins with a simple acoustic riff for the first 15 seconds, Harrison then comes in with a lead which could only be played by him. The vocal Harrison delivers lies somewhere between sad and happy.  He wants to be with the lord, but “it takes so long”.   There aren’t any verses or choruses in the song rather, just a repetition of things that Harrison would do for the lord.  The background vocals of “Hallelujah” are delivered just before the drums kick in that move the song forward.  Suddenly the song sounds joyous rather than sad just as Harrison breaks into a short guitar solo reminiscent of his lead in the very beginning of the song.

After the solo, the background vocals change from the familiar “Hallelujah” to a Hindu-chant continuing throughout the rest of the song.   It’s as if Harrison was waiting to hook listeners in,  suggesting that humanity takes different paths to knowing “the lord”, but the truth is universal.  (Is this the first pop song to reference both Hallelujah and Vishnu?)

Unfortunately for Harrison, while “My Sweet Lord” was a hit also became associated with controversy.  This wasn’t because of the religious overtones, but rather copyright infringement.  The melody of The Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine” sounds quite similar to the main melody of “My Sweet Lord”, and Harrison was later sued as a result.

But “My Sweet Lord’ remains one of Harrison’s masterpieces (as is much of All Things Must Pass).

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