It was 40 years ago Sunday (December 26th, 1970) that George Harrison scored the first Number One hit by an ex-Beatle with his single "My Sweet Lord," which went on to top the charts for four weeks. The tune, which he had first produced as a gospel song for good friend Billy Preston, was the first single from Harrison's triple album All Things Must Pass -- which itself went on to top the album charts on January 2nd, 1971 for a whopping seven weeks.
Harrison recalled recording "My Sweet Lord" in his 1980 "song biography" titled I Me Mine, admitting, "I thought a lot about whether to do 'My Sweet Lord' or not, because I would be committing myself publicly (to my beliefs) and I anticipated that a lot of people might get weird about it. Many people fear the words 'Lord' and 'God.' (It) makes them angry for some reason."
It's recently been revealed that "My Sweet Lord" turned out to be a mini-Beatles reunion of sorts. Ringo Starr and future Derek & the Dominoes member Jim Gordon drum on the track, along with Apple band Badfinger on acoustic guitars and none other than John Lennon strumming along himself. In a recent Beatlefan magazine interview, Harrison's longtime friend and bassist Klaus Voormann stated that Lennon actually performs on the track.
Harrison's widow, Olivia Harrison says that some critics and fans misinterpreted George's spiritual lyrics as being so serious that they bordered on preachy. She says that George often used his songs as his own form of spiritual guidance: "He also wrote these things to remind himself. People sometimes accused him of preaching (laughs). But you know, he was really preaching to himself. He wasn't trying to say, 'You be like this because I'm already like this.' No, he was always trying to remind himself. And that's the reason he liked India so much, because he said that, 'Everywhere you went, there was a reminder.'"
Although the song's double-tracked slide guitar riff became a Harrison trademark, Harrison always performed it on acoustic guitar when playing the song live. During his 1971 Concert For Bangladesh performances Eric Clapton and Jesse Ed Davis handled the slide guitar duties. On his 1974 North American tour Robben Ford played the lead, and on Harrison's 1991 tour of Japan, Eric Clapton reprised his signature solo.
Former Beatles manager Allen Klein bought the rights to the Bright Tunes Music catalogue in 1976 and sued Harrison for ripping off the 1963 Chiffons hit "He's So Fine." Harrison, who testified with a guitar in his hand to demonstrate how he stumbled upon the tune, was eventually found guilty of "subconscious plagiarism" and ordered to pay $587,000.In 2001, Harrison and his son Dhani re-recorded the song for inclusion on the 30th anniversary edition of All Things Must Pass. All proceeds from the new version went to Harrison's Living In The Material World Charitable Foundation
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