July 20, 2024

It was the first number one hit by a solo Beatle, and had a long and complicated history following its 1970 release

Following the first number one song by any solo Beatle, George Harrison, John Lennon’s bandmate, declared, “Every time I put the radio on, it’s ‘Oh my Lord.'” “I’m starting to believe that God must exist.”

“My Sweet Lord” solidified the status of “the quiet one” as a talented songwriter overshadowed by Lennon and McCartney, along with its parent album, All Things Must Pass.

In 1969, George Harrison was moved to pen a multifaith devotional song after listening to the gospel smash “Oh Happy Day” by the Edwin Hawkins Singers.

The earliest version of “My Sweet Lord” was recorded by Beatles associate Billy Preston, who later sings a powerful rendition of the song with Aretha Franklin’s backing band on King Curtis’s Live at Fillmore West CD.

However, Harrison’s version—which was released in November 1970 and included an all-star ensemble that included Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Preston, and Badfinger—quickly surpassed it thanks to Phil Spector’s opulent production.

However, as soon as “My Sweet Lord” topped the American charts, Bright Tunes, the publisher of The Chiffons’ 1963 hit song “He’s So Fine,” penned by the band’s late manager Ronnie Mack, filed a plagiarism lawsuit. (Jimmy Mack, a 1967 smash song for Martha and the Vandellas, was inspired by Mack, who passed away at the age of 23.)

with retaliation, Harrison was advised to purchase Bright Tunes by Allen Klein, whose involvement with The Beatles’ management had contributed to the band’s dissolution.

The business refused and demanded a cut of “My Sweet Lord’s” earnings instead.

Harrison showed the judge how he wrote the song with his guitar in hand, but in 1976, he was found guilty of “subconscious plagiarism.”

Still, the legal actions persisted. Following Harrison’s 1973 breakup with Lennon and Starr, Klein acquired Bright Songs and became the owner of the song “He’s So Fine.

” The rights to both songs were eventually settled in 1998, giving Harrison the rights in the UK and North America and Klein the rights everywhere else.

The plagiarism issue caused Harrison’s trust as a songwriter to be shattered. “After going through that, it’s hard to just start writing again,” he stated to Rolling Stone. “Every song I hear on the radio sounds like something else,”

His 1976 hit song “This Song” offers a sardonic reflection on the story in its lyrics: “This tune has nothing Bright about it.

” It has Eric Idle chirping in his Monty Python falsetto, along with the ever-present Preston on keyboards: “Could be ‘Sugar Pie Honey Bunch’… No, sounds more like ‘Rescue Me.'”

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