When I shared my post on The Long and Winding Road , a good friend (Thanks Marek) reminded me of how good George Harrison was. How true! So here’s a short one for GH!
If you looked at The Beatles, their strength lay not just in them as a group (the first boy band really!) but also as individuals. Each one of them has some claim to fame and each one of us (Beatles fans) has one favourite that’s attributed to one of them.
Take George Harrison now. Two of my favourite numbers (there are more of course – but that’s for the next blog) are Something and My Sweet Lord.
In a spiritual trip to India, George Harrison not only learnt how to play the sitar but also Transcendental Meditation from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In this turn towards spiritualism (or maybe it was something within him that was discovered then) some of George Harrison’s songs were deeply meditative and spiritual.And although this one came later, it brought out the essence, the certain ‘something’ that George Harrison brought to the stage.
My Sweet Lord
It’s strange that a dichotomy exists in the love for a human being and the love for God. In My Sweet Lord there is oneness. That song could be for a lover or the Lord. A peep into Indian philosophy and you know that Bhakti Yoga – plain, simple and undying devotion to the Lord is one of the ways to the Ultimate. Take, if you are familiar with, any of Mirabai’s devotional songs to the Lord. It was about separation, yearning, longing and oneness. It was about the love for the Lord.
I now find it strange or may be serendipitous that when I heard My Sweet Lord as a teenager (in a time when written lyrics were not easily available) I always thought it to be My Sweet Love! Think about it… it makes sense even now.
Now let’s take Something
Inspired by the first line of a song by James Taylor**, that’s where the similarity ends. This one became hugely popular and remains so till date. Here’s a WIKI extract…
The song has been covered by over 150 artists, making it the second-most covered Beatles song after “Yesterday“. Artists who have covered the song include Phish, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra,Ray Charles, James Brown, Shirley Bassey, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Smokey Robinson, Ike & Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Isaac Hayes, Julio Iglesias and Neil Diamond. Harrison said his favourite version of the song was James Brown’s, which he kept in his personal jukebox. *
There is a story (always isn’t it?) that runs around it. Apparently George Harrison told Pattie that he had written it for her. But later when asked about his songs he denied it. Here is what he said later of his songs.
Having begun to write love songs that were directed at both God and a woman, with his White Album track “Long, Long, Long“, Harrison later cited alternative sources for his inspiration for “Something”. In early 1969, according to author Joshua Greene, Harrison told his friends from the Hare Krishna Movement that the song was about the Hindu deity Krishna; in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 1976, he said of his approach to writing love songs: “all love is part of a universal love. When you love a woman, it’s the God in her that you see.*
And that’s the mystical, spiritual essence that holds us to his songs and music even today. That makes you want to listen to them again and again in their innocence and simplicity.
Of course, Harrison was more than these two songs – he was one of the 100 best guitarists ever, his sitar playing was phenomenal too (Within you, without you) and his lyrics (While my guitar gently weeps) were sensitive, soul-stirring and spoke to you from somewhere deep within. Something about his songs keeps us fascinated. I’m sure you have your favourites too!
Have a listen here to these two:
Here’s the official version of Something
And here’s My Sweet Love… oops! Lord…
** Erroneously put as James Blunt earlier. Thanks Jeffrey for pointing this out