Continuing with George Harrison (see earlier post) before I move to another Beatle…

f4cb074bf3a4b44022c6f841f2191ffaWhile my guitar gently weeps is one of his most memorable songs. But more than that is what a the number of stories associated with it! Also according to me it’s a study in the creative process.

One is the backdrop in which it was written – a time when the Beatles were near disintegration. Cracks in the group were already visible and when you view it from that perspective a lot of it makes more sense.

The second important story here is getting Eric Clapton to play the lead guitar. Of course, Clapton agreed after much resistance, but Clapton fans will still rate this as one of their favourites. Also to be noted was that it was the first time ‘lead guitar’ as a term was coined by George Harrison to convince Clapton to be part of this. The rest as they say is guitar history.

Then the lyrics… and here they are… and here is where the creative people need to sit up and listen…
I look at you all see the love there that’s sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping
Still my guitar gently weeps
I don’t know why nobody told you
How to unfold your love
I don’t know how someone controlled you
They bought and sold you
I look at the world and I notice it’s turning
While my guitar gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps
I don’t know how you were diverted
You were perverted too
I don’t know how you were inverted
No one alerted you
I look at you all see the love there that’s sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
Look at you all
Still my guitar gently weeps

The lyrics have an I Ching connection best explained by Harrison himself (And here I quote verbatim from Wiki)

Inspiration for the song came to Harrison when reading the I Ching, which, as Harrison put it, “seemed to me to be based on the Eastern concept that everything is relative to everything else, as opposed to the Western view that things are merely coincidental”.[13] Taking this idea of relativism to his parents’ home in northern England, Harrison committed to write a song based on the first words he saw upon opening a random book. He later explained the process:
I wrote “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at my mother’s house in Warrington. I was thinking about the Chinese I Ching, ‘The Book of Changes”. The Eastern concept is that whatever happens is all meant to be, and that there’s no such thing as coincidence – every little item that’s going down has a purpose.
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was a simple study based on that theory. I decided to write a song based on the first thing I saw upon opening any book – as it would be relative to that moment, at that time. I picked up a book at random, opened it, saw “gently weeps”, then laid the book down again and started the song.[14]

What amazes me is that it is a regular ideation technique that a lot of creative people use in the advertising world even to this day. But to take the words ‘gently weeps’ and then use it as a transferred epithet with a guitar is creative genius. Wow!

And finally, there are a whole lot of ‘discarded’ or ‘unused’ lyrics: demonstrating the patient task of editing that seems lost today. (And here’s Wiki to the rescue again!)

The initial incarnation was not final, as Harrison said: “Some of the words to the song were changed before I finally recorded it.” A demo recorded at George’s home inEsher includes an unused verse:

I look at the trouble and see that it’s raging,
While my guitar gently weeps.|
As I’m sitting here, doing nothing but ageing,
Still, my guitar gently weeps.

As well as an unused line in the very beginning:
The problems you sow, are the troubles you’re reaping,
Still, my guitar gently weeps.
This line was eventually omitted in favour of the one appearing on The Beatles.

An early acoustic guitar and organ demo of the song featured a slightly different third verse:
I look from the wings at the play you are staging,
While my guitar gently weeps.
As I’m sitting here, doing nothing but ageing,
Still, my guitar gently weeps.

I’ve listened to the melody of this song as a teenager. And I listen to it now. The impact remains the same. The lyrics still enchant. The dreamy, sky-gazing tone evokes the same day-dreaming times of youth. And pain and angst come out once again in a fluid, harmonious sound that soothes as it hurts. Paradoxically, the song seems a balm for the pain it causes.

And that’s what makes this song deserve a post on its own.

If you are interested, do read the Wiki link posted here. And the YouTube link has (what I thought) sensitive choreography to it. Watch. Listen. Feel the pain. Gently weeping…

P.S. Wiki says: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” ranks 136th on Rolling Stone‘s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time“, seventh on the magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time”, and tenth on its list of “The Beatles 100 Greatest Songs”.[7][8][9][10] Guitar World magazine’s February 2012 online poll voted “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” the best of George Harrison’s Beatles-era songs.[11] Clapton’s performance ranked 42nd in Guitar World‘s October 2008 list of the “100 Greatest Guitar Solos”.[12]