“My Sweet Lord”
is a song by English musician and former Beatle
that was released in November 1970 on his triple album All Things Must Pass. Also issued as a single, Harrison’s first as a solo artist, “My Sweet Lord” topped charts worldwide and was the biggest-selling single of 1971 in the UK. In America and Britain, the song was the first number 1 single by an ex-Beatle. Harrison originally gave the song to his fellow Apple Records artist Billy Preston to record; this version, which Harrison co-produced, appeared on Preston’s Encouraging Words album in September 1970.
Harrison wrote “My Sweet Lord” in praise of the Hindu god Krishna, while at the same time intending the lyrics to serve as a call to abandon religious sectarianism through his deliberate blending of the Hebrew word hallelujah with chants of “Hare Krishna” and Vedic prayer. The recording features producer Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound treatment and heralded the arrival of Harrison’s much-admired slide guitar technique, which one biographer described as being “musically as distinctive a signature as the mark of Zorro”. Preston, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and the group Badfinger are among the other musicians appearing on the recording.
Later in the 1970s,
“My Sweet Lord”
was at the centre of a heavily publicised copyright infringement suit, due to its similarity to the Ronnie Mack song “He’s So Fine”, a 1963 hit for the New York girl group the Chiffons. In 1976, Harrison was found to have subconsciously plagiarised the earlier tune, a verdict that had repercussions throughout the music industry. He claimed to have used the out-of-copyright “Oh Happy Day”, a Christian hymn, as his inspiration for the song’s melody.