Number 1 With A Bullet: George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”

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Guitar

Detail of a Custom Vox Guitar, Once Owned By George Harrison (Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]George Harrison[/lastfm]‘s “My Sweet Lord” is a song packed with all kinds of stories and intrigue, not the least of which was its rapid ascent to Number 1 With a Bullet.

Seldom in the history of pop music has a song garnered so much attention and controversy. A short outline of what it was to be “My Sweet Lord”:

  • The song was originally intended for [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Billy Preston[/lastfm], who co-wrote the song with Harrison while in Copenhagen in 1969. Harrison decided to record it himself when Preston’s version failed to be much of a hit.
  • It was not initially released as a single. Following the lead of his former bandmates, the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Beatles[/lastfm], who all released solo albums without singles, Harrison released “My Sweet Lord” as part of the triple disc collection, All Things Must Pass. But, public pressure came to fore and his label released the single in the US in late 1970 and in the UK in early 1971.
  • The song almost immediately hit Number 1 in the US and in the UK, where it was a “double A-side” single with “What Is Life.”
  • Though Harrison said it was [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Edwin Hawkins[/lastfm]‘ “Oh Happy Day” who inspired the composition, a US judge thought otherwise. In a highly publicized case, Harrison was found to have “subconsciously” plagarized the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Chiffons[/lastfm]‘ “He’s So Fine” and made to pay the plaintiff company, Bright Tunes, millions of dollars in royalties.
  • In a quirky turn of events, Bright Tunes was eventually bought by former Beatles manager, Allen Klein. But Harrison got the last laugh. He ultimately bought the rights to “He’s So Fine,” wrote a criticism of the whole issue called “This Song” and paid all the royalties to the right guy: himself.

Read about more songs that were Number 1 With A Bullet

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