Song facts: My Sweet Lord

My Sweet Lord was written by George Harrison and released as the first single from his triple album All Things Must Pass. Harrison wrote the song as a tribute to the Hindu god Krishna, but also as a uniting call for all religions to abandon sectarianism.

"As far as I'm concerned, My Sweet Lord was a hit because of the sound and its simplicity. The sound of that record, it sounds like one huge guitar. The way Phil Spector and I put that down was we had two drummers, a bass player, two pianos and about five acoustic guitars, a tambourine player and we sequenced it in order. Everybody plays live in the studio. I spent a lot of time with the other rhythm guitar players to get them all to play exactly the same rhythm so it just sounded perfectly in synch. The way we spread the stereo in the recording, the spread of five guitars across the stereo, made it sound like one big record. The other things, I overdubbed, like I overdubbed the voices, which I sang all the back-up parts as well and overdubbed the slide guitars, but everything else on it was live. There's Ringo and a drummer called Jim Gordon." - George Harrison
Every time I put the radio on it's 'Oh my Lord' - I'm beginning to think there must be a God! I knew there wasn't when 'Hare Krishna' [Hare Krishna Mantra by Radha Krishna Temple] never made it on the polls with their own record, that really got me suspicious. We used to say to them, 'You might get number one' and they'd say, 'Higher than that.' - John Lennon

Release

Harrison was reluctant to release a single from All Things Must Pass so as not to detract from the impact of the album, but he eventually bowed to pressure and the single was issued in the US on November 23rd 1970. 

Initially no single was planned for the UK, but public demand saw a belated UK release the following year on January 15th 1971.

Chart position

My Sweet Lord was George Harrison's first US/UK number one single after the breakup of the Beatles. It was also the first number one single by any Beatle.

The song reached the top of the US Billboard Hot 100 on December 26th 1970, and reached number one on the UK Singles Chart on January 30th 1971.

Copyright infringement suit

On February 10th 1971, Harrison was hit with a lawsuit by Bright Tunes, claiming copyright infringement of the Ronnie Mack song He's So Fine. After Harrison listened to the song he realised it sounded very similar to My Sweet Lord in its structure. 

Later that year country singer Jody Miller released a cover version of He's So Fine, incorporating the slide-guitar riffs from My Sweet Lord, which made the case against him even stronger. 

Harrison was accused of subconsciously copying He's So Fine while writing and recording My Sweet Lord, and forced into a financial settlement. This reportedly shook Harrison's confidence and made him paranoid about writing anything for a time.

George Harrison 1970.

George Harrison 1970.

George Harrison 1970. 

George Harrison 1970. 

Personnel

  • George Harrison – vocals, acoustic guitar, slide guitars, backing vocals
  • Eric Clapton – acoustic guitar
  • Pete Ham – acoustic guitar
  • Tom Evans – acoustic guitar
  • Joey Molland – acoustic guitar
  • Billy Preston – piano
  • Gary Wright – electric piano
  • Klaus Voormann – bass
  • Ringo Starr – drums, percussion
  • Jim Gordon – drums, percussion
  • Mike Gibbins – tambourine
  • John Barham – harmonium, string and woodwind arrangements
  • uncredited – zithers