Yesterday was George Harrison’s birthday. Yesterday my Mom, who introduced me (I like to say in utero) to The Beatles and Music, took me with her to see Concert for George, a Tribute, and Celebration of George Harrison’s Music performed at the Royal Albert Hall back in 2002, on the one year mark of his passing. It was an incredible experience to share this with the person in my life who gifted me my love of Music, and it was a gift in itself to see her moved by these Artists who were so much a part of her coming-of-age. I was moved to tears many times, as she was, and even though we were there together, connected by blood and memories and that mysterious cord of family, I know our emotions were different. I’m grateful to have been there with her.
“My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison, off of his Album All Things Pass, has been on the fringe of my life for almost my entire life (it came out the year after I was born), and I have known people who connected and loved the Song in that big, encompassing way. Though I was aware of it and liked it, I never had those big feelings about it that make it a Favorite Song. Last night changed that.
“My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison
from the Album, All Things Must Pass (1970)
There was something about hearing it recorded live by family and friends who were grieving their family and friend. There was something powerful in all of the Musicians there from different parts of the world coming together. There was something about seeing George’s son Danny playing guitar to it, singing the harmonies, and showing very visible emotions from it. Most of all, though, there was something in the Lyrics that shook me to the core.
“I really want to see you.
Really want to be with you.
Really want to see you, Lord.
But it takes so long, my Lord.”
As an Agnostic who broke up with religion and all its trappings at the end of my adolescence, my idea of a God is complicated at best, and often non-existent. That said, there are parts of me who grew up in and around belief in a higher power that still questions it, still nudges me on the inside to believe. I am deeply moved by people who do believe, and I think also envious if I’m being honest. Though I didn’t leave the theater suddenly changing my Agnostic views, I was deeply and emotionally moved. Listening to the Lyrics somehow made George’s death seem not as sad as I’d felt before. There was something peaceful about it, serene, and hopeful. It was a huge loss losing George, you could see it and feel it on everyone on the stage. But, maybe it was a passing through to this hope that he had to someday meet the definition of “God” he believed in.
It was beautiful. And, its left me feeling very different about the Song. It is very beautiful, too.
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”. Billy Preston, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, and the group Badfinger are among the other musicians appearing on the recording. (from Wikipedia)
The above is a little “My Sweet Lord” History, and it makes me love the Song, and the Performance I witnessed even more. Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, and Billy Preston were all there performing it, along with Paul McCartney, Danny Harrison, and other Musicians, friends, and family, and the powerful emotion of it was so impactful. It brought tears to my eyes.
It was by far my favorite performance of the night, followed closely by my second Favorite Beatles Song, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.
“My Sweet Lord” (Live from Concert for George) by Billy Preston, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Danny Harrison, and Many Others
The visuals are not great, but the audio is – and this is the only clip I could find that still plays on YouTube. If you get a chance to see Concert for George in its entirety I highly recommend it.