George Harrison | My Sweet Lord

8 10 2010

Lately, I’ve been listening to the Beatles’ post-Beatles solo work a lot. As one would expect Paul & John have the strongest catalogs but George & Ringo are not short on great work either. Here is one of George’s solo hits. Probably not my all-time favorite but it’s near the top and comes with a cool little story. “My Sweet Lord” was originally written for one of Harrison’s friends, former Beatle session man Billy Preston. Preston released it on his 1970 album Encouraging Words, which George produced. Just 10 months later, George released his version of the song on his first post-Beatles album All Things Must Pass. I love this album, it was huge. Originally a triple album (3 records/6 sides), it was produced by Phil Spector and featured 23 songs. Some of which were long jams with various guest spots from friends like Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Ginger Baker, Gary, Wright, Alan White (of Yes), a young Phil Collins, Preston and it is even said that John Lennon appeared on one track, although uncredited. There is also a song co-written with Bob Dylan and then a cover of Dylan’s “If Not For You”. It’s a really great album. “My Sweet Lord” was only released as a single after All Things Must Pass, at which point it went right to the top 5 and then occupied no. 1 for five weeks. It later topped the charts again after Harrison’s death and then again upon the release of a re-mastered anniversary version. Remarkable as that is, it’s not the juicy part of the story.

In 1971, George was sued by The Chiffons for rights to the song as it was incredibly similar to their hit “He’s So Fine”. Harrison later stated that he was actually inspired to write “My Sweet Lord” after hearing the Edwin Hawkins Singers’ “Oh Happy Day”. A US federal court ruled that Harrison had subconsciously copied The Chiffon tune and he had to hand over the majority of his royalties from the song. This ordeal was parodied by The Chiffons afterward in order capitalize on the publicity. In good humor, George would later record his own song about the case, called “This Song”, which featured many direct references. Soon after, he just bought the rights to “He’s So Fine” anyway. So in the end, he owns his song and theirs… right on, George!

If you’re not familiar with this Chiffons tune, here it is. You’ll hear the similarities instantly. So much so, it’s hard not to side with the courts on this one.

One last thing, there is a great version of this song from The Concert For George, with Billy Preston leading an allstar band that includes Ringo, Paul McCartney, Dhani Harrison, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins and Tom Petty. 

note: If you’re a Billy Preston fan and want hear his original version from Encouraging Words, THIS is a great old live version, true to form.

References:

More info on George Harrison

More info on All Things Must Pass

More info on “My Sweet Lord”

More info on The Chiffons

More info on “He’s So Fine”

More info on Concert For Bangledesh

More info on Concert For George

More info on Billy Preston

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Stevie Wonder | I Was Made To Love Her

30 03 2010

This is one of my all-time favorite Stevie songs. It’s the title track from one of his best records, released in 1967 for Motown. I really love all his early work from the 60’s, Signed, Sealed, Delivered being my favorite. Many people will put the 70’s stuff like Songs In The Key Of Life or Innervisions at the top of Stevie’s discography and that is all well & good as there’s no denying they are great albums but I insist you need to give this one another spin. With songs like this, it might just change your mind. I also highly recommend For Once In My Life as it has “You Met Your Match” on it, which is AMAZING but then again I’m a sucker for this 60’s stuff. This first video is some really cool live footage of a young Stevie… very straightforward.  Doesn’t Stevie look like the man in his early 60’s gear? I love that skinny tie.

This next version is perhaps one of the oddest and most interesting collaborations I have ever stumbled upon. It’s Jimi Hendrix and bassist, Noel Redding, from The Experience jamming “I Was Made To Love Her” with Stevie on drums. Apparently, drummer Mitch Mitchell had to go to the bathroom at some point during this 1967 BBC session and Stevie was in house so he sat in for a slightly different take on one of his classics. At first I thought, the story was BS but I check it out and it’s the real deal. The real story says that Jimi was there to record while Stevie had come in to do an interview. He was very nervous so they sat him down behind the drum kit to help him relax.

*A lot of people don’t know that Stevie is a hell of a drummer, as evidenced by this clip.

What I didn’t realize for all these years is that there are a bunch of covers of this song. Here are just a few:

Here is the Beach Boys’ version

Here is the Jackson 5’s laid back version… damn Michael!

Here is Michael McDonald & Billy Preston doing this tune live from a PBS Motown Special back in 2005… It’s not nearly as good as the original but you know I have a thing for Mike & Billy.

There is a Boyz II Men version too, but I’m NOT posting it… sorry, you’re on your own if you want it that bad.

Here’s another live version of Stevie from 1967… this one is a bit later than the first. Some folks might dig this one but I prefer the older one.

*In all my searching I found the Funk Brother’s instrumental track from the original Motown recording. Surprisingly, there are a bunch of these online, which is pretty cool. I’m a huge James Jamerson fan so to hear James’ bass here is pretty awesome. I think there is a future post in here somewhere, whether it’s about The Funk Brothers or just Jamerson… or perhaps both. Click here for the instrumental.






The REAL 5th Beatle

22 01 2010

You may often hear people talk about the “5th Beatle”. Well, throughout the band’s career there have been many people who were given this moniker: Producer George Martin, Manager Brian Epstein, Yoko Ono, or original drummer Pete Best to name just a few.

If you ask me, the REAL 5th Beatle was actually keyboardist/singer, Billy Preston who at the time was a great session player but is now best know for his singles, “Nothing from Nothing” & “Will It Go Round Circles”. He played with so many big names, including Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke, The Rolling Stones, Quincy Jones and many more. Many people don’t realize that Billy actually played keyboards (Hammond Organ and Fender Rhodes) on the Get Back/Let It Be sessions which eventually became the album, Let It Be. This was an extremely tumultuous time for the Beatles as documented in the film and in numerous writings about the band. Billy was brought in as a suggestion from George Harrison in order to ease the tension between the Fab Four. Keep in mind, this was after George had “quit” the band, returning on his own terms which included Preston.

As I said, these recording sessions were a particularly tough period for the band, later considered to be the beginning of the end. The back story to all of this is so rich and intense that I can’t even began to hash it all out in one single post. In order to get a full grasp on it all, you need to read the reference links at the very bottom. I really encourage you to do so as it is an incredible story that shows some real insight in to what happened to the world’s greatest rock band. If you’re up for it, also read The Anthology… it’s very cool.

Anyway… Paul felt the band was too disjointed at this point and wanted to “get back” to their roots of being a live band. The way I see it, Billy Preston really helped them do this. It was later noted that his professionalism and musicianship was a large contributing factor to the success (if you could call it that) of this session. Lennon, who was definitely the most aloof about keeping the band together, had even suggested at the close of it that Billy formally join the band as the official 5th Beatle. Of course, McCartney said no way as it was hard enough keeping the original 4 members happy.

As I said, this story is SO layered and intricate that I can’t do it justice here. Immediately below you will find some of the infamous videos from the final Beatles live performance on the rooftop of the Apple Records building… with Preston. I’ve included my favorites: “Get Back, “Don’t Let Me Down” & “I’ve Got A Feeling”. There’s also “Let It Be” from the recording session. See also Billy’s “Nothing from Nothing” which is an absolute Soul/R&B classic. At the very bottom, there are the links I mentioned. The Rolling Stone article is pretty interesting stuff. The Wiki page is good and thorough. There is also the FULL LENGTH Let It Be film, albeit in multiple parts… it’s totally worth it if you haven’t seen it before.

*Rolling Stone article… probably one of their best.

*Let It Be Wiki Page

*5th Beatle Wiki Page

*Entire Let It Be film in 9 parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9








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