My Sweet Lord Got Sued? Say It Ain’t So.
George Harrison was my favorite Beatle. He was a workhouse, getting little glory during the Paul and John limelight, but grew into a fabulous songwriter. By the end of the decade long Beatlemania, George was arguably the best songwriter of the bunch. “Something”, “Here Comes The Sun” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” were fantastic songs at the end of the Beatles run and were all written, and sung, by George. Frank Sinatra said that “Something” was his favorite Lennon-McCartney song and the best love song written. Alas, he mis-attributed the authors but he’s right, it was an awesome love song.
Now, this being a legal column, where are you headed Kelly? George had a run of incredible songs when he went solo. His biggest hit, according to Billboard, was “My Sweet Lord.” But did you know that George was sued by The Chiffons for copying their prior single, “He’s So Fine”? The Chiffons decided that George had copied a portion of the 5-3-2 descent of the major scale in the tonic key (E major for “My Sweet Lord” and G major for “He’s So Fine”) guitar progression and that he should be ordered to compensate them. In Bright Music v. Harrisongs, the Federal court hearing the case took ten years to rule, but eventually ruled that George “subconsciously” lifted a portion of the Chiffons’ song and ruled in the Chiffons favor.
In the meantime, George’s former manager, Allen Klein, who actually represented George at the start of these proceedings, had purchased the rights from Bright Music. Showing that no good deed goes unpunished, Klein tried to get the $1.6 million award! The Court ruled that he could only recover the $600,000 that he had actually paid for the song, so it was some good karma that paid off for George.
George believed that the song saved many a heroin addict’s life and that the legal hassle was worth it. However, he had the last laugh with his answer song, “This Song.”
This song has nothing tricky about it
This song ain’t black or white and as far as I know
Don’t infringe on anyone’s copyright, so . . .
This song we’ll let be
This song is in E
This song is for you and . . .
This tune has nothing Bright about it
This tune ain’t bad or good and come ever what may
My expert tells me it’s okay
As this song came to me
This song could be you could be . . .
This riff ain’t trying to win gold medals
This riff ain’t hip or square
Well done or rare
May end up one more weight to bear
But this song could well be
A reason to see – that
Without you there’s no point to . . . this song