Thursday, February 24, 2011

Serious Lawyer Shit IV: My Sweet Law Suit

One of the most well-known music copyright infringement cases was that of George Harrison lifting the tune for his 1971 hit ‘My Sweet Lord’ from a 1962 hit song called ‘He’s So Fine’ by the Chiffons.

Whatever one might subjectively judge the relative merits of each song to be, Harrison’s plagiarism — ruled by the court as “unconscious plagiarism” — was about as clear cut as these things can be, as can be appreciated from this youtube video.

Beyond his replacement of the ‘Doo Lang’ mantra with some perhaps more edifying ones, I personally prefer what Harrison did with the tune. He always maintained that ‘My Sweet Lord’ was inspired not by the Chiffons’ song, but by the Edwin Hawkins Singers 1969 gospel hit ‘Oh Happy Day.’

I’ve thrown together a mix that may give an idea of how Harrison may have conceived his version of the song.

The most remarkable aspect of the whole affair was the startling fact that none of the stellar crew who contributed to Harrison’s recording — not Eric Clapton, nor Billy Preston, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman, not even King-of-Pop Phil Spector who produced the record — not one of them did Harrison the service of tapping him on the shoulder and saying, “Hellooooo, George, isn’t this a bit of a rip-off of the Chiffons?”

Another interesting bit of trivia is that ‘He’s So Fine’ ended up being Harrison’s song after all, when he later bought the rights to it.

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