A.Song.A.Day – While My Guitar Gently Weeps

while my guitar gently weepsIt is a problem when you are the youngest among a group, more specifically a rock band, for you are always treated as a kid. The kid is not expected to come up with catchy songs, especially when that area is taken care of by the amazing song writing duo of Lennon and McCartney. Yes, the kid is George Harrison, the “Quiet Beatle”.  George Harrison had plenty to offer as a songwriter himself, but talent in abundance can also be a problem.  George Harrison during his stint with the Beatles could pen only less than a score songs, one of which goes by the name While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and featured in The Beatles also known as The White Album.

It is said that the inspiration for the song came to Harrison when he was reading I Ching. Harrison found the idea of relativism promoted by the Eastern Philosophy to be appealing. Harrison, while at his parents’ home in northern England, decided to give way to chance. He decided to write a song based on the first words he saw upon opening a random book. Those words were “gently weeps”. It is quite remarkable that one of the greatest songs of rock history would find its origin in the most random of ways.

The song was not well received by the other Beatles. Several recordings of the song didn’t appeal to George and finally he had to bring in his friend Eric Clapton.  Clapton had to be persuaded and although later he would not be given credit in the album, very normal with the Beatles considering very few external artists have been credited on an official Beatles album. The arrival of Clapton set the mood right in the band. As per Harrison “It was good because that then made everyone act better… Paul got on the piano and played a nice intro, and they all took it more seriously.” The song features Eric Clapton on the lead guitar (rather it was Clapton’s guitar that wept!), George Harrison on vocals and acoustic guitar and Hammond organ, Paul McCartney on backing vocals and piano, organ and 6- string bass and Ringo Starr on drums and tambourine. It is rumoured that John Lennon was not there during the recording of the songs. Certain sources claim that John Lennon played lead guitar with Clapton, whereas some claim that he played bass making it the only Beatles song where he played bass.

Clapton’s appearance forced the other Beatles to get along for fear of embarrassing themselves in front of an outsider, resulting in a song which would end up as #135 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time and #7 on their list of the 100 greatest guitar songs of all time.  Clapton himself would write another song of equal stature which deserves a similar post here. It is quite appropriate to say that the friendship between the two did lead to the inspiration of the song. Clapton steals the show with his lead guitar which amplifies Harrison’s vocal rendition with a waterfall of blues fills.

Although it has been covered by a lot of artists, the one by Jake Shimabukuro who plays a ukelele in place of the guitar portions of the song stands out. Vinnie Moore on his album Time Odyssey released an instrumental version of the song, playing the voice melody on his guitar. On 29 November 2002 Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Dhani Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Eric Clapton performed While My Guitar Gently Weeps at the Concert for George held in memory of Harrison, who had died a year earlier after a long battle with cancer. This version featured Eric Clapton playing his original solo and also a second, as well as Paul McCartney on the piano. George Harrison subsequently went on to create an array of fantastic songs post his days with Beatles, as solos and with other artists. But if there was a choice of one song that would give George Harrison an immortal status in the minds of music lovers, it would undoubtedly be this track. So while we work on our next ASAD entry, you enjoy this wonderful track.

This article is again a guest article, contributed by Easwar. If you wish to contribute to this section or to any other section of Music Aloud please do drop a mail to response [at] musicaloud [dot] com.
Vinnie Moore’s version

MS says:

I will like mention another artist whocovered this song and deserve a mention in here ‘Jeff Healey’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJh3KaIKDAw). He is not only done justice to the song but did that with so much passion.