Was George Harrison's 'My Sweet Lord' Really A 'He's So Fine' Ripoff?

By | August 28, 2020

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Left: George Harrison in Cannes on January 30, 1976, for the Midem music industry trade fair. Right: The Chiffons' single Harrison was said to have plagiarized. Sources: Michael Putland/Getty Images; Pinterest

If you've noticed George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" sounds a bit like "He's So Fine" by The Chiffons, you're not alone -- in 1976, a judge ruled that the ex-Beatle's big hit and spiritual declaration had ripped off the girl-group oldie. The accusation of plagiarism was news to Harrison, who swore up and down he didn't steal the melody. Well, not knowingly -- and that was, in fact, the rub in this important case. It turns out an artist can steal a tune without even knowing he or she is doing it, and can be held legally liable for what the judge called "subconscious" theft.

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The song that spawned many lawsuits, My Sweet Lord. (youtube)

The Beatles made sublime music together, the likes of which people had never heard. Their iconic melodies turned fandom into Beatlemania, to the point that John, Paul, George, and Ringo couldn’t walk down the street without getting mobbed. Once people reach that point of deity, they sometimes want to branch out and go on their own. “Imagine” by John Lennon ranks as perhaps the most successful song by a solo artist spreading their wings from a hall of fame group. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s “Ringo The 4th”, a blinding bad album by its namesake. Somewhere in between lands the curious case of George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” The song made it to #1 but landed the long-haired Beatle in some legal trouble.