On July 7, 1969, George Harrison recorded ‘Here Comes the Sun’ at Abbey Road in London. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr contributed to the session. It was a tune he co-wrote with Eric Clapton. Depending on who you talk to, John Lennon was still recovering from a car crash in Scotland or stayed away because of a temporary rift in their friendship.
It came to life in Eric Clapton‘s garden after George attended a round of business meetings. Brian Epstein’s death in 1967 forced the band had to engage in more deeply in the business and accounting aspects of their affairs, a dimension that George disliked. Harrison composed “Here Comes The Sun” on one of Clapton’s guitars after one such marathon discussion.
George said England’s long winters inspired the song. He told a 1969 BBC Radio interviewer, “It was just sunny, and it was all just the release of that tension that had been building up on me. It was just a really nice sunny day, and I picked up the guitar, which was the first time I’d played the guitar for a couple of weeks because I’d been so busy. And the first thing that came out was that song. It just came. And I finished it later when I was on holiday in Sardinia.”
Clapton spoke about the writing session on The Material World documentary. “It was one of those beautiful spring mornings. I think it was April. We were just walking around the garden with our guitars. I don’t do that, you know? This is what George brought to the situation. He was just a magical guy… we sat down at the bottom of the garden, looking out, and the sun was shining; it was a beautiful morning, and he began to sing the opening lines and I just watched this thing come to life.”
By the time the Beatles finished “Here Comes the Sun, the band had given up touring and never played it for a live audience. You can hear a live rendition in Harrison’s 1971 Concert for Bangla Desh. He invited Badfinger lead singer Pete Ham to the front of the stage to sing it with him. The Beatles’ Apple Records label signed Badfinger, and the band was still riding a wave of popularity in the wake of their the single, “No Matter What.” Harrison had them play on his first post-Beatles solo album, All Things Must Pass, in 1970, and used them as backing musicians at the concert. The Badfinger story, though, had a tragic ending. When Apple Records fell apart, the group struggled with legal issues that left them angry and broke. Ham committed suicide in 1975.
Harrison performed “Here Comes the Sun” with Paul Simon on Saturday Night Live on November 20, 1976. It became a regular part of his solo tours when he joined Clapton for 12 shows, documented on the album Live in Japan.
Although The Beatles’ version of “Here Comes the Sun” is ubiquitous, it never charted as a single. Richie Havens’ 1971 rendition peaked at #16. Havens told DISCoveries magazine in 1994, “Fortunately, I can sing things that changed my mind and gave me articulation, like the songs of The Beatles… They presented the language we speak in a very straightforward way. The images were totally clear. The influence of clarity – that was the whole influence of the British Invasion.”
When Harrison died in 2001, many artists performed “Here Comes the Sun” in a tribute. The tune had a pinnacle performance during an all-star jam on the HBO broadcast of the 25th Anniversary of the Rock-and-roll Hall of Fame .
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