Saturday, November 15, 2008

While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Beatles (1968)

I look at the world and I notice it's turning
While my guitar gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps

Songs that are too big to contain only the material world are indeed something to be thankful for when one's heart is as battered and sore as mine is this week. Songs like that help promote a healthy catharsis because they annihilate our perverse preoccupation with ego and somehow put our suffering in its larger and proper context. That's how I feel about While My Guitar Gently Weeps, ostensibly a Beatles song that I don't think anyone for a minute believes is a true Beatles song.

No reason why they should. It's pretty well known that the other Beatles were initially less than enthused about George Harrison's contribution to what became known as the White Album (apparently originally conceived as an acoustic number), and it took pressing the reluctant Eric Clapton into service as lead guitarist to make it the transcendent song it became and remains today. (The above link is to the version the grieving Clapton unleashed during the 2002 memorial Concert for George, with Harrison's son Dhani - and many others - accompanying him in one of the most moving performances I've ever seen of any song. However, this Todd Rundgren/Joe Jackson/Ethel version from 2005 also blows me away.)

Why Harrison had to fight to get his stuff due consideration remains a mystery, but I guess it all worked out in the end - of the four Beatles, he was by far the most influential as a solo artist. Prior to this, Harrison's output was relatively meager and marginalized. I had always regarded the Quiet Beatle as a strong lead guitarist but that was about it.

'Guitar' was a game changer and his masterpiece. And it stood out like a sore thumb against most of the other 29 songs on the album; I maintain only a slender handful of the cuts can be defined as remotely exceeding mediocrity. I loved it from the start, but in being such an anomaly, it sounded a bit of a death knell for the Beatles as recording artists, which was a scary prospect at the time. The White Album was a messy concoction that seemed to belong to just one Beatle at a time rather than a synthesis of their talents as a group. Certainly 'Guitar,' as a harbinger of what was to come when the group dissolved and went their separate ways, was a revelation in this regard.

Forty years later, it's still a powerful spiritual balm. Despite this week's weeping, "I look at the world and I notice it's turning." And I'm learning.


KarmaSartre said...

And you're teaching.

cornbread hell said...

yes indeed. a very powerful spiritual balm.

Mombi said...

Good for you!

I don't know why nobody told you
how to unfold you love
I don't know how someone controlled you
they bought and sold you...


Just J said...

I've always loved this song. It's one of my all time favorites.