While My Guitar Gently Weeps - George Harrison
GEORGE HARRISON – “WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS”
June 6, 1987 Wembley, England
On June 6, 1987, The Prince’s Trust organized an “All-Star” concert at Wembley Arena. While the 1986 concert was hailed for a then-rare Paul McCartney appearance, the 1987 Gala brought George Harrison and Ringo Starr on stage. The highlight of the concert was an unprecedented performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” featuring George, with a little help from his friends—Eric Clapton, Ringo, Phil Collins, Mark Knopfler, Howard Jones, Ray Cooper, Midge Ure, Jeff Lynne and Mike King.
The live performance at The Prince’s Trust All-Star Gala was the first time Harrison had performed live in England since 1967, and one of the few times he performed the song with Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr, both of whom were involved in the original 1968 recording of the song at Abbey Road Studios.
The story of the song goes back to the famed Beatles "White Album". According to Harrison, the inspiration for the song came from reading the I Ching, which, as he put it, “seemed to me to be based on the Eastern concept that everything is relative to everything else, as opposed to the Western view that things are merely coincidental.” Harrison decided to test out this idea. While at his parents’ home in the North of England, Harrison committed to write a song based on the first words he saw upon opening a random book. Those first words were “gently weeps.”
The song was intended to be a lament for humanity following the devastating news of 1968– the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the riots at the Chicago Democratic Convention, and the escalating conflict between the country's youth and counter-culture, and the perceived repressive arms of government and law enforcement tactics.
Regarding the actual recording of the song, Harrison later recalled, "I was with Eric and I was going into the session and I said, 'We're going to do this song. Come on and play on it.' He said, 'Oh no, I can't do that. Nobody ever plays on Beatles' records.' I said, 'Look, it's my song and I want you to play on it.' So Eric came in and the other guys were good as gold because he was there. Also, it left me free to do the vocal and play rhythm. Then, we listened to it back and he said, 'Ah, there's a problem, though, it's not Beatle-y enough.' So, we put it through the ADT (automatic double-tracker) to wobble it a bit." And a classic was born.