HQ ! / 22 November 1968 Song by from the album The Beatles
Published Harrisongs / * Recorded 5–6 September 1968 / * Studio EMI Studios, London / * Genre Hard rock blues rock
/ * Length 4:40 / * Label Apple / * Songwriter(s) George Harrison
/ * Producer(s) George Martin
According to Ian MacDonald, Walter Everett and John Winn
George Harrison – double-tracked vocals, backing vocal, acoustic guitar, Hammond organ
John Lennon – electric guitar with tremolo
Paul McCartney – harmony vocal, piano, bass guitar
Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine, castanets
Eric Clapton – lead guitar
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1968 double album The Beatles (also known as "the White Album"). It was written by George Harrison, the band’s lead guitarist. The song serves as a comment on the disharmony within the Beatles following their return from studying Transcendental Meditation in India in early 1968. This lack of camaraderie was reflected in the band’s initial apathy towards the composition, which Harrison countered by inviting his friend and occasional collaborator, Eric Clapton, to contribute to the recording. Clapton overdubbed a lead guitar part, although he was not formally credited for his contribution.
Background and inspiration
George Harrison wrote "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" after his return from India, where the Beatles had been studying Transcendental Meditation under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi during the spring of 1968. The visit had allowed Harrison to re-engage with the guitar as his primary instrument, after focusing on the Indian sitar for the previous two years, and also marked the start of a prolific period for him as a songwriter. Inspiration for the song came to him when he was visiting his parents in Warrington, Cheshire, and he began reading the I Ching, or "The Book of Changes". As Harrison put it,
the book 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."Embracing this idea of relativism, he committed to writing a song based on the first words he saw upon opening a book, which happened to be "gently weeps". Harrison continued to work on the lyrics after this initial writing session.
The song reflects the disharmonious atmosphere within the Beatles following their return from India. Harrison had led the band in their highly publicised endorsement of Transcendental Meditation and viewed this spiritual pursuit as superior in importance to their career momentum. When discussing another song he wrote at this time, "Not Guilty", Harrison said it referred to "the grief I was catching" from John Lennon and Paul McCartney for leading them to Rishikesh and supposedly hindering the group’s career and the launch of their Apple record label. Eric Clapton, with whom Harrison collaborated on several recordings throughout 1968 as a distraction from the Beatles, said that "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" conveyed Harrison’s spiritual isolation within the group. Author Jonathan Gould writes that, although in the past each of the Beatles had become temporarily subsumed in fads and personal interests, the level of Harrison’s commitment to Indian spirituality as an alternative to the band was unprecedented.
A demo that Harrison recorded at his home in Esher includes an unused verse: "I look at the trouble and hate that is raging / While my guitar gently weeps / As I’m sitting here, doing nothing but ageing …" This version also includes the line "The problems you sow are the troubles you’re reaping", which he similarly discarded. An early acoustic guitar and harmonium performance of the song features a slightly different third verse: "I look from the wings at the play you are staging / While my guitar gently weeps / As I’m sitting here, doing nothing but ageing …"This version was released on the 1996 compilation Anthology 3 and was used as the basis of the 2006 Love remix, with a string arrangement by George Martin.