While My Guitar Gently Weeps - The Beatles
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"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" - The Beatles (1968)
The origins of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is the result of George Harrison’s studies of the 1 Ching, an ancient Chinese classic text based on how everything is relative to everything else. He committed himself to composing a song with this theory of relativism and chose words randomly from a book- and the words where “gently weeps.”
Lennon and McCartney were not at all excited about the song. Yet when Harrison invited Eric Clapton to play guitar on the track they took the effort more seriously.
Harrison believed that even after Clapton played, there was still a problem as it wasn’t “beaty” enough So the engineers put it through the ADT (automatic double track) machine to “wobble “ it up and make it sound less bluesy.
At various times during the song, the bass part is doubled as McCartney’s bass itself now blossoms as never before. The arrangement is a very thick and heavily layered which was typical of the period in which it was produced.
Aside from the refrain-like frequent reprise of the title phrase, the lyrics of every section are more or less different. The use here of different lyrics in each bridge, instead of the more familiar verbatim repeat, is unusual. Even the final verse, which starts off with the same line as the first verse, presents some new/different material before it is done.
Jonathan Gould commented that the line in the song that that mixes compassion-“I look at your all, see the love there that’s sleeping” eventually leads Harrison back to his favorite spot at “the sickbed of suffering humanity.”
Gould says that the warmth of his singing offsets the deficiencies of the lyric.
George laments that “love is sleeping.” We haven’t yet awakened to love, or perhaps, we’ve lost the consciousness of how to love. Nobody taught us how to unfold our love because we’re being manipulated by those who profit at our shallowness; he claims we’re controlled by anonymous powers by whom we’ve been “bought and sold.” Being thus controlled, our values will take us in the wrong direction.
On a philosophical level, the song tells us that “with every mistake we must be learning.” We will make mistakes, and we continue to fall into the average and conventional standards of inauthenticity. However, whether or not we accept the burden, we are ultimately responsible for forging our own authentic existence.
The only thing the narrator has to fix the world with is his guitar- but even that is reduced to nothing more than a “gentle weep.” The Beatles find us falling, but they keep singing with the hope of reaching us.
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