The song topped the Billboard chart on this day in 1971, giving Harrison his biggest hit after the breakup of the Fab Four. But how anyone could rule the song was a rip-off of the 1963 Chiffons' hit "He's So Fine" is a bit of a head-scratcher.
Bright Tunes, which owned "He's So Fine," reportedly earned $587,000 in a judgment declaring that Harrison had subconsciously plagiarized the song. If you hear both songs I'm not sure how you could ever reach that conclusion. There is the familiar three-word hook of the song titles, but nothing else to suggest that Harrison lifted the song or melody -- subconsciously or otherwise. There must be thousands of recorded songs that have at least some minor similarity to other published works.
No telling what the lawyers made on this one. And now that we know we can get in trouble for subconscious lifting, I'm surprised there aren't more of these suits flying around. I'm not a published songwriter, so I encourage those of you who are to weigh in (Chuck, where are you???)
If anything, "My Sweet Lord" sounds more eerily similar in both lyrical tune and spiritual tone to the Staples Singers' "Oh Happy Day." Harrison said as much in describing his inspiration for "My Sweet Lord."