‘This Song’: George Harrison playfully satirises his plagiarism case

The plagiarism case that George Harrison endured for ‘My Sweet Lord’ was unique. Not only was it challenging to detect any sense of intentional plagiarism regardless of whether it was actually there, but it was ruled in the end that he did do it, albeit “subconsciously”. Legal quandaries have permeated the music industry since the dawn of time, but it seems perhaps less likely for a formal Beatle to get caught in the crosshairs.

Although many were quick to defend the musician, calling the similarities between Harrison’s hit and The Chiffons’ 1963 track ‘He’s So Fine’ somewhat of a stretch, his former bandmate John Lennon wasn’t as quick to jump to his defence. In fact, he directly called him out, claiming that he “knew what he was doing” and that he “walked right into it”.

The saga would be drawn out for nearly two decades, but Harrison managed to get his thoughts and feelings out in various ways over the years. Discussing the matter with Rolling Stone, he said: “It’s difficult to just start writing again after you’ve been through that. Even now, when I put the radio on, every tune I hear sounds like something else.”

However, the singer’s musings would be put to paper much earlier in 1976 on the track ‘This Song’, which saw the singer navigating the plagiarism claim in a considerably on-the-nose matter. For instance, suggestive lyrics are peppered throughout, including the playful line “My expert tells me it’s OK” along with a mention of Bright Tunes Music, the company that proceeded to sue Harrison.

His tongue-in-cheek approach is something Harrison sets straight from the outset, the initial verse ensuring the listener knows “there’s nothing tricky” about the song because it’s not “black or white” and you can’t “infringe on anyone’s copyright”. He also alludes to the track existing for the sole purpose of poking fun at the entire situation rather than attempting to “win gold medals”.

Clearly, his driving force for this was to showcase his amusement and frustrations rather than any financial or public gain. He didn’t stop there, either. The music video depicts Harrison in a courtroom, attempting to make his case before the entire scenario erupts into a chaotic circus as a metaphor for what the musician had to endure in real life.

Regardless of whether he intended to or not, Lennon maintained that Harrison knew he was copying The Chiffons. In his view, Harrison’s downfall in this situation was laziness; while Lennon consciously altered music and lyrics so that he wouldn’t have any issues with copyright suits, Harrison feigned ignorance in the hopes that he would never be caught out. “Maybe he thought God would just sort of let him off,” Lennon said, but who knows? Perhaps Harrison genuinely didn’t think he had done anything wrong.

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