Did George Harrison really plagiarize “My Sweet Lord”?

Dear Cecil:

Would you briefly summarize George Harrison's dilemma with his song, "My Sweet Lord," the tune which he supposedly plagiarized? I find it hard to believe that any well-known artist would intentionally lift a song.

Cecil replies:

Actually, Richard Owen, the U.S. District Court judge who found Harrison liable for copyright infringement in September, 1976, also found it hard to believe that a well-known artist would lift a song (particularly that one). While allowing an uncanny resemblance between “My Sweet Lord” and the 1963 Chiffons hit, “He’s So Fine” (written by the group’s manager, Ronald Mack), Judge Owen– apparently gifted with psychic powers–delved into the mysteries of Harrison’s mind to conclude that the theft had been inadvertent. “His subconscious knew that song had worked out,” Owen said, “but his conscious mind did not remember.”

Ordered to pay $587,000, Harrison remarked, “It’s a pain in the neck,” adding that the lawyer who brought suit against him was “a sneak, who saw money pouring out of the sky.” No doubt, but most of us drool at the thought of having a $587,000 haircut merely rate as a pain.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

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