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"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is a song written by George Harrison, first recorded by the Beatles in 1968 for theireponymous double album (also known as "the White Album"). The song features lead guitar by Eric Clapton, although he was not formally credited on the album.[3][4]

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is ranked at number 136 on Rolling Stone‍ '​s "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time", number 7 on the magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time, and number 10 on its list of The Beatles 100 Greatest Songs.[5][6][7][8] In an online poll held by Guitar World magazine in February 2012, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was voted the best of Harrison's Beatle-era songs.[9] In October 2008, Guitar World ranked Clapton's playing at number 42 in its list of the "100 Greatest Guitar Solos".[10]

Composition and recordingEdit

Inspiration for the song came to Harrison when reading the I Ching, which, as Harrison put it, "seemed to me to be based on the Eastern concept that everything is relative to everything else... opposed to the Western view that things are merely coincidental."[11] Taking this idea of relativism to his parents’ home in northern England, Harrison committed to write a song based on the first words he saw upon opening a random book. Those words were “gently weeps”, and he immediately began writing the song. As he said:

"I wrote "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at my mother's house in Warrington. I was thinking about the Chinese I Ching, the Book of Changes... The Eastern concept is that whatever happens is all meant to be, and that there's no such thing ascoincidence — every little item that's going down has a purpose.

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was a simple study based on that theory. I decided to write a song based on the first thing I saw upon opening any book — as it would be relative to that moment, at that time. I picked up a book at random, opened it, saw 'gently weeps', then laid the book down again and started the song."[12]

The initial incarnation was not final, as Harrison said: "Some of the words to the song were changed before I finally recorded it.” A demo recorded at George's home inEsher includes an unused verse:

I look at the trouble and see that it's raging,
While my guitar gently weeps.
As I'm sitting here, doing nothing but ageing,
Still, my guitar gently weeps.

As well as an unused line in the very beginning:

The problems you sow, are the troubles you're reaping,
Still, my guitar gently weeps.

This line was eventually omitted in favour of the one appearing on The Beatles.

An early acoustic guitar and organ demo of the song featured 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,
Still, my guitar gently weeps.

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.[13][14]

The band recorded the song several times. Take 1 on 25 July 1968 involved Harrison on his Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar and an overdubbed harmonium.[15] Sessions on 16 August and 3 and 5 September included a version with a backward (or "backmasked") guitar solo[1] (as Harrison had done for "I'm Only Sleeping" on Revolver[16]), but Harrison was not satisfied.[1] On 6 September 1968, during a ride from Surrey into London, Harrison asked friend Eric Clapton to contribute lead guitar to the song. Clapton was reluctant; he said, "Nobody ever plays on the Beatles' records"; but Harrison convinced him and Clapton's guitar parts, using Harrison's Gibson Les Paul electric guitar "Lucy" (a recent gift from Clapton), were recorded that evening.[4] Harrison later said that in addition to his contribution, Clapton's presence had another effect on the band: "It made them all try a bit harder; they were all on their best behaviour."[4] Clapton wanted a more "Beatley" sound, so the sound was run through an ADT circuit with "varispeed", with engineer Chris Thomas manually 'waggling' the oscillator: "apparently Eric said that he didn't want it to sound like him. So I was just sitting there wobbling the thing, they wanted it really extreme, so that's what I did."

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was one of three songs on The Beatles that Paul McCartney experimented with the Fender Jazz Bass (the others being "Glass Onion" and "Yer Blues") instead of his Hofner and Rickenbacker basses.[17] According to Walter Everett's book The Beatles as Musicians, John Lennon's electric guitar is only audible in the coda with the tremolo switched on.

Musical structureEdit

The song is in Am, with a shift to a ♭7 (Am/G) on "all" (bass note G) and a 6 (D9 (major 3rd F#)) after "love" (bass note F#) to a ♭6 (Fmaj7) on "sleeping" (bass note F). This 8-♭7-6-♭6 progression has been described as an Aeolian/Dorian hybrid.[18] Everett notes that the change from the minor mode verse (A-B) to the parallel major for the bridge might express hope that "unrealized potential" described in the lyrics is to be "fulfilled," but that the continued minor triads (III, VI and II) "seem to express a strong dismay that love is not to be unfolded."[15] Clapton's guitar contribution has been described as making this a "monumental" track; particularly notable features include the increasing lengths of thrice-heard first scale degrees (0.17-0.19), the restraint showed by rests in many bars then unexpected appearances (as at 0.28-0.29), commanding turnaround phrases (0.31-0.33), expressive string bends marking modal changes from C to C# (0.47-0.53), power retransition (1.21-1.24), emotive vibrato (2.01-2.07), and a solo (1.55-2.31) with a "measured rise in intensity, rhythmic activity, tonal drive and registral climb." [19]

PersonnelEdit

Personnel per Ian MacDonald[20]

Anthology 3 version

  • George Harrison - vocals, acoustic guitar
  • Paul McCartney - organ

PerformancesEdit

On The Concert for Bangladesh, Clapton performed the song on a Gibson Byrdland hollow body guitar, and later acknowledged that a solid-body guitar would have been more appropriate.[21] The version in the Prince’s Trust Rock Concert 1987 (released on DVD by Panorama) reunited Harrison, Starr and Clapton, and features an extended coda with the guitars of Harrison and Clapton interweaving. Mark King (of Level 42) played McCartney's bass line. On their 1991 tour of Japan, Harrison and Clapton performed a live version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" with additional background vocals. An edit combining parts of the 14 December and 17 December Tokyo performances of the song is included on the album Live in Japan.[22]

On 3 June 2002, within the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II concert at Buckingham Palace GardenPaul McCartney performed the song with Clapton, as a tribute toGeorge Harrison who had died the year before. They were introduced by George Martin. The performance appears on the DVD release Party at the Palace. On 29 November the same year, McCartney, Starr, Dhani HarrisonJeff LynneMarc Mann, and Clapton performed "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at the Concert for George in memory of Harrison. This version featured Clapton singing the lead vocal and playing his original guitar solo while McCartney provided background vocals and piano; Mann played Clapton's original fills during the verses.

In 2004, Harrison was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was played in tribute by Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve WinwoodScott ThurstonSteve Ferrone, Marc Mann, and Dhani Harrison, and concluding with a memorable guitar solo by fellow inductee Prince. Prince claims he had heard the song for the first time just that morning of the show.[citation needed]

Cover versionsEdit

  • A cover was recorded by Kenny Rankin on The Kenny Rankin Album in 1976.
  • In Episode 419 of The Muppet Show the song is covered by muppet guitarist Floyd Pepper, voiced by Jerry Nelson in 1979.
  • American guitar virtuoso Vinnie Moore covered the song on his 1988 sophomore solo album Time Odyssey.
  • In 1990 Canadian musician Jeff Healey recorded a cover version of this song that was released on his 1990 CD Hell To Pay. Healey's version of this song featured George Harrison and Jeff Lynne on backing vocals and acoustic guitar.
  • The smooth jazz band The Rippingtons covered the song on their album Brave New World in 1996.
  • The alternative metal band Spineshank covered the song on their album Strictly Diesel in 1998.
  • American band Toto covered the song on their 2002 album Through The Looking Glass.
  • Todd Rundgren leads off the 2003 CD Songs From the Material World: A Tribute to George Harrison with a cover of the song.
  • A cover was recorded by rock guitarist Peter Frampton on his album Now in 2003.
  • Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time by Santana, released on 21 September 2010, included a version of the song featuring India.Arie & Yo-Yo Ma.
  • A cover was played by ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro and beatboxer Jason Tom in 2004.
  • A cover was filmed at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame featuring PrinceTom PettySteve Winwood, Jeff Lynne and others.
  • In 2006 South African singer/guitarist Dan Patlansky and the Mississippi Muthers released a version on their album "Standing at the Station".[23]
  • An interpolation of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" called "The Heart Gently Weeps" was on Wu-Tang Clan's 2007 album 8 Diagrams and features rhythm guitar and percussion input from George Harrison's son Dhani Harrison.
  • The ensemble Virgin Passages recorded a cover version for Mojo Magazine's 2008 tribute album Mojo presents The White Album Recovered No. 0000001, issued with the September, 2008 edition of Mojo.
  • The band Girl in a Coma recorded a cover version for their 2010 album Adventures in Coverland.
  • A cover was recorded by Karen Mok in 2013 in her album.
  • Parody band Beatallica has performed the song live, merging it with the Metallica's "Creeping Death" to create "While My Guitar Deathly Creeps". This mashup has not appeared in any of the band's studio albums. This entry is not dated because while a recording confirms the performance exists the date cannot be reliably confirmed.
  • Toots and the Maytals guitarist Carl Harvey released a cover in 2013 on an EP of the same title.
  • Catalan artists Toni Xuclà, Izah and Cordes del món recorded a Catalan version "Mentre la guitarra plora amb mi" in 2014

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