Harrison was a musician. In fact, the court did presume that knowledge in the case of Billy Preston, the R&B singer who collaborated with Harrison on the song and actually recorded a version of the song which was engineered by Harrison.
If you listen to the two songs (the Columbia law library music plagiarism project has a great side by side comparison of the two songs and a great analysis of the case Click Here ) in their recorded format it is extremely hard to understand how the two songs are considered "identical" as the court asserts. Gutmann, no doubt fall into this category as espoused by the following statement "[i]t seems impossible to mistake the Chiffon’s teen-angst doo-wop . . . for Harrisons’s religious meditation." In general, I agree with Gutmann’s assertion that the songs do not sound alike at all. However, I think that Gutmann is a bit too quick to disregard the courtts findings based on several factors that are unique to the case. Most importantly, I think Gutmann misses one key component- the fact that the court was examining the written sheet music only and not the recordings or lyrics of the two songs. Considering this fact, I think there are some factors in the Harrisongs case that can explain the court’s decision other than the use of copious amounts of illegal substances.
First, you have to understand that George Harrison was a guitar player who didn’t have any format music training. Guitar players for the most part do not read sheet music and correspondingly do not compose songs using musical notation. Harrison’s own recount of how the song was created supports this theory, as he recounted that it essentially was created while Harrison was vamping on some chords and then improvised lyrics over it at an informal jam session prior to an interview. It was only after the song was recorded that Harrison hired another musician to transcribe the recorded song into sheet music notation. Therefore, the music notation is not always an exact replica of what is actually going on in a song. The person transcribing the music makes their best attempts to capture the essence of the recording. Secondly, when comparing the two songs, the court listened to the works played on a piano and reviewed the sheet music to the two songs and not the songs as they were originally recorded. Therefore, when doing the comparison, the court was working from basically two "summaries" of the songs. If you listed to the Chiffon’s song, this becomes apparent as the song is actually quite busy and takes some effort to actually hear the chord progression (or melody). However, quite possibly the most compelling aspect as far as the court was concerned, was how the two basic chord motifs were arranged. In both songs the first motif is used four times followed by the second motif being used four times in one instance, and three times in the other. Additionally, a grace note appears in the Harrison version of My Sweet Lord (as opposed to the Billy Preston version) and in He’s so fine. The occurance of nearly the exact song structure and the presence of the same grace note was compelling enough to convince the trial and appellate courts that the songs were
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