Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)
|"Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)"|
French picture sleeve
|Single by George Harrison|
|from the album
Living in the Material World
|Released||7 May 1973|
|Genre||Folk rock, gospel|
|George Harrison singles chronology|
"Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)" is a song by English musician George Harrison and the opening track of his 1973 album Living in the Material World. It was released as the lead single from the album in May that year and became Harrison's second US number 1, after "My Sweet Lord". In doing so, the song demoted Paul McCartney & Wings' "My Love" from the top of the Billboard Hot 100, marking the only occasion that two former Beatles held the top two chart positions in America. The single also reached the top ten in Britain and Canada, and in other singles charts around the world.
"Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)" is one of Harrison's most popular songs, among fans and music critics, and features a series of much-praised slide-guitar solos from Harrison. The recording signalled a deliberate departure from his earlier post-Beatles work, in the scaling down of the big sound synonymous with All Things Must Pass and his other collaborations with co-producer Phil Spector over 1970–71. The musicians on the recording include Nicky Hopkins, Jim Keltner, Klaus Voormann and Gary Wright. In his lyrics, Harrison sings of his desire to be free of karma and the constant cycle of rebirth; he later described the song as "a prayer and personal statement between me, the Lord, and whoever likes it".
Harrison performed "Give Me Love" at every concert during his rare tours as a solo artist, and a live version was included on his 1992 album Live in Japan. The original studio recording appears on the compilation albums The Best of George Harrison (1976) and Let It Roll: Songs by George Harrison (2009). At the Concert for George tribute to Harrison in November 2002, Jeff Lynne performed "Give Me Love", with Andy Fairweather-Low and Marc Mann playing the twin slide-guitar parts. Marisa Monte, Dave Davies, Elliott Smith, Ron Sexsmith, Sting, James Taylor and Elton John are among the other artists who have covered the song.
Background and composition
When discussing how he wrote "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)", George Harrison states in his 1980 autobiography, I, Me, Mine: "Sometimes you open your mouth and you don't know what you are going to say, and whatever comes out is the starting point. If that happens and you are lucky, it can usually be turned into a song. This song is a prayer and personal statement between me, the Lord, and whoever likes it."
"Give Me Love" continued the precedent set by Harrison in his 1970 single "My Sweet Lord", where he blended the Hindu bhajan with Western gospel tradition, and the song repeats another Harrison hit formula by using a three-syllable lyrical hook as its title, like "My Sweet Lord", "What Is Life" and "Bangla Desh". In a further similarity with those earlier songs, he wrote "Give Me Love" very quickly; Harrison biographer Alan Clayson describes it as having "flowed from George with an ease as devoid of ante-start agonies as a Yoko Ono 'think piece'".
Harrison had embraced the theme of karma and reincarnation in the songs "Run of the Mill" and "Art of Dying", both released on his 1970 triple album All Things Must Pass. With "Give Me Love", the "starting point" that Harrison refers to in I, Me, Mine led to a statement expressing the singer's vision for life in the physical world, a life devoid of the karmic burden of rebirth, or reincarnation:
Give me love, give me love, give me peace on earth
Give me light, give me life, keep me free from birth
Give me hope, help me cope with this heavy load
Trying to touch and reach you with heart and soul.
These chorus lyrics bear a simple, universal message, one that, in the context of the time, related as much to the communal "peace and love" idealism of the 1960s as it did Harrison's personal spiritual quest.[nb 1] The lyrics also imply a deficiency or unfulfilment on Harrison's part – "an acknowledgment of the trials and tribulations he was facing in a more earthly setting", author Ian Inglis suggests. Harrison's musical biographer, Simon Leng, has written of his failing marriage to Pattie Boyd during this period, as well as a possible spiritual "crisis" in reaction to both the acclaim he had received as a solo artist since the Beatles' break-up and the frustrations associated with his aid project for the refugees of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan).
During the two bridge sections in "Give Me Love", Harrison subtly blends the sacred term "Om" in the drawn-out phrase "Oh ... my Lord". Joshua Greene describes this as an example of a theme found in a number of songs on the Living in the Material World album, where spiritual concepts were "distilled" into phrases "so elegant they resembled Vedic sutras: short codes that contain volumes of meaning". The use of the word "Om" was a further commentary from Harrison on the universality of faith, following on from his switch from "hallelujah" chorus to the Hare Krishna mantra in "My Sweet Lord".
Harrison's commitment to overseeing the release of the Concert for Bangladesh album and film prevented him from being able to start on the follow-up to All Things Must Pass until midway through 1972. Another delay was caused by producer Phil Spector's unreliability, as Harrison waited for him to turn up for the start of the sessions. Beatles author Bruce Spizer writes that "the eccentric producer's erratic attendance caused George to realize the project would never get done if he kept waiting for Spector", and by October that year, Harrison had decided to produce the album alone.
As for the majority of Living in the Material World, Harrison recorded the basic track for "Give Me Love" in the autumn of 1972 with the assistance of former Beatles engineer Phil McDonald. The recording location was either FPSHOT, Harrison's new home studio at Friar Park in Henley-on-Thames, or Apple Studio in London. In a departure from previous Harrison solo hits, where a line-up of ten or more musicians was standard, "Give Me Love" featured a pared-down arrangement and more subtle instrumentation. Another contrast was Harrison's adoption of a production style that some commentators have likened to George Martin's work with the Beatles. On "Give Me Love", Inglis notes the same "supple and clear guitar-playing that distinguished 'Here Comes the Sun'" in 1969. Harrison carried out overdubs on the backing track, including his twin slide guitar parts, during the first two months of 1973. According to Beatles Diary compiler Keith Badman, an alternative version of "Give Me Love" exists, which Harrison gave to BBC Radio 1 DJ Alan Freeman for promotional purposes.
The song begins with Harrison's strummed acoustic guitar, similar to the opening of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man", before the arrival of what music critic David Fricke terms the "beaming harmony of doubled slide [guitar]". Aside from Harrison's guitar work, the most prominent instrument on the recording is Nicky Hopkins' piano, double-tracked and played in that musician's usual melodic style. The rhythm section comprises bassist Klaus Voormann and drummer Jim Keltner, the last of whose contribution fully arrives only after the first bridge, creating a rhythm that Harrison biographer Gary Tillery terms "bouncy yet soothing". The organ player on the song was American musician Gary Wright, whose 1971 album Footprint was one of many musical projects in which Harrison was involved between All Things Must Pass and Material World.[nb 2] Peter Lavezzoli, author of The Dawn of Indian Music in the West, notes how quickly Harrison's "unique approach" to slide-guitar playing had matured since 1970, to incorporate sitar, veena and other Hindustani musical stylings, and rates the mid-song solo on "Give Me Love" as "one of his most intricate and melodic".
The release of Living in the Material World was further delayed to allow for other albums on Apple Records' busy release schedule for the first half of 1973: the Beatles' compilations 1962–1966 and 1967–1970, and Paul McCartney & Wings' second album, Red Rose Speedway. In the ensuing years since All Things Must Pass, according to author Robert Rodriguez, the public bickering between John Lennon and McCartney and their "subpar" music had done much to diminish the "cachet of being an ex-Beatle". In his 1977 book The Beatles Forever, Nicholas Schaffner wrote that, because of the "magnanimous" Bangladesh project compared to the twin "fiascos" of McCartney's Wild Life album and the Lennon–Ono collaboration Some Time in New York City, Harrison's new songs were "guaranteed" a receptive audience.
Backed by "Miss O'Dell", "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)" was issued as a single on 7 May 1973 in America (as Apple R 5988) and 25 May in Britain (Apple 1862). Three weeks later, the song appeared as the opening track on the long-awaited Living in the Material World. Apple's US distributor, Capitol Records, mastered the single to run at a faster speed than the album track, in order to make the song sound brighter on the radio, Spizer suggests.[nb 3] As with all the songs on the album bar the 1971-copyright "Sue Me, Sue You Blues" and "Try Some, Buy Some", Harrison assigned his publishing royalties for "Give Me Love" to the newly launched Material World Charitable Foundation. Unusually for an Apple release by a former Beatle, the single came packaged in a plain sleeve in the main markets of Britain and the United States. A variety of picture sleeves were available in European countries, including a design incorporating Harrison's signature and a red Om symbol, both of which were aspects of Tom Wilkes's artwork for the Material World album.
US chart feat
The single topped the Billboard Hot 100 at the end of June (for one week) and peaked at number 8 on the UK Singles Chart. Repeating the feat of January 1971, when "My Sweet Lord" and All Things Must Pass sat atop the Billboard charts simultaneously, "Give Me Love" hit number 1 part-way through Material World 's five-week stay at the top of the albums listings.
"Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)" replaced Wings' "My Love" at number 1 on the Hot 100 singles chart, and in turn was replaced by "Will It Go Round in Circles", by Harrison's former Apple Records protégé Billy Preston. For the week ending 30 June that year, the Harrison, McCartney and Preston songs were ranked numbers 1, 2 and 3, respectively, on the Billboard Hot 100, marking the first time since 25 April 1964 that the Beatles occupied the top two positions on that chart. Schaffner described this period as "reminiscent of the golden age of Beatlemania", due to the amount of Beatles-related product dominating the charts in America.[nb 4] As of October 2013, the week of 30 June 1973 remained the only time that two former members of the Beatles held the first and second positions on a US singles chart.
"Give Me Love" later appeared on the 1976 compilation The Best of George Harrison, as one of just six selections from the artist's solo career. The song was also included on 2009's Let It Roll: Songs by George Harrison, in the liner notes for which music historian Warren Zanes recalls of the single's original release: "['Give Me Love'] was an anomaly, quite like anything around it. The song crystallized George's vision."
In Martin Scorsese's 2011 documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World, released ten years after Harrison's death, the song plays over footage of the Friar Park grounds and of Harrison making music in the house with Keltner and Voormann. During the segment, Voormann discusses Harrison's practice of preparing the studio with incense to create a suitable environment, adding: "He really made it into a real tranquil, nice surrounding – everybody felt just great."
"Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)" became one of Harrison's most popular songs, both from his years with the Beatles and from his subsequent solo career. On release, McCartney described it as "very nice", adding: "The guitar solo is ace and I like the time changes." Billboard magazine's reviewer wrote: "Harrison's voice and sweet, country tinged guitar work within a rippling but controlled rhythm base, lends itself to this plea for human understanding. His sincere sound engulfs the listener and brings [them] into the story." In Rolling Stone, Stephen Holden lauded the song for its "strong, short-phrased melody whose lyrics are sheer exhortation", and declared the single "every bit as good as 'My Sweet Lord'".
In Britain, where the national economy was heading into recession after the boom years of the 1960s, lines such as "help me cope with this heavy load" "touched a raw nerve or two", Alan Clayson writes. In the NME, Tony Tyler derided Harrison for "lay[ing] the entire Krishna-the-Goat trip on us", while Michael Watts of Melody Maker suggested that "Living in the Material World" would have been a better choice for the album's lead single. Writing in their 1975 book The Beatles: An Illustrated Record, Tyler and Roy Carr opined that "Give Me Love" bore "more than a distant resemblance" to Dylan's "I Want You", but praised the track for its "excellent and highly idiosyncratic slide-guitar playing".
More recently, AllMusic's Lindsay Planer has been another to highlight Harrison's guitar contribution to this "serene rocker", and likewise acknowledges Hopkins' "warm and soulful keyboard runs and fills". Zeth Lundy of PopMatters describes "Give Me Love" as "effervescent" and "a #1 single that remains one of Harrison's most iconic and well-loved". In his liner notes to the Let It Roll compilation, Warren Zanes views "Give Me Love" as "perhaps the best example" of how Harrison's "post-Beatles songwriting blurs the line between music and prayer without ever sacrificing the pure melodic force for which he was known". Writing in the 2004 Rolling Stone Album Guide, Mac Randall described the tune as one of "Harrison's prettiest". Mojo contributor John Harris cites "Give Me Love" as evidence of Material World 's standing as "something of a Hindu concept album … a pleasing fusion of Eastern religion, gospel, and the ghost of 'For You Blue'".
Among Harrison and Beatles biographers, Elliot Huntley attributes the success of this "heartfelt plea for love and peace" partly to its "irresistibly catchy chorus", while Robert Rodriguez identifies Harrison's achievement in "cloak[ing] philosophical concerns in a thoroughly commercial package", which included his "impossibly compelling slide work". In his book on Harrison's musical career, Simon Leng finds more superlatives for the song's guitar lines, which he describes as "almost too euphonious to be true". Leng continues: "Living in the Material World could hardly have reveled in a stronger opening song ... A gorgeous ballad, awash with marvelously expressive guitar statements, 'Give Me Love' retains the emotional power of All Things Must Pass in a compelling three minutes."
Writing in Still the Greatest: The Essential Solo Beatles Songs, author Andrew Grant Jackson considers that with "Give Me Love", Harrison "captured the essence of what he had set out to do with the [Bangladesh] concerts – and what the Beatles had tried to do in their more idealistic moments". Describing it as Harrison's "finest plea to God", Jackson adds: "'Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)' stands alongside 'All You Need Is Love,' 'Let It Be,' and 'Imagine' as the purest expression of the Aquarian Age dream."
In the Concert for George documentary film (2003), Eric Clapton names "Give Me Love" as one of his favourite Harrison compositions, along with "Isn't It a Pity". AOL Radio listeners voted "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)" fifth in a 2010 poll to find George Harrison's best post-Beatles songs, while Michael Gallucci of Ultimate Classic Rock placed it fourth on a similar list that he compiled. David Fricke includes the song in his list of "25 essential Harrison performances" for Rolling Stone magazine, and describes it as "a soft, intimate hymn, a small-combo reaction to the Wagnerian spectacle of All Things Must Pass".
Harrison performed "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)" throughout both his 1974 North American tour with Ravi Shankar and his 1991 Japanese tour with Eric Clapton, and during his 1992 benefit show for the Natural Law Party. The latter took place at London's Royal Albert Hall on 6 April that year and was Harrison's only full concert as a solo artist in Britain.
In the 1974 shows, the song usually appeared midway through the set and featured Billy Preston's synthesizer and a flute solo from Tom Scott instead of the familiar slide-guitar breaks. Although widely bootlegged, no version of the song from this tour has been released officially.
Live in Japan version
The Japanese tour in December 1991 was Harrison's only other tour as a solo artist. His 1992 album Live in Japan contains a version of "Give Me Love" from this tour, recorded at Tokyo Dome on 15 December 1991. Harrison again delegated the solos to a fellow musician: in this case Andy Fairweather-Low reproduced the slide-guitar parts from the original studio recording. Ian Inglis notes the "impressive interplay", particularly towards the end of the song, between Harrison and his backup singers, Tessa Niles and Katie Kissoon.
This live version of "Give Me Love", along with the accompanying concert footage, was subsequently included in the Living in the Material World reissue in September 2006, as part of a deluxe CD/DVD package. The performance also appears on the DVD included in the eight-disc Apple Years 1968–75 box set, released in September 2014.
Lindsay Planer writes that two covers of the song "worth noting" are a version by Bob Koenig, issued on his Prose & Icons album in 1996, and one by Brazilian singer Marisa Monte from the same year. Monte's version appeared on her album Barulhinho Bom, later released in English-speaking countries as A Great Noise. In 1998, "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)" was one of a number of Harrison songs that composers Steve Wood and Daniel May adapted for their soundtrack to the documentary film Everest; part of the piece "The Journey Begins" incorporates "Give Me Love".[nb 5]
Artists other than Harrison who have performed the song live include Elliott Smith and, in April 2002, Sting, James Taylor and Elton John. These three musicians played "Give Me Love" as part of a tribute to Harrison, six months after his death, during the Rock for the Rainforest benefit concert, held at Carnegie Hall in New York City. In what Planer describes as a "stirring reading", Jeff Lynne performed the song at the Concert for George on 29 November 2002, exactly a year after Harrison's death. Lynne was supported by a band comprising Harrison's friends and musical associates, including Clapton, Fairweather-Low, Marc Mann, Keltner, Dhani Harrison, Niles and Kissoon.
Dave Davies of the Kinks contributed a version of "Give Me Love" to the compilation Songs From the Material World: A Tribute to George Harrison in 2003, and later issued the recording on his album Kinked (2006). In 2010, Broadway actress Sherie Rene Scott featured "Give Me Love" in her autobiographical musical Everyday Rapture as the show's final number. Canadian singer Ron Sexsmith has included the song in his live performances; a version by him appeared on Harrison Covered, a tribute CD accompanying the November 2011 issue of Mojo magazine.
- George Harrison – vocals, acoustic guitars, slide guitars, backing vocals
- Nicky Hopkins – pianos
- Gary Wright – organ
- Klaus Voormann – bass
- Jim Keltner – drums
Weekly singles charts