There’s no denying that George Harrison was the most talented member of the Beatles. Everyone has their favorites, but there’s no denying that Harrison’s compositions are some of the most well-crafted additions to the Beatles’ huge catalog of material. This is further emphasized by his offerings presented within his solo career. Although I haven’t listened to much of his solo works besides his most renown singles and his acclaimed 1970 album All Things Must Pass, there’s no denying that he truly was something special. Even within singles as diverse as the calm, contemplative “My Sweet Lord” and the bouncy “Got My Mind Set on You” solidify his stance as one of the truly great songwriters and musicians to come out of the Western music industry’s most thriving time.
In any case, it’s pretty easy to say that George Harrison is a man who warrants no necessary introduction. This makes it all the more easier to fully delve into the song in question today! “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)” is the opening track and lead single from Harrison’s 1973 album Living in the Material World. After “My Sweet Lord”, it became Harrison’s second single to reach #1 on the American charts; interestingly enough, it knocked Paul McCartney & Wings’s “My Love” off the top spot in doing so, making this the only occasion that two former Beatles held the top two spots. The writing and recording of this song lies parallel with Harrison’s heightened devotion to Hindu spirituality and continued philanthropy in South Asian countries in war or peril. It continues the path cemented by “My Sweet Lord” of Harrison’s fusion of Hindu devotional music with that of Western religious tradition. Also like “My Sweet Lord”, the lyrics here are relatively sparse and simple (“Give me love / Give me peace on earth / Give me light / Give me life/ Keep me free from birth”), with only the repetition of a single verse and a single bridge making up the bulk of the track’s content.
From the title of the song, one could understandably assume that this would fall into tradition of a protest folk song, perhaps one from the likes of Pete Seeger or Woody Guthrie. However, lines like “Help me cope with this heavy load… reach you with heart and soul” indicate this to be more of an interpersonal, spiritual longing, rather than a social justice call. The lyrics here aren’t particularly on par with the aching poignancy of “My Sweet Lord”, but they do come pretty close at points, especially when Harrison emits those wordless moans that punctuate his melodies. Musically, this avidly demonstrates his penchant for slide guitar lines, and there’s quite a few great moments of that here. Perhaps more under-appreciated, however, is Nicky Hopkin’s piano work which complements the emotion behind Harrison’s guitar and vocal delivery quite well.
Overall, this is quite a powerful, understated little song that is definitely a warm welcome atop the Billboard charts. I will say, though, that unlike “My Sweet Lord”, multiple listens of this track don’t really result in a deeper understanding of the song itself. While the simplicity of “My Sweet Lord” garners deeper meanings about one’s place in the world and the placement of spirituality in one’s life, “Give Me Love” sounds like its riding off of the atmosphere that the previous single had set up, without much more development than had already been established. Nonetheless, that’s not to say that it isn’t at all an enjoyable listen. For what it’s worth, listening to this makes me all the more sure that Harrison was and always will be the most talented Beatle.