A Profile of the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun"

The Beatles Holding Medals
The Beatles display the medals they were awarded when Queen Elizabeth granted them membership in the Order of the British Empire at Buckingham Palace. From left to right: Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon, and Ringo Starr. Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

In early 1969, the Beatles were embroiled in several economic disputes -- their Apple enterprises, set up to ease their tax burden, were hemorrhaging money, and the band was belatedly discovering that EMI hadn't paid them what they were worth for all those years of Beatlemania. To make matters worse, the band was split on who should save the group's finances: Paul thought his father-in-law, entertainment lawyer John Eastman, should get the nod, while John was keen on rock manager Allen Klein, who had literally turned the Rolling Stones' and fortunes around. An endless series of business negotiations followed.

One day, perhaps as early as April '69, George Harrison decided simply not to show up for one of these meetings. Likening it later to "playing hookey" or "sagging off" from school, he instead visited the Surrey, England home of his friend Eric Clapton. There, while wandering around the garden with one of Eric's guitars, the sun came out for the first time that spring. Seeing it as a good omen, Harrison wrote "Here Comes The Sun" on the spot.

The recording of the song, which came to symbolize George's eventual freedom from the group, was almost a solo endeavor. Paul and Ringo did lay down a rhythm track along with Harrison's acoustic on July 7, and Paul helped George with vocals the next day, but thereafter, most of the work was done by George. On the 16th, he added handclaps (heard during the instrumental bridge) and harmonium (heard most prominently during the bridge and in the last verse). More acoustic guitars were laid down on August 6 and 11, and George Martin arranged and recorded the tasteful strings and wind instruments on the 15th. Finally, on August 19th, rushing to complete the album for master, Harrison added the Moog, which can be best heard in the intro and bridge.

Fast Facts

Written by: George Harrison
Recorded: July 7, 8, and 16, August 6, 11, 15, and 19, 1969 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: July 8, August 4 and 19, 1969
Length: 3:04
Takes: 15


Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass guitar (1964 Rickenbacker 400IS)
George Harrison: harmony vocals, rhythm guitars (1968 Gibson J-200), synthesizer (1968 Moog IIIP), harmonium, handclaps)
Ringo Starr: drums (1968 Ludwig Hollywood Maple)
Unknown: violas (4), cellos (4), double bass, piccolos (2), flutes (2), alto flutes (2), clarinets (2)

Available on: 

  • "Abbey Road" (UK: Apple PCS 7088; US: Apple SO 383; Parlophone CDP 7 46446 2)
  • "The Beatles 1967-1970" (UK: Apple PCSP 718, US: Apple SKBO 3404, Apple CDP 0777 7 97039 2 0)

Song Trivia

  • This song was played by George in A, with a capo on the 7th fret. It's surely one of the group's more rhythmically complex offerings: the bridge, for example, features measures of 11/8, 4/4, and then 7/8 time!
  • Although a mono mix was reported to have been made, it has never surfaced. The final stereo mix is sped up slightly, which contributes to the "wobbling" sound of the Moog.
  • George performed this song live on numerous occasions: at the all-star Concert For Bangla Desh benefit in 1971, as a gentle duet with Paul Simon on "Saturday Night Live" in 1976, during the 1987 Prince's Trust Rock Gala Concert (with Ringo!), as part of a medley in the studios of the nationally syndicated radio show "Rockline" in 1988, during his '91 tour of Japan, and for the last time during a one-off concert at London's Royal Albert Hall in 1992.
  • Noted astronomer Carl Sagan lobbied to have this song included on the record sent out with the Voyager spacecraft in 1977, a record meant to provide other life forms with a sample of Earth culture. Sadly, EMI refused permission.
  • The song has been covered by: Richie Havens, The Bee Gees, Belle and Sebastian, Joe Brown, Colbie Caillat, George Benson, Dan Fogelberg, Nina Simone, Nick Cave, Chuck Leavell, Laurence Juber, Sharon Forrester, Gordon Giltrap, We Five, Denny Doherty, Hugo Montenegro, Riot, Sergio Mendes, Burning Souls, Cockney Rebel, Michael Johnson, Ofra Harnoy, Steve Morse, Sarah Bettens, Womack and Womack, The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, Nazca, Bon Jovi, Lou Rawls, John Entwistle, King's X, Steve Harley, Harry Sacksioni, Esteban, Sandy Farina, Paul Simon with David Crosby and Graham Nash, Lulu Santos, King's Singers, Travis, Lloyd Green, John Williams, Bennet Hammond, The London Symphony Orchestra, Fat Larry's Band, Phil Keaggy, Bob "Bronx Style" Khaleel, James Last, Jon Lord, Yo-Yo Ma, Peter Tosh, Pedro Guasti, Gary Glitter, Les Fradkin, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Sheryl Crow, Rockapella, Coldplay