The Beatles Songs: "The Inner Light"

The history of this classic Beatles song

The original US 45 sleeve for "The Inner Light".

The Inner Light

Written by: George Harrison (100%)
Recorded: January 12, 1968 (EMI Studios, Mumbai, India); February 6 and 8, 1968 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: February 6 and 8, 1968; January 27, 1970
Length: 2:35
Takes: 6


John Lennon: harmony vocals
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals
George Harrison: lead vocals
Sharad Gosh: shenai
Hariprasad Chaurasia: flute
Ashish Khan: sarod
Mehapurush Misra: tabla, pakavaj
Rij Ram Desad: harmonium

First released: March 15, 1968 (UK: Parlophone R5675), March 18, 1968 (US: Capitol 2138); b-side to "Lady Madonna"

Available on: (CDs in bold)

Past Masters Volume Two, (Parlophone CDP 7 90044 2)

Highest chart position: US: 96 (March 30, 1968)

While the Beatles wrote a number of songs in India (most of which wound up on the album The Beatles, commonly known as "The White Album"), this is the one Beatles song actually recorded there, at least in part. On January 7, 1968, George Harrison traveled to Bombay (now Mumbai) India to record a soundtrack of authentic Indian music for the upcoming film Wonderwall, for which he had specifically singled out by first-time director Joe Massot. Harrison came up with this backing track during the sessions, and liked it so much that he added vocals.

George's lyrics to this song are adapted from the book Tao Te Ching, written by the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu in the Sixth century B.C. Specifically, it references Chapter 47:

Without going outside, you may know the whole world.
Without looking through the window, you may see the ways of heaven.
The farther you go, the less you know.

Thus the sage knows without travelling;
He sees without looking;
He works without doing.

It is seen as an essential distillation of the taoist ethic. The book was first brought to Harrison's attention by Cambridge University English supervisor and noted translator Juan Mascaro.

The finished product was so favored by John and Paul that they encouraged its release on a Beatles single; after adding their harmonies to it in the Abbey Road studios, it was released as the b-side to "Lady Madonna" in 1968.

George's lead vocal was recorded at Abbey Road on February 6, 1968, just before the final "Lady Madonna" sessions; the harmonies were recorded on February 8, just before the final sessions for "Across The Universe." Harrison was reluctant to sing the lead, thinking it out of his range, but was convinced by John and Paul to give it a try anyway.


  • This is the first George Harrison composition to be featured on a Beatles single, although he had sung lead vocal on "Do You Want To Know A Secret?" and "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You."
  • The original mix released was in mono; a stereo version was mixed in 1970 but unused until the advent of Past Masters. The mono mix features an extra Indian instrument in the intro that did not make it to the stereo version.
  • "The Inner Light" took the longest of all Beatles non-album cuts to make it on a compilation, finally appearing on the Rarities album (released in the UK in 1978 and the US in 1980, and since made irrelevant by the Past Masters CDs released in 1987).
  • ELO's Jeff Lynne, a longtime Harrison friend and admirer, performed this at George's 2002 memorial show The Concert For George.

Covered by: Jeff Lynne, Junior Parker