George Harrison said he initially wrote his 1970 song, “All Things Must Pass,” with a certain tune by The Band in mind. Then, George heard a member of the group singing his title track whenever he listened to it.
The Beatle hung out with Bob Dylan and The Band in 1968
In November 1968, The Band invited George to stay with them and Bob Dylan in Woodstock, New York. George explained the experience during a 1987 interview with Musician Magazine’s Timothy White.
“To this day you can play ‘Stage Fright’ and ‘Big Pink,’ and although the technology’s changed, those records come off as beautifully conceived and uniquely sophisticated,” George said of The Band. “They had great tunes, played in a great spirit, and with humor and versatility.
“I knew those guys during that period and I think it was Robbie Robertson who invited me down. He said, ‘You can stay at Albert’s [Grossman, Dylan’s manager]. He’s got the big house.’ I hung out with them and Bob.”
George said it was an awkward time for Dylan and The Band, not just because Dylan was still in his self-imposed exile following his 1966 motorcycle accident. George claimed that Dylan and Grossman were fighting about the “crisis” of managing Dylan. He spent the days with Dylan and the nights with Grossman, hearing both sides of the “battle.”
At least George got a couple of songs out of the experience.
George wanted ‘All Things Must Pass’ to sound like a Band song
While in Woodstock, George managed to get Dylan to open up, and they eventually wrote “I’d Have You Anytime” together.
Being around The Band and Dylan so much, the Beatle couldn’t help but be inspired.
“Artistically, I respected The Band enormously,” George said. “All the different guys in the group sang, and Robbie Robertson used to say he was lucky, because he could write songs for a voice like Levon’s. What a wise and generous attitude.
“The hard thing is to write a song for yourself, knowing you’ve got to sing it. Sometimes I have a hard time singing my own stuff.”
George told White that one of The Band’s songs influenced “All Things Must Pass.” Although, the tune didn’t exactly come out the way George hoped.
“‘The Weight’ was the one I admired, it had a religious and a country feeling to it, and I wanted that,” George explained. “You absorb, then you interpret, and it comes out nothing like the thing you’re imagining, but it gives you a starting point.
“We used to take that approach with The Beatles, saying, ‘Who are we going to be today? Let’s pretend to be Fleetwood Mac!’ There’s a song on ‘Abbey Road,’ ‘The Sun King,’ that tried that. At the time, ‘Albatross’ was out, with all the reverb on guitar.
“So we said, ‘Let’s be Fleetwood Mac doing ‘Albatross,” just to get going. It never really sounded like Fleetwood Mac, just like ‘All Things’ never sounded like The Band, but they were the point of origin.”
George also heard a member of The Band singing whenever he listened to ‘All Things Must Pass’
George heard The Band’s “The Weight” while writing “All Things Must Pass.” Later on, after he recorded the song, George always heard a member of The Band singing it.
George spoke further about “All Things Must Pass” in his 1980 memoir, I Me Mine. He wrote, “When I wrote ‘All Things Must Pass’ I was trying to do a Robbie Robertson-Band sort of tune and that is what it turned into…”
George had many influences over his long career. Those influences might not have come through in his songs the way he wanted, but they were there. Lurking between lyrics, you can forever hear how much George loved Dylan, The Band, and all his other idols.