When The Beatles released “Something” as a single backed with “Come Together” in 1969, it was significant for a number of reasons. For George Harrison, it was the first time the band released a song he wrote as a single (i.e., the A side).
When it hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts that November, it became the first time someone besides John Lennon or Paul McCartney had got the Fab Four there. (It was also the last time.) And the praise for “Something” began rolling in right away.
Before Frank Sinatra began singing it at his shows, he’d call it one of the best love songs ever written. But even Sinatra was confused about the composer. (At first, he attributed it to Lennon and McCartney.)
Fifty years later, it remains one of the most popular and most covered Beatles tracks. However, it’s still not entirely clear who George was thinking about when he wrote his greatest love song.
At first, George said he ‘maybe’ wrote it for his wife Pattie
In 1966, George married Pattie Boyd, a model who’d appeared in A Hard Day’s Night two years earlier. But the pair didn’t stay happily married all that long. By the end of the ’60s, with The Beatles veering toward their breakup, George began what became a series of extramarital affairs.
So that’s something to keep in mind when the BBC’s David Wigg interviewed George just after the release of Abbey Road (late 1969). When asked who he’d written “Something” for, George replies, “Maybe Pattie, probably.” But Wigg doesn’t sound convinced. “Really?” he asks.
From there, George launches into an explanation of when and how he started writing the song. He mentions having the melody first and reaching for lyrics for a long time after. And he notes getting the line “Something in the way she moves” elsewhere, though he doesn’t mention James Taylor.
For her part, Pattie said she had heard from the man himself. “He told me in a matter-of-fact way that he had written it for me,” she wrote in a book about her life.
Later, George walked back the comment about Pattie
By 1996, George had been divorced from Pattie for decades (she married his friend Eric Clapton in the ’70s) and didn’t want to stay committed to his line about writing “Something” for her. In fact, he changed his tune completely.
“Everybody assumed I wrote it about Pattie,” he said. By then, he was ready to change his story. According to author Joshua Greene, George told his Hare Krishna friends he’d written it for Krishna. (It was well-known George dedicated “Long, Long, Long” to God.)
Given George’s affairs and his unwillingness to say he wrote it for his first wife, Pattie’s claim can’t exactly be taken for granted. And, given the nature of the lyrics, you could also argue it’s doubtful he wrote it for Krishna.
The best explanation may be that he simply wrote a love song addressed to no one in particular. After all, the words are not incredibly specific. Once he plucked the first line from Taylor’s song (titled, ahem, “Something in the Way She Moves”), he was on his way.