George Harrison – What Is Life

A good rocker by George. He recorded this song when he was making his album All Things Must Pass in 1970. Eric Clapton, Jim Gordon, Bobby Keyes, and Badfinger are among the musicians on this recording.

The song peaked at #10 in the Billboard 100 and #3 in Canada in 1971. Originally, Harrison wrote this for Billy Preston with sort of a gospel feel. After it ended up being a fast rocker, he decided to record it himself.

In 2014 there was a contest to come up with a video to this song. The winner is at the bottom of the post. This is the announcement.

Congratulations to Brandon Moore from the United States whose video was chosen by Olivia & Dhani Harrison as the overall winner of the Genero.tv ‘What is Life’ Competition!

From Songfacts

Preston was one the early artists on the Beatles’ Apple label (he released two albums), and he was present at the sessions that yielded “Get Back.”

Harrison was writing many religious songs at the time, but this wasn’t one of them. The lyrics are directed to a person, not God.

The original song had piccolo, trumpet, and oboe parts that weren’t used because Harrison didn’t like the feel. They can be heard on the 2000 reissue of the album, where the original backing track is included as an extra song.

Phil Spector produced the album. Bobby Whitlock, who played keyboards at the sessions, had this to say about him in his Songfacts interview: “The real show in that whole place was Phil Spector – what a funny guy. He’s not too funny now, but then, what he was doing in there and the way he was carrying on, I thought, they’ve got all these mics out here catching us jamming, where they need a mic is on the inside. He was a pretty colorful character to say the least. That was one of the highlights of it – listening to him and watching him and watching how he operated. I learned a lot just from being around him. He’s just eccentric, he’s real creative. I agree with his work ethic. I concur with him 100% when it comes to being creative in the studio – put 6 guitars on it if you need it. If it wasn’t for Phil Spector, forget about The Righteous Brothers. There probably wouldn’t be a lot of us here from ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” – you know how many babies were made to that?”

On the album, the “O’Hara-Smith” singers are credited as background vocalists. Whitlock explains: “That’s Eric Clapton and me. If you listen, you can hear Eric and me wailing away.” (For more on these sessions, check out our Bobby Whitlock interview)

This has been covered by Olivia Newton-John and the surf band The Ventures. A version by Shawn Mullins appeared on the Big Daddy soundtrack.

In the UK, this was released as the B-side to “My Sweet Lord.” In the US, it was released as its own single, with “Apple Scruffs” as the B-side.

What Is Life

What I feel, I can’t say
But my love is there for you anytime of day
But if it’s not love that you need
Then I’ll try my best to make everything succeed

Tell me, what is my life without your love
Tell me, who am I without you, by my side

What I know, I can do
If I give my love now to everyone like you
But if it’s not love that you need
Then I’ll try my best to make everything succeed

Tell me, what is my life without your love
Tell me, who am I without you, by my side
Tell me, what is my life without your love
Tell me, who am I without you, by my side

What I feel, I can’t say
But my love is there for you any time of day
But if it’s not love that you need
Then I’ll try my best to make everything succeed

Tell me, what is my life without your love
Tell me, who am I without you, by my side
Oh tell me, what is my life without your love
Tell me, who am I without you, by my side

What is my life without your love
Tell me, who am I without you, by my side

Oh tell me, what is my life without your love
Tell me who am I without you by my side

Author: badfinger20

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

10 thoughts on “George Harrison – What Is Life”

  1. my favorite song of his and one of my favorites of that whole decade. Cool about the video- I’d seen it several times but didn’t know it was the result of a contest his family had. Neat!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If you look around you can find the runner up videos…all of them are good. This one puts more of a modern touch to it…probably the reason they picked it .

      Liked by 1 person

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