‘Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)’ is the 1973 single by former Beatles guitarist George Harrison. Released as the opening track from his 1973 album Living in the Material World and the record’s lead single, it became Harrison’s second US number one after the classic hit ‘My Sweet Lord’.
Ironically, it pushed another former Beatle, Paul McCartney’s band Wings single ‘My Love’ off the top spot. This marks it as the only moment two former Beatles held the top two positions in American charts — that’s some feat. ‘Give Me Love’ climbed into the top ten in Britain, Canada and Australia too.
Owing to its author’s talent, ‘Give Me Love’ is one of Harrison’s most iconic solo tracks. It gained widespread commercial and critical acclaim and features Harrison’s post-Beatles trademark, slide guitar solos. The song also represents a departure from his initial post-Beatles work, featuring more straightforward, concise songwriting rather than letting his spirituality rule.
Lyrically, Harrison delineates his Hindu faith, which was at its height upon the time of writing between 1971 and ’72. The lyrics point to his desire to be set free from Karma and the never-ending cycle of death and rebirth, and once described the hit as “a prayer and personal statement between me, the Lord, and whoever likes it”.
During this period at the outset of the ’70s, Harrison became committed to assisting the numerous refugees from the devastating Bangladesh Liberation War. He held a pair of benefit concerts with lineups that included Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton in 1971 and subsequently released a live album and concert film.
For Harrison, this period was overshadowed by the monetary and legal problems that were hampering his humanitarian aid projects. Revisionists have claimed that this added to the scaled-back, mellow feel of Harrison’s 1973 album, with ‘Give Me Love’ being the one outwardly cheerful song.
The former Beatles guitarist wrote ‘Give Me Love’ quickly, and in his 1980 autobiography I, Me, Mine, he remembered: “Sometimes you open your mouth, and you don’t know what you are going to say, and whatever comes out is the starting point. If that happens and you are lucky, it can usually be turned into a song. This song is a prayer and personal statement between me, the Lord, and whoever likes it.”
Due to the widespread love the song gained, it became a staple of Harrison’s live set, and he played it at every one of his live appearances after its release. The most triumphant of these happened on his 1991 Japan Tour.
Harrison is serene yet commanding in the footage as he and the backing band beautifully play through ‘Give Me Love’. Every note is spot on, and it conveys the song’s original message more effectively than on the recording. This live rendition also captures the scope of Harrison’s talent as a singer-songwriter and one who will always remain unmatched.
The only thing strange about the performance is that Harrison is on rhythm guitar rather than his slide guitar. This is probably down to ease and allows him to sing the sincere number in a more moving manner. This performance also confirms ‘Give Me Love’ as one of his best songs. The song is so well respected that it has been covered by a host of legends, including Dave Davies, Elliott Smith, Sting, James Taylor, and Elton John.
Watch the serene Harrison perform ‘Give Me Love’ below.