Though The Beatles split up in 1970, collaborations between the former bandmates not named Paul McCartney continued. When George Harrison’s triple-album All Things Must Pass arrived in November ’70, it featured his old pal Ringo Starr playing drums on several tracks.
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Lennon’s solo debut that arrived the following month, also featured Ringo on drums. In the following years, Lennon and Harrison would return the favor to their former bandmate and friend.
As far as the music-buying public could tell, Harrison acted on that impulse first when he produced and played guitar on “It Don’t Come Easy,” Ringo’s debut U.K. single released in April ’71. However, the recording sessions took place the previous year — before The Beatles announced their breakup.
And though the track was credited to Starr, the drummer later acknowledged he co-wrote the song with Harrison. That helped explain the “Hare Krishna” you hear about halfway through “It Don’t Come Easy.”
Ringo Starr’s ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ features backing vocalists singing ‘Hare Krishna’
By now, fans of Ringo (and the All-Starr Band) know “It Don’t Come Easy” well. The track became a big hit for Ringo upon its release, vaulting all the way to No. 4 on the Billboard charts in June ’71. And later in the summer he played it with Harrison and friends at the Concert for Bangladesh.
In addition to the two Beatles, the single featured Gary Wright on piano, Klaus Voorman on bass, and Ron Cattermole on horns. And Tom Evans and Pete Ham (both members of Badfinger) sang backing vocals.
Around 1:45 in the recording, if you listen carefully, you’ll hear the backing vocalists sing “Hare Krishna.” Though the lyrics include themes of love and peace and coming together, it comes almost out of the blue.
And, given how it’s turned way down in the mix of the song, it obviously was not meant to grab listeners’ attention. Once you dig into the history of the recording of “It Don’t Come Easy,” it becomes clear how it made it into the final mix.
George Harrison sang an early version of ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ with the ‘Hare Krishna’ backing vocal
While he let Ringo take the credit for “It Don’t Come Easy” at the time, Harrison had even more to do with the recording than originally thought. “I wrote this song with the one and only George Harrison,” Ringo explained in his 1998 VH1 Storytellers performance.
“We wrote it in the early ’70s, and George was very much into spiritual things. We got to the last verse and he sang, ‘God.’ And I said, ‘No, George, I don’t sing about God. You sing about God.’ So he said, ‘Hare Krishna.’ And [I said], ‘No, you sing about Hare Krishna.’”
Harrison countered the third time with “peace,” and Ringo went for that one. So that explains the idea for the “Hare Krishna.” As for the appearance on Ringo’s single, that came out of an earlier session at Apple in which Harrison sang the lead vocal (possibly as a guide for Ringo).
During that session (which can be heard on YouTube), George had his backing vocalists add the “Hare Krishna” at the same time in the song — only theirs was loud and clear. After Harrison replaced his lead vocal with Ringo’s, the “Hare Krishna” stuck. It just got quieter.
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