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Timothy Leary: Co-writer of All Things Must Pass?

Although not credited on George's masterpiece it's worth noting the influence of Timothy Leary on All Things Must Pass.

It could be argued that he LSD guru of the 1960s wrote much of the first verse to the title track of Harrison's debut solo album. The track would become a fan favourite and highly lauded by critics as his masterpiece. It was the song that Paul McCartney would sing at his 'friend's tribute concert and a song that seems to encapsulate George's spiritual image.

All Things Must Pass was released in November 1970. It was a triple album of Harrison’s output, with many of the songs dating back to The Beatles days. Some were rejected by his bandmates, others were kept on one side by George, in safe keeping for any future solo efforts.


George first started to write All Things Must Pass in late 1968 after spending time in upstate New York with Bob Dylan and The Band.

Dylan and Harrison, upstate New York 1969

The feel of the song was partly inspired by the The Weight, a mixture of country rock and ethereal lyrics.

Robbie Robertson from The Band and George Harrison, November 1968

Those very lyrics were written, in part, by Timothy Leary with a little help from the Taoist philosopher and writer LaoZi who’d originated the words some 14 centuries before.

The original Laozi scripts translate as:

Strong winds do not last all morning,

Hard rains do not last all day.

What causes them?

Heaven and Earth.

If Heaven and Earth are unable to persist,

How could man?

In 1966 Leary published the book Psychedelic Prayers after the Tao Te Ching in which he reinterpreted Laozi’s original poem as:

A sunrise does not last all morning

All things pass

A cloudburst does not last all day

All things pass

Nor a sunset all night

All things pass

George would later tell Billboard magazine in the 1970s:

"I think I got [the title] from Richard Alpert/Baba Ram Dass, but I’m not sure. When you read of philosophy or spiritual things, it’s a pretty widely used phrase.

I wrote it after [the Band’s 1968] Music From Big Pink album; when I heard that song in my head I always heard Levon Helm singing it!"

Later George would give a nod to Leary, in his autobiography I, Me, Mine:

"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.

I think the whole idea of ‘All Things Must Pass’ has been written up by all kinds of mystics and ex-mystics including Timothy Leary in his psychedelic poems."

Whatever its origins story is, nothing takes away from the fact that it's one of Harrisons greatest recordings, managing to distill his sound and his philosophy into 3 minutes and 47 of one of the greatest solo Beatles songs ever recorded.

What do you think? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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