It was Harrison’s last song to be explicitly devotional to Krishna, and the only such song on the album, marking a contrast with his previous release Living In The Material World.
India and in particular my experiences in Brindaban (Vrindavan) inspired me to write ‘It Is He’. We went to Brindaban where Krishna lived 4000 years ago. It is one of the holiest cities in India – the whole town is Krishna conscious – everyone, everywhere was chanting ‘Hare Krishna’ and various permutations on that.
It was my most fantastic experience; going to that place was great; Ravi Shankar had arranged somehow that we were to meet Sripad Maharaj, an ascetic, who spoke some English and who was going to show us around.
We arrived there as it was becoming dusk and somebody ran off to try and find him. It’s all so ancient, all these little streets and old temples. A girl came back and said ‘Come with us’, and we went down to where the river Jamuna used to flow, but now it’s changed its course so it’s a dry bed. It was an old Goswami’s house we went to. We sat there and had tea and then left after dark.
We went off with this man and I didn’t know who he was, and we were walking and the more we walked, the more I thought, ‘God this guy is incredible’ – everybody was coming up to him, all the time and touching his feet. He looked like an old beggar; real matted long hair and he wore an old sack robe and had bare feet and all these Swamis with shaved heads and saffron robes were coming and bowing to him and touching his feet.
He took us round every temple in Brindaban and he was known in all of them. I was a stiff Westerner when we started off, but there was a moment when the atmosphere of the place got to me melting all the bullshit away. I thought about this man a great deal as it became a fantastic, blissful experience for me.
Later, they gave us some rooms and we slept for just a few hours until he came and got us at 4am to go for the morning Puja in the temple. We’d probably only slept for three hours but it was the deepest sleep I had ever had in my life and all through the sleep I could hear choirs singing. I still don’t know to this day – I don’t think it was temples I could hear – I think it was something else – all through the sleep I was hearing huge heavenly choirs – it was a fantastic experience.
The next day we went to the garden called Sevakunj famous for Krishna’s ‘Lila’. (Maybe you’ve seen pictures of all the Gopis, the girls; and there’s a big ring of them and they’ve all got a Krishna each and are dancing in a circle.) Krishna always played here: this was the place where he would hang out and dance.
They close this park at sunset until sunrise and nobody’s allowed in there at night. The only people who have been in during that time, it has been said, have gone mad or been found dead. All the birds and animals leave as soon as it’s sunset.
Inside there is a temple with a big brass bed on the altar, and as each of the different temples depicts a different aspect of Krishna, at this one (because he’s been up all night dancing with the Gopis and doesn’t get up early), they don’t open up until about 10am for morning Puja. All the trees, which are so ancient, bow down and the branches touch the ground. Just to walk in that place is incredible.
That morning when we came back from the temple at about 5am it was still dark, and we sat in a room. Sripad started singing a Bhajan to which we all sang the answering part, repeating it over and over. I got blissed out with my eyes shut, and didn’t want it to stop, even when I felt it was going to stop – we would keep it going on. In the end, when it eventually stopped, the sun was so high; it must have been 9 or 10 o’clock in the morning – the time had flown by – fantastic!
And so he said to me ‘Why don’t you make that into a song?’
So what I did was take that old chant ‘Jai Krishna, Jai Krishna, Krishna, Jai Krishna, Jai Sri Krishna, Jai Radhe, Jai Radhe, Radhe, Jai Radhe, Jai Sri Radhe…’ and then wrote the English words in between the verses.
‘It Is He (Jai Sri Krsna)’ was for Sripad Maharaj; a wonderful, humble, Holy man.
I Me Mine
Harrison recorded an early version of ‘It Is ‘He’ (Jai Sri Krishna)’ at Friar Park in 1974, with Bobby Purvis and Bill Elliott of the band Splinter on backing vocals.
At that time he was under pressure to complete projects with Ravi Shankar and Splinter, as well as his own album and rehearsals for the impending North American tour. Eventually he decided to re-record the song with his live band in Los Angeles on 30 October 1974, the penultimate recording date for the Dark Horse album.
Harrison performed a Moog synthesizer and a gubguba on the track – the latter is a percussive string instrument.