The song was written after Harrison had recorded his song ‘When Every Song Is Sung’ during the All Things Must Pass sessions, and produced versions by Ronnie Spector and Cilla Black in February 1971 and August 1972 respectively.
Black’s version, retitled ‘I’ll Still Love You (When Every Song Is Sung)’, was recorded at Apple Studios in August 1972. Although it was ultimately shelved, a single release had been planned, and Harrison wrote ‘The Light That Has Lighted The World’ when they needed a b-side.
‘The Light That Has Lighted The World’ came about during the time I tried recording ‘When Every Song Is Sung’ with Cilla Black. Later I tried to write her a b-side and I thought ‘How do I relate to Cilla?’ Well she was from Liverpool and had left Liverpool the same way I had, and that experience you have when you first make it, everyone is pleased – ‘Local boy/girl makes good’ – but once you leave they say ‘He’s changed – he’s not what he used to be!’ So I started with that idea:
I’ve heard how some people
have said that I’ve changed
And then it turned into ‘The Light That Has Lighted The World’. By that time I’d forgotten all about doing Cilla’s record and we didn’t even have an a-side, so I used it on my own album.
The strange thing about change is that people are always saying ‘Oh he’s changed’ as if change is a sin, but the whole of life is a change: from the morning to the evening; from spring to winter – everything is a change – from birth to death; life is change. So it’s funny how people won’t accept change: preferring almost to rearrange nature itself. Would they rather everything were stuck in one place forever?
I Me Mine
‘The Light That Has Lighted The World’ was, along with ‘Who Can See It’ and ‘Be Here Now’, one of a trio of ballads on Living In The Material World. Indeed, a working title for the album was The Light That Has Lighted The World.
A solo demo of the song, with Harrison on 12-string acoustic guitar, was included on the DVD release of Martin Scorsese’s documentary George Harrison: Living In The Material World. It was also included on Early Takes Volume 1.