Harrison wrote the lyrics while he was still a Beatle. He quietly built a solo catalogue while still in the band, since he found it difficult to place tracks on Beatles albums that were dominated by Lennon/McCartney compositions.
Harrison credits his first experience with LSD, taken with John Lennon, as being the doorway to his spiritual awakening and introduction to Hinduism. George said that during this "trip" the thought "Yogis of the Himalayas" kept running through his mind. Through this "awakening" and learning of the religion he began to embrace the concept of reincarnation, which is the core subject matter of "Art of Dying."
After a long battle with cancer, Harrison died on November 29, 2001. He was not afraid of death, as he believed it would take him to a better place. Before the public was informed of his passing, Harrison's family had him cremated and his ashes poured into the Ganges River in India.
Future Genesis drummer Phil Collins was brought in to play congas on the song, but his part never made it. At the time, he was in a group called The Herd, and when he got the call to come down to Abbey Road Studios to work on the song, he was thrilled. He ended up being one of many musicians who bled for Phil Spector: the producer had Collins play for about 90 minutes, at which point he had blood blisters on his hands.
When the album came out, Collins checked the liner notes and was disappointed to see he wasn't listed, as they used a take he didn't play on. It wasn't the first time Collins didn't make the cut: As a kid, he was an extra in the Beatles movie A Hard Day's Night, but was edited out.
George's lifelong friend and frequent musical collaborator, Eric Clapton, played electric guitar on this track. The recording sessions for "Art of Dying" led to the formation of the blues-rock group Derek and the Dominos, which featured Clapton as the guitarist. All the members of the group played on the song, which like the rest of the album, was produced by Phil Spector.