Monday, April 7, 2014

George Harrison's "Concert for Bangladesh"


It's interesting how we can live through something and not really know it.  For example, in the Seventies, I heard about George Harrison's "Concert for Bangladesh" (1971) but I didn't see it or hear its music.  At the time, I was in ninth grade, living an hour away from the concert (which was held in Madison Square Garden in NYC).  This weekend, I finally caught up with it.

My trip to the past was facilitated by my recent re-embrace of vinyl.  I found a 40-year old boxed set of (three) records of the concert, complete with photos.

The concert, thrown together quickly,  drew attention to the plight of refugees in Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan).  The concert attracted big names, like Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston and Leon Russell.  None of the performers were paid.  Clapton was visibly sick from heroin withdrawal.

The concert was the forerunner of future charity benefits, like Live Aid, et al.  Most people tuned it because it was George Harrison's first appearance since The Beatles had broken up two years earlier.  Seeing him back with Ringo was a major thrill.

George performed some Beatles songs and wrote the title song, "Bangla Desh".  After listening to the entire concert thrice, I say Leon Russell steals the show with his cover of "Jumpin Jack Flash."  He got the place rockin' at high volume.

Have you heard about this event?

12 comments:

  1. No I hadn't heard of it. Granted I was only 5 at the time : )

    bisous
    Suzanne

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  2. I never heard of this but it sounds really good! I heard about lots of other concerts and festivals for a good cause though. I have the impression that today there are less than a couple of decades ago!?!? Do you also think so?
    Thanks for your comment :)
    xx

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    1. In the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties, it was common and popular for musicians to perform in charity events. Now, it's less common. Sad.

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  3. Despite growing up in a very, very Beatle loving home, I think this might be the first time I've heard about this fundraising concert. It's especially touching that Ringo and George reunited and put "half the Beatles" together again in the name of such an excellent cause.

    Wonderful find on this boxed record set. I'm off to see what I can find from it on Youtube.

    ♥ Jessica

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  4. I hadn't heard of it...I'll have to go investigate as well.

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  5. I learn so much from your posts!

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  6. thank you so much for the sweet comment you left on my blog :) I only just saw it as I haven't looked at my blog in months (sorry). You have completely made my day! so thank you. Oh and I've just started blogging again (woohoo). I hope you'll stop by again soon xx

    PS. I'd never heard of the Concert for Bangladesh, love all the musicians!

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  7. Oh I have never heard of this, but it sounds amazing! I'm sure it is epic on vinyl, what a great post :D

    Also, RINGO. I loves Ringo.

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  8. Harriet (Harri Too)April 8, 2014 at 11:37 PM

    I was there in the audience at the Concert for Bangla Desh. Though it may not have been "the best" concert ever in terms of quality of performances, it was in my top 3 ever because of the heart and soul that went into it. The performers came because George Harrison asked them to. He was quite beloved (and my favorite Beatle). To anyone who hasn't seen it, I strongly recommend renting or buying the restored video of the Concert, which was re-released maybe 5 or so years ago.

    As for the question/comment about whether there are still performers coming together for charity concerts, the answer is a resounding YES. The Bangla Desh concert kinda set the tone and style for all subsequent musician led concert events. Back some years ago there were Live Aid and Farm Aid. After 9/11 there was The Concert for New York. After Sandy, there was another major fundraiser.

    I hope you all get to see George and his friends in the video (though it was shot on film) and enjoy it.

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    1. Lucky you! Thank you for sharing your story, Harriet.

      The performers weren't announced in advance; they were just called "George's friends" which echoes your point. I've heard about the video and plan to get it.

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  9. Yes, I'd definitely heard of it, being 9 at the time, and I do remember hearing a lot about it up here in Canada. But I must admit that up until today, I've never been curious enough to seek out some Youtube videos on it. I will definitely be spending my evening doing this. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Janice. I believe they also made a movie about the concert.

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