The Concert For Bangladesh (album) - The Concerts

The Concerts

While in Los Angeles in June 1971, and after being made aware of the gravity of the situation in what was then known as East Pakistan by friend and musician Ravi Shankar, George Harrison set about organising two fundraising concerts at Madison Square Garden, New York, to aid the war-ravaged and disaster-stricken country. In the middle of these hurried preparations, he composed the song "Bangla Desh" in order to call further attention to the Bengalis' cause, and rush-released it as a charity single four days before the shows. Riding high with the recent success of his All Things Must Pass triple album, Harrison then headlined the all-star UNICEF benefit concerts, backed by a 24-piece band of musicians and singers, on Sunday, 1 August 1971. Equally notable were appearances by fellow ex-Beatle Ringo Starr and Bob Dylan, both of whom, like Harrison, had been mostly unavailable to concert audiences for several years. In Dylan's case, it was his first appearance on a major US concert stage in five years, and his participation in the event had been uncertain until he walked on for his segment midway through the afternoon show.

The concerts were highly successful in raising international awareness of the plight of the refugees – thought to number up to 10 million – and a cheque for over US$243,000 was soon sent to UNICEF for relief. The media lavished praise on Harrison as an ambassador for rock altruism and hailed the event as proof that "the Utopian spirit of the Sixties was still flickering", as Rolling Stone magazine put it. With concert recording having been carried out at Madison Square Garden by Gary Kellgren, using the Record Plant's 16-track mobile unit, Harrison intended to raise significantly more money via a live album of the event, to be issued on the Beatles' Apple Records label, followed by Apple Films' concert documentary, also to be titled The Concert for Bangladesh.

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