From the Vault...


George Harrison
"The Concert For Bangla Desh"

© Capitol Records

Year of Release: 1971

track listing
  • George Harrison/
    Ravi Shankar
  • Bangla Dhun
  • Wah-Wah
  • My Sweet Lord
  • Awaiting On You All
  • That's The Way
    God Planned It
  • It Don't Come Easy
  • Beware Of Darkness
  • While My Guitar
    Gently Weeps
  • Jumpin' Jack Flash/
  • Here Comes The Sun
  • A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall
  • It Takes A Lot To Laugh
    It Takes A Train
    To Cry
  • Blowin' In The Wind
  • Mr. Tambourine Man
  • Just Like A Woman
  • Something
  • Bangla Desh

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    George Harrison
    "The Concert For Bangla Desh"


    Almost a quarter of a century ago, in August of 1947, the state of Pakistan was born following the departure of the British from the Indian subcontinent. It was a most unusual nation, carved out of Muslim dominated areas of India. It consisted of two wings, West Pakistan and East Pakistan (Bangla Desh), separated by over 1,000 miles of Indian territory.
    Racially, linguistically and culturally the two Pakistans were poles apart. Tensions between the two wings developed almost immediately. Political, military, and economic power was concentrated in Undu-speaking West Pakistan, while Bengali-speaking Bangla Desh was relegated to a subordinate position in spite of the fact that it contained more than half of Pakistan's total population. Dictorial rule by West Pakistan army officers generated discontent in both wings of Pakistan. Bangla Desh demands for a more equal treatment were consistently disregarded.
    In March of 1969, General Yahya Khan assumed power in Pakistan with the professed aim of ending the dictatorship and introducing Democracy. In the first free election ever held in the history of Pakistan, in December of 1970, the Awami (People's) League of Bangla Desh won an overwhelming victory. It emerged as the largest party in all of Pakistan, entitling it to form Pakistan's first Democratic government. Yahya Khan and the West Pakistan leadership, however, were unwilling to permit a power shift to Bangla Desh, or even a more equitable distribution of power.
    The results of the election were consequently disregarded and in March, 1971, a deliberate reign of terror was unleashed on Bangla Desh to eliminate oppostion to West Pakistan domination and to drastically reduce the size of the population of Bangla Desh. An estimated one million East Bengalis were murdered and up to the present time approximately ten million terror stricken East Begalis have sought refuge in neighboring India. This is undoubtedly the greatest atrocity since Hitler's extermination of the Jews.
    Even when they escape to India, the refugees are threatened by many perils, starvation, lack of sanitation, housing and most notably -- cholera. When the first crowds crossed the border, doctors innoculated them against cholera, but now the East Banglalis are swarming into India in such great numbers that they cannot all be immunized. It takes so long to use syringes and there just isn't enough money for innoculation guns. The government has put the cost of caring for the refugees at a minimum of one million dollars a day and it could go much higher. Although charted planes arrie daily bringing shipments of food, hospital equipment and medicines, India sill has only received barely one tenth to care for the millions suffering.
    For all the disheartening statistics, however, the medical service is performing impressively. Although thousands of escapees, mostly children, have already died of cholera, those afflicted can usually be saved by replenishing the body fluids through intravenous injections or drinking large doses of solution of salts, baking soda and glucose. But the flood of escapees is just too great, and the monies just too little, for all to be saved. Even in a world jaded by war and attrocity, suffering on that scale still comes as a sickening shock. Despite the squalor of their existence the East Bengalis endure with a minimum of complaint.
    Unfortunately, it is expected that with the cessation of the monsoon rains a new wave of refugees, numbering at least five million, will enter India. This will immeasurably aggravate the refugee problem. It must be clearly understood that India itself is an impoverished nation hardly able to feed its own growing population and will be unable to cope with the influx of refugees, unless she receives all-out support of the rest of civilized mankind.

    "To me the whole feeling of Bangla Desh has been quite a personal one, because I happen to be a Bengali. This whole issue last March is something of such a different nature and my feelings as it happened, apart from the sympathy I have because I am Begali, apart from being directly involved because such huge numbers of people were migrating into India ... they were running for their lives and so many were killed, including my distant relatives, many friends, including Muslim friends, and even people from the family of my Guru; their homes burned, completely destroyed.
    "So for me there was great anguish and suffering for a number of months since March and it came to such an emotional pitch. This was a period near the end of June when George came to California to help in making an album from the soundtrack of the film RAGA. I was very disturbed and wanted to do something for the people of Bangla Desh. I talked with people from many different organizations in the United States and in Europe who wanted me to give a benefit performance. But I thought of doing something on a very large scale that might bring in a lot of money and also, you know, awareness. So I thought I would ask George, even if he could not take part himself, if he would advise me, ask other artists about it, write or talking about it -- something. Then maybe we could do a big function whre we could raise 25 or 50 thousand dollars. So, when I talked with him, he was impressed by my sincerity, and I gave him lots to read and explained the situation. And it was not only what I said, as an Indian, a Begali. When he read so many things from so many countries: France, Germany, England, Norway, and the American press, which was giving such good coverage of what was happening to millions of people, suffering so much -- He was very deeply moved and said he would be glad to help in the planning -- even to participate.
    "Things started moving very fast then. George called Ringo in Spain where he was working in a film, and he talked to Leon Russell and all of those wonderful musicians from the west coast and east coast who came to play. And he contacted Mr. (Allen) Klein, who has taken care of the business, and administration. And, of course, Bob Dylan, as luck would have it, was so wonderful to take part in this cause. In a period of only four or five weeks all of this was done. To conceive, plan and execute such a large scale program and do it successfully in such short time must be setting a record in the history of world entertainment -- thanks to all of these participants.
    "And now I feel a great joy. With George's single, "Bangla Desh," my single, the film that has been made of the concert, the album coming out and whatever the gate monies from this concert ... it will all add up to a substantial amount. Though, when you think of the amount being spent on almost eight million refugees, and os many of them children, of course it is like a drop in the ocean. Maybe it will take care of them for only two or three days. But that is not the point. The main issue -- beyond the sum of money we can raise -- is that we feel that all the young people who came to the concerts (maybe 40 or 50 thousand of them) they were made aware of something very few of them felt or knew clearly -- about Bangla Desh and what has happened to cause such distress.
    "It is like trying to ignite -- to pass on the responsibilty as much as possible to everyone else. I think this aim has been achieved."

    Before there was Bob Geldof's USA For Africa, George Harrison and Ravi Shankar presented what would be the first of many charity concerts. On August 1, 1971, the concert was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. George Harrison, Ravi Shankar, Billy Preston, Ringo Starr, Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, and the group Badfinger were bandmembers for George. George had originally asked each of the Beatles to help out and perform. John Lennon agreed, under the request form George that John's wife, Yoko Ono not appear with him. Two days before the show, Yoko was in disagreement that George did not want here there, therefore John cancelled his appearance. Paul McCartney was asked to perform, but he declined, saying "What's the point? The Beatles just broke up, and we're joining up again?" Ringo Starr would be the only other Beatle to perform.

    The spoken word introduction from George Harrison and Ravi Shankar indicates that the music is the soul of the concert. Both George and Ravi's words to the audience were meant for peace, and for those watching the concert were to enjoy the music. Their words emerge into a nearly 20-minute Indian music piece, "Bangla Dhun." Spiritual and moving sets the pace for this long and inspirational instrumental.

    Three songs from George's recent album, All Things Must Pass opens the show: "Wah-Wah," "My Sweet Lord," and "Awaiting On You All." The spritual lyrics from the two previous songs regarding the Lord continues with Billy Preston's "That's The Way God Planned It."

    Ringo Starr's "It Don't Come Easy" follows, then another track from All Things Must Pass, "Beware Of Darkness," with vocals by both George Harrison and Leon Russell. George introduces the members of the band, including Ringo Starr (drums), Eric Clapton (guitar), and Badfinger. Originally from The Beatles (White Album), "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is the next track, and many didn't know at the time, that Clapton had performed guitar on the orignal version. Clapton's solos sound a little weak here, as it was learned that Clapton was battling a heroin addiction, and didn't really attend the previous auditions, until the soundcheck date of the concert.

    George tells the audience: "A few songs from Leon" (Russell): A medley of the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and the Coasters' "Youngblood." Their version of the Stones song is exceptionally well, and is compared to Johnny Winter's live version. The Coasters song is more of a New Orleans Jazz style, completely different to its original. (I've always got confused on Leon Russell and Dr. John; they both sound alike on most of their songs.) As a whole, this medley is quite well done, and very entertaining. George wrote "Here Comes The Sun," as it was originally from the Beatles' Abbey Road album. Very good version of this song here.

    George then introduces his friend, Bob Dylan. Five Dylan songs emerge next: "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall," "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry," "Blowin' In The Wind," "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Just Like A Woman." George's "Something" (originally from the Beatles' Abbey Road) is performed next, and done very well. It seems the crowd wants the band to keep playing, as the last track is heard, "Bangla Desh."

    A very impressive concert, the concert raised over $240,000, which was given to UNICEF. Disputes were approached, whether the money actually went to UNICEF or not. The CD was reissued in 2001, and a re-mastered DVD was released in 2005, where George Harrison took part of this, prior to his death. There is a website for this concert, at It just makes us all wonder, that George wanted all of the Beatles to help out with this concert. If they did, would they have all performed together, or just solo? Would an actual reunion of the Beatles result? And if it did, would that have sparked them to stay together, and record new music again? Ahh, the thoughts always were there... Even producer Lorne Michaels tried to get them back together on Saturday Night Live for $3,000. When watching a TV interview with John Lenon, as the reporter and John were being filmed, walking down the street, fans from afar saw John, and yelled, "Are the Beatles getting back together?" John's response: "Maybe we will, maybe we won't." Again, we always dreamed it would happen. But sadly, we all know what happened to John (assasinated), and George would be taken away from us too (throat cancer).

    The Concert For Bangla Desh is a great album soundtrack. I'm sure watching the DVD performances are exceptionally entertaining, as listening to it. I didn't have the original vinyl, as it was a 3-LP set, just as All Things Must Pass. Both these albums were 2 compact discs when released, decades later.

    In later years and decades, concerts such as this for charities would emerge: UNICEF concerts (anyone remember the TV one with the Bee Gees? I think Rod Stewart was on there too), Concerts for Kampuchea (which was released on a 2-LP set; not available on CD yet), USA For Africa/Live Aid, Farm Aid, Live 8, and more recent, Hope for Haiti (just to name a few). The Bangla Desh concert gives a great feeling, that not only was it great to listen to musically, but it helped raise money for those needed in Bangla Desh, and to other charity concerts that would follow in years, decades, and many more future benefit events to come.

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