On this day in 1971, The Concert For Bangladesh – organized by George Harrison to aid victims of famine and war in Bangla Desh, took place at New York’s Madison Sq Garden. The two concerts – one afternoon and one evening, played to over 40,000 people and featured the all star cast of Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Leon Russell, Billy Preston, Eric Clapton, Ravi Shankar, Klaus Voorman and Badfinger.
His original plan was to recruit his former bandmates – which would’ve turned this into a Beatles reunion, seeing the four on stage together in the U.S for the first time since 1966. But that was never going to happen.
John Lennon agreed to take part in the concert, however Harrison stipulated that Lennon’s wife Yoko could not perform with him. Lennon agreed, but left New York two days before the event following an argument with Ono regarding his and Harrison’s agreement so that was the end of that.
Paul McCartney declined because of bad feelings caused by The Beatles’ legal problems on their break-up. McCartney told Rolling Stone years later – “George came up and asked if I wanted to play Bangla Desh and I thought, blimey, what’s the point? We’re just broken up and we’re joining up again? It just seemed a bit crazy”. Ringo Starr did however, appear.
After Shankar had opened the proceedings, Harrison took to the stage with his guests. Eric Clapton on guitar, Ringo on drums, Leon Russell on keyboards, and the guys from Badfinger on guitars and vocals, (Badfingers Peter Ham duetted with Harrison on “Here Comes the Sun”). After pleasing the crowd with a selection of his hits including a few Beatles songs – Harrison casually announced his next guest. “I’d like to bring on a friend of us all; Mr Bob Dylan”.
This was a reclusive time for Dylan – and the first proper live show since his Isle Of White appearance in 69. Dylan didn’t disappoint. “Blowin’ In The Wind”, “Mr. Tambourine Man”, and “Just Like A Woman” backed by Harrison and his all-star band.
Harrison had to shell out his own money to maintain the fund after legal problems froze all proceeds. The triple album release (the second in a row by Harrison), hit #1 in the UK and #2 in the U.S. and received the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
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