The Concert for Bangladesh was a good cause before concerts did that sort of thing.
And it certainly produced classic music: Leon Russell’s “Young Blood” and cover of “Jumping Jack Flash,” Ringo’s “It Don’t Come Easy,” along with appearances by Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Billy Preston.
Organized by former Beatle George Harrison and Bengali sitar player and composer Ravi Shankar, the event drew 40,000 people to Madison Square Garden on Aug. 1, 1971—38 years ago this weekend.
The concert was released on vinyl later that year, and a documentary film followed in 1972. It was a music event back then, and I remember the multi-album set being an oddity at the time. That was not just for its sheer size, but for the mix of music on it.
The concert ultimately raised more than $240,000 for UNICEF, although it took some time to make its way over. Album sales and the more recent DVD release still benefit the George Harrison fund at UNICEF.
And in later years the idea of a social-cause concert caught fire. Bob Geldoff, formerly of the Boomtown Rats, and Ultravox’s Midge Ure organized the “Band Aid” benefit record in 1984, soon to be copied by the “We are the World” recording. Both went to famine relief.
Also throw into the mix the other Band Aid concerts, Farm Aid and the 1970s No Nukes concerts.
But first came Bangladesh.
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