Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Concert for Bangla Desh (1971)

It was 41 years ago today when the Concert for Bangla Desh was held at New York's Madison Square Garden. I never knew how, but Michael Held got tickets to this concert. For weeks the city had been abuzz with rumors of a hastily arranged concert for the victims of the disasters which were then taking place in Bangladesh (originally spelled as two separate words) a province located in India. Together with the fleeing refugees from Pakistan, there had also been a devastating cyclone in 1970; and coupled with these two tragedies, there was a Civil War going on, with massive atrocities committed against innocent civilians.
After seeing the power of Woodstock in 1969, George Harrison’s friend Ravi Shankar; who was originally from the affected area; approached him, asking if he thought that something could be done within the world of entertainment to help alleviate the misery and devastation being experienced by the hundreds of thousands of victims.
There were two concerts held that day, which was a Sunday. The first show was at noon, with the second show beginning at 7 PM. 40,000 lucky people got to see this historic event, and contribute to the relief of the people in Bangladesh.
The stage was alive with all of rock and roll’s royalty. But the intimate video above is one of my favorite parts of the concert. Bob Dylan being backed by Leon Russell on bass, with George Harrison on his white Fender Stratocaster, accompanied by Ringo Starr on a tambourine, playing Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman.” Does it ever get better than that?
This concert was the blueprint for all of the benefit concerts since then. From Live Aid to Farm Aid, all have their roots in this one event. The immediate effect was over $250,000 being administered by UNICEF, for relief in Bangladesh. After some of the initial problems had been ironed out, the concert continued to generate revenue for the agency, through movie and recording royalties, all of which found its way to the victims for whom it was intended.
But I still don’t know how the hell Michael got that ticket!

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