Forty years ago this August, George Harrison and his musical mentor Ravi Shankar organized the mother of all benefits with an all-star line-up: The Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden. Reeling from one of the world’s worst cyclones on record, refugees from East Pakistan (Bangladesh)—engaged in a liberation struggle from West Pakistan—flooded Shankar’s native Bengal region in India, a land still compromised from the great migration during Partition in 1947. Harrison heard his friend’s plea,and though he had no previous organizational experience he called on friends Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell and Ringo Starr. Dylan, making his first public appearance in two years, chipped in “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Harrison offered up “Here Comes the Sun” along with “Bangla Desh,” composed for the cause. Bangladesh set a precedent for immediate, organized concert charity in the name of tragedy and political strife, gathering the biggest names in music in the effort to preserve humanity.
The concert is streaming for free this weekend on iTunes in honor of the 40th anniversary, while musicians have united with UNICEF in their Month of Giving to bring relief to the children in the Horn of Africa, currently impacted by drought and famine.
Read more on the Concert for Bangladesh and the history of charitable music concerts in Keep on Pushing.