10 years ago today the world lost a great musician, songwriter, film maker but above all a great humanitarian who’s Concert for Bangladesh started it all.
Harrison’s songs, which included “Within You, Without You,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something,” were among the gentlest and most meditative of the Beatles’ output.
“Here Comes the Sun,” for example, was written on a beautiful spring day in 1969 when Harrison left the Beatles business office feeling frustrated by nitty-gritty accounting details. He walked over to his friend Eric Clapton’s house and strolled around the garden with a guitar. The result was one of the most buoyantly joyful of his songs:
“Little darling, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter/Little darling it feels like years since it’s been here/Here comes the sun. Here comes the sun/And I say … It’s alright.”
The Concert for Bangladesh was the first benefit concert of its kind in that it brought together an extraordinary assemblage of major artists collaborating for a common humanitarian cause – setting the precedent that music could be used to serve a higher cause.
To quote the former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “George and his friends were pioneers.”
The concert was inspired by a great Bengali and musician, Pandit Ravi Shankar who wrote;
“It was early in April 1971 that news reached me of an unfolding humanitarian crisis in my homeland of Bengal. My heart went out to the Bengali speaking people of Bangladesh and it was natural for me to reach out and want to help the refugees and the hundreds of thousands of little children.”
On Sunday 1 August 1971, Shankar, Harrison and those “friends” – among them Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell and Ringo Starr – staged rock’s first mass act of philanthropy, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Harrison, whom Shankar lovingly describes as “my student, my brother, my son, all combined,” was enjoying his peak years as a solo superstar. His presence alone ensured that the concert was more than just a worthy cause, in accordance with what we might call Geldof’s First Law of the Charity Gig: “The only responsibility the artist has is to create good art,” says the man behind Live Aid. “They only fail when they create bad art.”
May the many hands of Shiva continue to fill his pockets with goodies! As for George, his guitar still gently weeps.
Concert for Bangladesh;
A Day in the Life of Abbey Road
From Abbey Road to Luggala