Concert for Bangladesh: Photos From the First-Ever Rock ‘n’ Roll Benefit Show
In 1971, George Harrison cajoled, wheedled and gently browbeat a bunch of his famous friends — including Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Ravi Shankar, Billy Preston, Leon Russell and others — and, in effect, brought into being what is widely acknowledged as the first-ever “star-studded benefit concert.”
George Harrison, Concert for Bangladesh, Madison Square Garden, 1971
Bill Ray—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
In fact, the “Concert for Bangladesh” was two concerts: one in the afternoon and one in the evening on Sunday, August 1, performed in front of tens of thousands of paying fans at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The shows were meant to raise money for and awareness around a massive refugee crisis — spurred by civil war, cyclones, flooding and famine — gripping the South Asian nation of Bangladesh, then known as East Pakistan.
Neither Harrison (only 28 years old at the time) nor Dylan (who had just turned 30) had played in front of an audience of any considerable size for years, and up until the day of the concert itself it was not absolutely certain that Dylan would even show. He eventually did, of course, and both his performances were electrifying. Clapton, on the other hand, at just 26 years old, was enduring heroin withdrawal; but he sucked it up and played, and even managed flashes of brilliance, trading scorching guitar licks with Harrison on a mighty version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Starr was engaging and playful. Preston was a powerhouse.
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