the concert for bangla desh at 40

george harrison, bob dylan and leon russell in 1971's "the concert for bangla desh"

bangla desh men george harrison, bob dylan and leon russell in 1971

It was 40 years ago today that the usually stage-shy George Harrison presented two all-star charity concerts (same day afternoon and evening performances) at New York’s Madison Square Garden to benefit the poverty stricken country of Bangla Desh.

As such, the documentary film of the evening performance, The Concert for Bangla Desh, will be available for free online streaming through Monday. But there is a catch. The anniversary is tied to the kickoff of the Month of Giving, which is designed to raise funds for the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF – a direct outgrowth of the late ex-Beatle’s charity work that began four decades ago.

Musicians already signed up to promote the Month of Giving during August include Arcade Fire, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Kentucky’s own My Morning Jacket, Brian Wilson (expect a word or two about the fundraising initiative at Wilson’s Opera House concert on Tuesday), Nas and Jackson Browne, as well artists that were part of the 1971 Concert for Bangla Desh – Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell and Ringo Starr.

Aside from helping raise relief funds for children in the Horn of Africa, the reawakened focus on The Concert for Bangla Desh reaffirms what an extraordinary musical time capsule the film (and its fine accompanying concert album) is, from Harrison’s epic entrance on Wah Wah to Billy Preston’s gospel breakdown on That’s the Way God Planned It to Leon Russell’s wildfire medley of Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Youngblood to the folk stoicism of Bob Dylan on A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.

Harrison obviously intended the event as a means to help the less fortunate. Here is our chance, 40 years on, to keep that sense of good will running at full speed.

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