It was August 1, 1971 Vietnam was raging, Nixon was in the White House, Bangladesh was in shambles and in the music world Bob Dylan had vanished and The Beatles had broken up, which was a bigger blow to many Americans than all the other things happening at the time.
Upon the Beatles break up all 4 member released solo works Lennon's first solo album "Plastic Ono Band" and McCartney's "McCartney" while both were quite impressive (particularly Lennon's) they were met with low sales and harsh criticism.
Then came Harrison's triple disc masterpiece "All Things Must Pass" album with its No.1 hit single "My Sweet Lord" the album was nothing short of astonishing especially coming from the quiet Beatle. Ringo also had a big hit single with "It Don't Come Easy."
Ravi Shankar approach Harrison to help the problems facing Shankar's home area of Bangladesh and Harrison organized the very first superstar benefit concert. Two sold out shows on August 1, 1971 at Madison Square Garden, New York City with some top tier talent including Ringo, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, Shankar and his sitar band, Badfinger, Klaus Voorman, Jim Keltner, and Phil Spector arranging it all (building a living wall of sound on stage) and recording a live album. Eric Clapton, who at the time was in self imposed exile, flew over from England to play back up guitar.
Then there was Harrison on top of the music scene and always the center to the concert, wearing his white and orange suit with the OM symbol on his lapels. This was the first time any of the Beatles performed live (barring the performance on the roof of Abbey Road and Lennon's impromptu appearance at the Toronto music festival).
When Harrison plays an acoustic version of "Here Comes the Sun" the rays really fill the room. In this time of problems here were a bunch of rock stars doing something good for other people (none of them got paid for their performances). Here was an audience that wanted to feel good again and Harrison gave them that for a few hours.
Then the sun really shines when the poet of a generation comes out of the shadows, a friend of us all Bob Dylan. Also at his most reclusive point Dylan had not and would not perform live for five years with the exception of this concert. Wearing his acoustic guitar and harmonica Dylan reaches back to his early days to play five of his greatest songs, including "Blowin in the Wind," "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Just Like a Woman." He had not played these songs in a while and more over he plays them straight. It is truly a magical moment which the listener feels.
Then when Dylan leaves the stage to thunderous applause, Harrison launches into his best song "Something" just to remind us that he is awesome.
So for this 40th Anniversary of "The Concert for Bangladesh" check out the free streaming of the concert film at http://www.theconcertforbangladesh.com/. Download the album or songs from iTunes all proceeds go to The George Harrison Fund for UNICEF. I own the Remastered set which has a cool booklet, great sound and the money I paid for it went to the George Harrison Fund. Long live George Harrison, the quiet one, who in 1971 made a lot of great noise.