- Timeline More from year 1971
More from year 1971
Gibson auctions Paul McCartney-played Les Paul guitar for Ukraine relief
November 11-13, 2022
Paul McCartney endorses the Man/Kind Initiative
Feb 22, 2022
Paul McCartney supports Streets Of London charity
Jun 02-25, 2021
2012 Teenage Cancer Trust streamed on YouTube
Oct 11, 2020
Paul McCartney and Shure partner for auction project
March 13-27, 2017
Paul McCartney contributes to Refugee Auction
November 26 - December 6, 2015
Rocking horse signed by Paul McCartney auctioned
November 19-29, 2015
Piano signed by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr auctioned
November 21, 2014 - April 16, 2015
Paul McCartney gives signed guitar to help elephants
August 13-24, 2014
Spread the love! If you like what you are seeing, share it on social networks and let others know about The Paul McCartney Project.
On this day, two benefit concerts, organised by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, were held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. George asked the three other ex-Beatles to participate. Paul McCartney declined, as he didn’t want to be part of a sort of Beatles reunion, especially considering the legal problems for the break-up of the Beatles’ partnership.
The Concert for Bangladesh (or Bangla Desh, as the country’s name was originally spelt) was a pair of benefit concerts organised by former Beatles guitarist George Harrison and Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar. The shows were held at 2:30 and 8:00 pm on Sunday, 1 August 1971, at Madison Square Garden in New York City, to raise international awareness of, and fund relief for refugees from East Pakistan, following the Bangladesh Liberation War-related genocide. The concerts were followed by a bestselling live album, a boxed three-record set, and Apple Films’ concert documentary, which opened in cinemas in the spring of 1972.
The event was the first-ever benefit of such a magnitude, and featured a supergroup of performers that included Harrison, fellow ex-Beatle Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russell and the band Badfinger. In addition, Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan – both of whom had ancestral roots in Bangladesh – performed an opening set of Indian classical music. The concerts were attended by a total of 40,000 people, and the initial gate receipts raised close to $250,000 for Bangladesh relief, which was administered by UNICEF.
After collecting the musicians easily, Harrison found it extremely difficult to get the recording industry to release the rights for performers to share the stage, and millions of dollars raised from the album and film were tied up in IRS tax escrow accounts for years, but the Concert for Bangladesh is recognised as a highly successful and influential humanitarian aid project, generating both awareness and considerable funds as well as providing valuable lessons and inspiration for projects that followed, such as Live Aid.
By 1985, through revenue raised from the Concert for Bangladesh live album and film, an estimated $12 million had been sent to Bangladesh, and sales of the live album and DVD release of the film continue to benefit the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF. Decades later, Shankar would say of the overwhelming success of the event: “In one day, the whole world knew the name of Bangladesh. It was a fantastic occasion.”
As East Pakistan struggled to become the separate state of Bangladesh during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, the political and military turmoil and associated atrocities led to a massive refugee problem, with at least 7 million displaced people pouring into neighbouring India. East Pakistan had recently endured devastation as a result of the Bhola cyclone, and the Bengalis’ desperate plight increased in March that year when torrential rains and floods arrived in the region, threatening a humanitarian disaster. Quoting figures available at the time, a Rolling Stone feature claimed that up to half a million Bengalis had been killed by the cyclone in November 1970 and that the Pakistani army’s subsequent campaign of slaughter under Operation Searchlight accounted for at least 250,000 civilians, “by the most conservative estimates”. Following the mass exodus to Calcutta, a new threat arrived as the refugees faced starvation and the outbreak of diseases such as cholera.
Appalled at the situation affecting his homeland and relatives, Bengali musician Ravi Shankar first brought the issue to the attention of his friend George Harrison in the early months of 1971, over dinner at Friar Park, according to Klaus Voormann’s recollection. By April, Shankar and Harrison were in Los Angeles working on the soundtrack to the film Raga, during which Harrison wrote the song “Miss O’Dell”, commenting on corruption among the Indian authorities as aid shipments of rice from the West kept “going astray on [their] way to Bombay“. After returning to England to produce Badfinger’s Straight Up album and take part in sessions for John Lennon’s Imagine – all the while, being kept abreast of developments by Shankar, via newspaper and magazine cuttings – Harrison was back in LA to finish the Raga album in late June. By then, the Sunday Times in London had just published an influential article by Pakistani journalist Anthony Mascarenhas, which exposed the full horror of the Bangladesh atrocities, and a distraught Shankar approached Harrison for help in trying to alleviate the suffering. Harrison later talked of spending “three months” on the phone organising the Concert for Bangladesh, implying that efforts were under way from late April onwards; it is widely acknowledged that the project began in earnest during the last week of June 1971, however, five or six weeks before the event took place on 1 August.
Shankar’s original hope was to raise $25,000 through a benefit concert of his own, compered perhaps by actor Peter Sellers. With Harrison’s commitment, and the record and film outlets available to him through the Beatles’ Apple Corps organisation, the idea soon grew to become a star-studded musical event, mixing Western rock with Indian classical music, and it was to be held at the most prestigious venue in America: Madison Square Garden, in New York City. According to Chris O’Dell, a music-business administrator and former Apple employee, Harrison got off the phone with Shankar once the concept had been finalised, and started enthusing with his wife, Pattie Boyd, about possible performers. Ringo Starr, Lennon, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Jim Keltner, Voormann, Billy Preston and Badfinger were all mentioned during this initial brainstorming.
O’Dell set about contacting local musicians from the Harrisons’ rented house in Nichols Canyon, as Harrison took the long-distance calls, hoping more than anything to secure Bob Dylan’s participation. Almost all of Harrison’s first-choice names signed on immediately, while a day spent boating with Memphis musician Don Nix resulted in the latter agreeing to organise a group of backing singers. A local Indian astrologer had advised early August as a good time in which to stage the concert, and as things transpired, the first day of that month, a Sunday, was the only day that Madison Square Garden was available at such short notice.
By the first week of July, Harrison was in a Los Angeles studio recording his purpose-written song, “Bangla Desh”, with co-producer Phil Spector. The song’s opening verse documents Shankar’s plea to Harrison for assistance, and the lyrics “My friend came to me with sadness in his eyes / Told me that he wanted help before his country dies” provided an enduring image for what United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan later recognised as the basic human aspect behind the cause.
Harrison then met with Badfinger in London to explain that he would have to abandon work on Straight Up, before flying to New York on 13 July to see Lennon. During the middle of July also, once back in Los Angeles, Harrison produced Shankar’s Bangladesh benefit record, an EP titled Joi Bangla. The latter featured contributions from East Bengal-born Ali Akbar Khan, on sarod, and tabla player Alla Rakha. As with Harrison’s “Bangla Desh”, all profits from this recording would go to the newly established George Harrison–Ravi Shankar Special Emergency Relief Fund, to be distributed by UNICEF. Also around the middle of July, the upcoming concert by “George Harrison and Friends” was announced “via a minuscule ad buried in the back pages of the New York Times“, author Nicholas Schaffner wrote in 1977. Tickets sold out in no time, leading to the announcement of a second show.
Towards the end of the month, when all parties were due to meet in New York for rehearsals, Harrison had the commitment of a backing band comprising: Preston, on keyboards; the four members of Badfinger, on acoustic rhythm guitars and tambourine; Voormann and Keltner, on bass and drums, respectively; and saxophonist Jim Horn’s so-called “Hollywood Horns”, which included Chuck Findley, Jackie Kelso and Lou McCreary. Of the established stars, Leon Russell had committed also, but on the proviso that he be supported by members of his tour band. Eric Clapton insisted that he too would be there, even if O’Dell and other insiders, knowing of the guitarist’s incapacity due to severe heroin addiction, were surprised that Harrison had considered him for the occasion.
Among Harrison’s former bandmates, Lennon initially agreed to take part in the concert without his wife and musical partner Yoko Ono, as Harrison had apparently stipulated. Lennon then allegedly had an argument with Ono as a result of this agreement and left New York in a rage two days before the concerts. Starr’s commitment had never been in question, and he interrupted the filming of his movie Blindman in Almeria, Spain, in order to attend. Paul McCartney declined to take part, however, citing the bad feelings caused by the Beatles’ legal problems on their break-up. […]
I didn’t play on George’s Bangla Desh concert because if I’d turned up and John had turned up, then the headlines round the world would have screamed ‘The Beatles Are Together Again!’ Quite frankly, I didn’t fancy playing there anyway.Paul McCartney – Interview with Disc And Music Echo, November 1971
You know I was asked to play George’s concert in New York for Bangla Desh and I didn’t? Well, listen. Klein called a press conference and told everyone I had refused to do it – it wasn’t so.
I said to George the reason I couldn’t do it was because it would mean that all the world’s press would scream that The Beatles had got back together again and I know that would have made Klein very happy. It would have been a historical event and Klein would have taken the credit.
I didn’t really fancy playing anyway. If it wasn’t for Klein I might have had second thoughts about it but I don’t know, really. Allen’s a good talker. The others really dig him, but I’ve made the mistake of trying to advise them against him and that pissed them off. I think they might secretly feel that I am right though.
You know when ‘Let It Be’ came out there was a little bit of hype on the sleeve for the first time ever on a Beatles album. At the time we were strained with each other and it wasn’t a happy time. It said it was a new phase Beatles album and there was nothing further from the truth.
That was the last Beatles album and everybody knew it. There was no new phase about it at all. Klein had it re-produced because he said it didn’t sound commercial enough.Paul McCartney – From interview with Melody Maker, November 20, 1971
He doesn’t want the name McCartney linked with the names of the other Beatles. It’s pursuing an illusion, something that no longer exists. He wants The Beatles to become on paper what they are in fact. He wants to be allowed to pursue his career and he’s trying his utmost to be simply Paul McCartney.Shelley Turner – Paul McCartney’s spokesman – From “The Beatles: Off The Record 2 – The Dream is Over: Dream Is Over Vol 2” by Keith Badman
Last updated on May 5, 2022
The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After The Break-Up 1970-2001
"An updated edition of the best-seller. The story of what happened to the band members, their families and friends after the 1970 break-up is brought right up to date. A fascinating and meticulous piece of Beatles scholarship."
We owe a lot to Keith Badman for the creation of those pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - a day to day chronology of what happened to the four Beatles after the break-up and how their stories intertwined together!
The Beatles - The Dream is Over: Off The Record 2
This edition of the book compiles more outrageous opinions and unrehearsed interviews from the former Beatles and the people who surrounded them. Keith Badman unearths a treasury of Beatles sound bites and points-of-view, taken from the post break up years. Includes insights from Yoko Ono, Linda McCartney, Barbara Bach and many more.
Maccazine - Volume 40, Issue 3 - RAM Part 1 - Timeline
This very special RAM special is the first in a series. This is a Timeline for 1970 – 1971 when McCartney started writing and planning RAM in the summer of 1970 and ending with the release of the first Wings album WILD LIFE in December 1971. [...] One thing I noted when exploring the material inside the deluxe RAM remaster is that the book contains many mistakes. A couple of dates are completely inaccurate and the story is far from complete. For this reason, I started to compile a Timeline for the 1970/1971 period filling the gaps and correcting the mistakes. The result is this Maccazine special. As the Timeline was way too long for one special, we decided to do a double issue (issue 3, 2012 and issue 1, 2013).
Maccazine - Volume 47, Issue 1 - The birth of Wings
"Maccazine is a hard copy magazine (a bound paperback) about Paul McCartney. It is published twice a year. Due to the fact that the Internet has taken over the world and the fact that the latest Paul McCartney news is to be found on hundreds of websites, we have decided to focus on creating an informative paper magazine about Paul McCartney."
"In this issue we take you back to the early days of Paul McCartney’s solo career when he decided to form a new group. With Wings he proved there was life after The Beatles. This Maccazine features a detailed timeline of ‘the birth’ of the band with interesting entries including many new facts and unpublished photos. Follow-up timelines will be published in the upcoming years."
If we like to think, in all modesty, that the Paul McCartney Project is the best online ressource for everything Paul McCartney, The Beatles Bible is for sure the definitive online site focused on the Beatles. There are obviously some overlap in terms of content between the two sites, but also some major differences in terms of approach.
Have you spotted an error on the page? Do you want to suggest new content? Or do you simply want to leave a comment ? Please use the form below!