Article previously published in November, 2005.


George Harrison’s Concert For Bangladesh Released On DVD

By Phyllis Pollack

Thirty-four years after its release in theaters, The Concert For Bangladesh, George Harrison And Friends has been released on DVD by Apple Corps/Rhino. The double DVD set also features an intriguing 75-minute documentary containing interviews with George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell and others who were part the historic concert event. Additionally, it gives information about UNICEF, the beneficiary of the proceeds, explaining how the funds have helped the relief effort in Bangladesh. A remixed and remastered version of the double CD set, containing a bonus track, has also just been issued, commemorating the Grammy Award winning three-album box set that was released approximately five months after the historic Madison Square Garden concert was held on August 1, 1971. All artist royalties from the CD and DVD are being donated to charity.

A special screening for the documentary was held in Burbank last week to celebrate the release of the sets. Among those attending were the late Beatle’s wife, Olivia Harrison and her son Dhani, as well as Bangladesh concert veterans, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Klaus Voorman, and Jim Keltner. Also attending were comedian and musician, Eric Idle, John Densmore of the Doors, Joey Molland of Badfinger, Anjelica Houston, and actresses Tea Leoni and Alyssa Milano, who serve as UNICEF Ambassadors.

Harrison’s wife, Olivia, noted that her husband set up his own charity foundation, The George Harrison Fund For UNICEF, after becoming frustrated with bureaucracies that had slowed down the process of intended recipients receiving help. The fund, which has raised millions dollars to help children in humanitarian emergencies, is still active and helping those who are suffering as a result of natural disasters, government conflicts, malnutrition, illness, abuse, and other humanitarian emergencies. Donations can be made online at www.GeorgeHarrisonFundForUNICEF.com.

The historic concert is acknowledged as the first large-scale concert ever held to raise money for a cause. The groundbreaking event, which became the example for all benefit concerts to follow, came to fruition after sitar player, Ravi Shankar, asked Harrison for help when ten million East Pakistanis had fled from violence at the hands of West Pakistan, and up to three million people were killed. The refugees were plagued by mass starvation and other health crises. Foreign governments gave little assistance, and the situation was desperate.

Harrison enlisted the help of his friends, who assembled on stage for a live concert, the likes of which the world had never seen before. At the premiere, Olivia pointed out, “These musicians are enduring; they’re still here now,” noting that the film is “a very historic document” that was an “enduring model for the musicians to come.” Dhani, who bears a striking resemblance to his father, described the musicians who were involved as being “like family.”

Within the historic performances preserved on film are Harrison’s performances of “Something,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Here Comes The Sun” and “Bangladesh.” Bob Dylan is seen playing essential classics “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Just Like A Woman,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” and “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry.” Among the film’s most memorable scenes is Leon Russell’s inspired medley of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Young Blood.” Ringo Starr’s rendition of “It Don’t Come Easy” and the emotional performance of Ravi Shankar also contribute to the legendary stature of the film. At the concert, the music was recorded and produced for the film and the related soundtrack by Phil Spector, who had perfected his trademark “Wall Of Sound” technique; it was remastered for the reissued CD at Abbey Road Studios.

Media coverage of the 1971 concert that is seen in the documentary includes a segment with Geraldo Rivera reporting on the upcoming event while he was a local news reporter in New York. Eric Clapton talks candidly about how drugs had become a destructive force in the Sixties, and had taken a toll in rock and roll. Rolling Stone publisher Jan Wenner discusses how the concert turned “peace and love into actual truth and fact.”

Among the details uncovered in the DVD’s mini features section, it is revealed that fans always looked for secret messages on Beatles albums, and therefore, Harrison placed a subliminal message at the end of the album, which to this day, has never been deciphered.


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