This week’s song of the week takes us back to the summer of 1971. It had been a little over a year since the public learned that The Beatles had broken up. That August John was preparing to move to New York City the following month. Paul was preparing to release his second Number One single since the breakup, the quirky “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” from his underrated LP Ram. Ringo was fresh off of his first smash hit since leaving The Beatles, “It Don’t Come Easy.” And George? He was only trying to save a nation.
In November of 1970 the Bhola cyclone struck Bangladesh and caused one of the greatest humanitarian disasters of the twentieth century. It is estimated that up to 500,000 perished as a result of the storm, while countless others faced starvation in the aftermath. In response George Harrison and Ravi Shankar organized The Concert For Bangladesh, a two show spectacular at Madison Square Garden in New York on August 1, 1971. It was the first rock and roll benefit show of its kind and a true precursor of events like “Live Aid” in the 1980s. The proceeds of the concert, film and soundtrack sales went to UNICEF.
The concerts themselves featured an all-star cast of rock legends. George, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan (in a rare live appearance from that era), Billy Preston, Leon Russell, Badfinger, and more. The number we have chosen is the rocking set opener, “Wah Wah.” The energy of the track bests the studio version on All Things Must Pass which, coincidentally featured most of the same players. Check out the rest of the concert on YouTube when you have time. It is worth it.
Update below the fold:
UPDATE: We had to post more from this concert as the music is just too good. George released a single “Bangla Desh” just prior to the concerts and it remains one of George’s most overlooked and underappreciated singles. Never before (or since) had George sung with such intensity as he did on this blistering track. And the production of the concert (by Phil Spector, producer of both All Things Must Pass and the “Bangla Desh”) duplicates Spector’s “Wall of Sound” technique to perfection.
And just to close things out, here is one of the highlights of the entire concert. Billy Preston steals the show with a powerful performance of his single “That’s The Way God Planned It” – spontaneously jumping up and dancing during the final chorus.