Bangla Desh

Album: Concert for Bangla Desh (1971)
Charted: 10 23

Songfacts®:

  • This song describes the plight of the people of Bangladesh, who were fighting for independence from Pakistan. George Harrison decided to help after learning about it from Ravi Shankar, his friend and mentor (Shankar is from India, but is of Bengali descent). Harrison wrote the song for the Concert for Bangladesh, a fund raiser he helped organize with Shankar that was held at Madison Square Garden over the course of two shows on August 1, 1971. Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and Leon Russell all participated.

    The song was released three days earlier to promote the event and start raising money for the cause; Harrison then performed it during the concert as an encore at both shows. He never performed the song again.
  • The country of Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan until March 26, 1971, when it declared independence. This triggered a war with Pakistan, which ruled the country to that point. Many in the area had died during a massive cyclone in November 1970, and the war was ravaging the country once again. Refugees, many Hindu, fled to India by the millions.

    Outside of South Asia, this wasn't a major news story, but Harrison's efforts brought it to the forefront, especially in America. For many, this song was the first time they heard the word "Bangladesh."
  • This was the first charity single by a major artist, and the Concert for Bangladesh was the first benefit concert on this scale. Harrison pulled a page from John Lennon's playbook by making it a multi-media event, with a single, concert, album and film all pulling to help the same cause. It was a remarkably ambitious undertaking that has yet to be duplicated on this level, although Live Aid, which was associated with the single "Do They Know It's Christmas?," was broadcast with a global footprint to an enormous audience and had a much greater impact.
  • This song charted and got a lot of airplay when it was released, but it quickly vanished because it's locked to a specific event and sung in the present (so many people are dying fast). Of George Harrison's hits, it's the one you're least likely to hear on any playlist.
  • George Harrison is the only credited writer on this song, but Leon Russell, who performed at Concert for Bangladesh, gave him some help, suggesting the opening lines that set up the story ("My friend came to me with sadness in his eyes"). Russell most likely played piano on the track.
  • The title is officially "Bangla Desh," but has also appeared as "Bangla-Desh" and what has become the common spelling of the country's name, "Bangladesh."
  • Harrison recorded this song with producer Phil Spector, who worked on Harrison's solo album All Things Must Pass in 1970.
  • George Harrison was careful not to take a political position in this song, instead staying focused on the suffering. In this way, it was the model for most charity songs that came after.
  • The song and the concert were pulled together in about five weeks. The concert album wasn't released until December 20, 1971, and the film didn't appear until March 23, 1972. The album won the Grammy for Album of the Year at the 1973 ceremony.
  • Harrison was in London producing the Badfinger album Straight Up when he pivoted to organize the Concert for Bangladesh. Todd Rundgren took over as producer to finish the album, which includes the hits "Day After Day" and "Baby Blue." Badfinger served as part of the backing band for the concert, and their lead singer, Pete Ham, joined Harrison to perform "Here Comes The Sun."
  • Getting the money earned from this song and the related relief efforts to the right place proved challenging. The IRS audited The Beatles' Apple Records during the '70s, which prevented a lot of money that was raised from getting to Bangladesh. $2 million was sent through UNICEF in 1972 before the audit; $8.8 million was finally sent in 1981. Harrison kept doing good deeds through his Material World charitable trust.

Comments: 7

  • Joe from New York, NyI actually met George Harrison a few days after The Concert For Bangle Desh in August of 1971.That was at the Gramarcy Park Hotel on 23rd street and Lexington avenue in Manhattan,NYC. I must tell you the story....Leon Russell was "dating" my sister Boe and we 3 were staying at the hotel when one Saturday afternoon Leon asked Boe and I to please go out for a few hours so that he may have a meeting with George Harrison in the hotel room.So we agreed and off we walked BUT made sure NOT to get on the elevator right away....we hung around on the floor and there it happened the elevvator door opened and off walked Beatle George harrison in full real life color....I had the same length and style hair as George at the time and as he walked off he asked my sister and I "do you know where Leon's room is"....or something like that....so we said yes and poited to his room's door....BUT George did not just split right away he actually paused and spoke with us for awhile....then he walked to Leon's room and knocked....the door opened and right out of a scene from "A Hard Day's Night" George Harrison waved at us and said something like...."see ya kiddies"....WOW what a day....what an afternoon....what a feeling my sister and I had that time....then we went on the elevator and again wated to get another look at the famous Beatle....we sat on the couch in the lobby of the hotel....and in a short while both Leon Russell and George Harrison came off and walked by us....George smiling at us and Leon saying to us come back in a few hours....then they got into a big black limosuine....!.....Joe Nania a.k.a. Hollywood Joe www.hollywoodjoe.com
  • Roger from Wyandotte, MiWhile I would agree with your comments about George, I wouldn’t about John. Remember that John was the leader of The Beatles and already had done much to express himself and wanted to retreat from the public. John has to be considered the Godfather of Rock and Roll and nearly all forms of music since are variations of what he did. Without John you may never have known about George. George still had much to express after the breakup of The Beatles and he did it magnificently.
  • Rick from Belfast, MeGeorge Harrison...always was my fav Beatle.....and to have a concert for the needy(and dying) people.....how many of these did the #1 male vocalist do?....talking bout Lennon(whom I dont consider #1 male vocalist)....
  • Breanna from Henderson, NvAwesome song from a great artist what isn't there to love?
  • John from Gadsden, Althat is 1 of the best songs on earth
  • Rob from Leamington, Englandgeorge harrison-biggest legend in music
  • Nader from Durham, NcBeing from Bangladesh, a huge Beatles fan, with Harrison as my favorite...this song is awesome!
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