George Harrison & Eric Clapton: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

From the amazing Concert for Bangladesh, 1971. Wikipedia:

The Concert for Bangladesh (or Bangla Desh, as the country name was spelt originally) was the name for two benefit concerts organised by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, held at 2.30 and 8 pm on Sunday, 1 August 1971, playing to a total of 40,000 people at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The shows were organised to raise international awareness and fund relief efforts for refugees from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), following the 1970 Bhola cyclone and the civil war-related Bangladesh atrocities. The concerts were followed by a bestselling live album, a boxed three-record set, and Apple Filmsconcert documentary, which opened in cinemas in the spring of 1972.

The event was the first-ever benefit concert 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 another legend of Indian music, Ali Akbar Khan, performed a separate set. 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 …”

The concerts raised close to US$250,000 for Bangladesh relief, which was administered by UNICEF. Although the project was subsequently marred by financial problems − a result of the pioneering nature of the venture − 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, notably 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 in relief.

Sales of the live album and DVD release of the film continue to benefit the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF.

I’ve seen the film and it’s amazing. Take a look again at that list of stars above.

This is George Harrison doing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from the Beatles White Album. Lead guitar is a (fairly messed up, from the looks of it) Eric Clapton, who still plays up a storm. The last third of the cut is a simultaneous two-guitar solo by Harrison and Clapton. Enjoy.

About Clapton, from Wikipedia again:

The final rehearsal (or the first for some of the participants) was combined with the concert soundcheck, at Madison Square Garden, late on 31 July. Both Dylan and Clapton finally appeared at the soundcheck that night. Even then, Clapton was in the early stages of heroin withdrawal − only a cameraman supplying him with some methadone would result in the English guitarist taking the stage the following day, after his young girlfriend had been unsuccessful in purchasing uncut heroin for him on the street. As for Dylan, he seemed to be having severe doubts about performing in such a big-event atmosphere. ”Look, it’s not my scene either, man,” Harrison countered. “[This] is the first time I have ever done anything on my own. You, at least, have been a solo artist for years.”

Still a fine event. Music for a Sunday.

GP

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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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  • Houndentenor

    Clapton was in pretty bad shape around that time. No one knew if he’d show or if he’d be in any shape to play. Dylan waffled on whether or not he’d show up to. It was a huge triumph for Dylan who’d been out of the public eye for a couple of years. It was also the first time anyone in rock music had attempting something like this. Harrison pulled the whole thing together in a few weeks. there were mistakes along the way (mostly having to do with filing paperwork for nonprofit status) but it was the start of musicians coming together to raise money and awareness for causes. That George was a good egg and still my favorite Beatle.

  • Boomed

    Unbelievable!! They sure don’t make music like that any more. :)

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I was 8, and will be turning 50 next Sunday. Definitely feeling waves of melancholy to know that two of my favorite Beatles are long departed.

    You’re right though — this is magnificent musicianship and made my day, too.

  • Krusher

    1971…my son was one, then. He’s 42 now. ARRRRGH. And John and George are dead. Still, it’s a beautiful piece of music and it made my Sunday..

  • http://twitter.com/pgwhitfield Peter Whitfield

    Yes!!!

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