George Harrison

Bangla Desh

Composed by George Harrison

Song Review by

George Harrison and Ravi Shankar's relationship had already been established for several years before Shankar -- a native Bengali -- approached Harrison to help raise awareness about the mass slaughter of refugees during the 1971 war between India and Pakistan. According to Shankar's notes for the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh box set, the pair came upon the idea of holding a "very large scale" happening while working together on Raga, Howard Worth's 1971 documentary film about the Indian musician. In fairly short order, Harrison took up the gauntlet, organizing what is by all accounts the archetype for future intersections of charitable causes and popular music. The former Beatle not only chose the event to make his first public live appearance since the mid-'60s, but also composed and rush-released a single in July of 1971, which quickly became a Top 40 hit. The lyrics narrate the impetus behind the project in a linear fashion, commencing with the lines "My friend came to me/With sadness in his eyes/He told me that he wanted help/Before his country dies/Although I couldn't feel the pain/I knew I had to try/Now I'm asking all of you/To help us save some lives." The solid and driving rhythm kicks in during the chorus, which reiterates the urgent need to "Lend your hand and understand/Relieve the people of Bangla Desh," adding "Now it may seem so far from where we all are/It's something we can't neglect." Suitably, Harrison and his all-star assemblage concluded the concert with a rousing reading, as evidenced by the soundtrack recording that features a tasty solo from saxophonist Jim Horn. An easy listening adaptation was included on Stu Phillips & the Hollyridge Strings' 1972 George, John, Paul, & Ringo Songbook, while the studio version is available on the 1976 Best of George Harrison compilation.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Concert for Bangladesh 1971 Capitol 5:01
Living in the Material World 1973 Beatles Catalog Mkt 3:57
The Best of George Harrison 1976 Capitol/EMI Records / Capitol 3:59
Concert For Bangladesh [Video/DVD] 1981
Various Artists
Paramount Records
Pirate Songs 1995 VigoTone 3:52
The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons 2005
Various Artists
PIAS / Studio 65
The Concert for Bangladesh [DVD] 2005 Rhino/Warner Bros.
blue highlight denotes editor's pick