Susan's Blog

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bangladesh: For All Generations

One of the best presents I got this year so far for Chanukah was from my sister-in-law, Sarai: the new DVD Concert for Bangladesh, George Harrison’s event from 1971. Bangladesh was the first concert of its kind, the Bob Geldof-Bono type of thing that raised huge sums of money for a worthy cause, although as far as I know, autism research has yet to attract the attention of these rock stars; if anyone can put me in touch with Clapton, Bono, and the like, don’t hesitate to do so! 🙂 In this case, the worthy cause was the starving populations of Bangladesh. Unlike most of those other money-raisers, and in true George Harrison style, the Bangladesh musicians did not take a cent for themselves; it all went to the people of Bangladesh. In the interview at the beginning, Harrison is asked, “Of all the many important causes out there, why did you choose this particular cause?”
Harrison replies, “Because a friend asked me.”

The first time I heard this album, I was 9, and my father was playing it (as an LP, of course) on the phonograph in our basement playroom. I remember looking through the liner notes, and coming across a photograph of what to my pre-pubescent self was the most beautiful man I had ever seen. (Why don’t men wear their hair long anymore, or grow beards? Of all the styles that have come back from the ’70’s, men with long hair is the one I would most like to see revived.)

I played Dad’s record over and over, memorizing eventually even the scratches and jumps. As he always did, Dad explained the Bangladesh cause to me, and made sure I listened carefully to the lyrics by singing them out himself. Dad had similarly introduced me to the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel, as well as the Broadway show Hair. An idealistic history teacher and then a high school principal who fought dress codes, my father was probably a closet hippie, who imbued me with the sense of that era: the anti-war sentiments, the need to question authority, the freedom and creativity to be whoever you are, and the desire to help those in need.

Bangladesh has remained in my head as one of my all-time favorite collection of 1970’s performances. Whenever I visit my parents, I get out those liner notes and look at the full, album-size images of Clapton and company (by now I have the CD, but the liner notes are tiny, to go with the size of the jewel case). I bought this new concert DVD and gave it to Dad for Chanukah, by the way.

I thought I knew this album by heart, but seeing Harrison, Dylan, and Clapton performing at their height, and all together, is a tremendously moving experience. I don’t know how I missed this, but Clapton is playing on every song, mostly as backup! Harrison comes out and humbly starts talking about his mission that night, occasionally flashing that unmistakable ex-Beatle grin, just as familiar when peeking through a ZZ-Top beard. In Beware of Darkness, probably my favorite son on the entire album, you can watch Harrison’s expressions as he sings his lyrics, and you can better appreciate their meaning:

Watch out now, take care
Beware of the thoughts that linger
Winding up inside your head
The hopelessness around you
In the dead of night

Beware of sadness
It can hit you
It can hurt you
Make you sore and what is more
That is not what you are here for.

The concert was performed during an era when Clapton was living like a recluse, strung out most of the time on heroin. Harrison was not even certain he would show up until almost the day of the event. But he does show up, and blows them all away with his steady, powerful playing. It is Clapton’s guitar that is playing the twangy oh-so-familiar guitar in My Sweet Lord! At the end of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Harrison starts picking out a lead solo while Clapton is playing one, and they turn to each other and riff off one another, like something out of Derek and the Dominos. You can actually see Clapton adjusting his masterful fingers to match and respond to Harrison’s solo.

And I haven’t even begun with my response to Dylan. When he first comes out, there is a lot of fussing with his mikes and his harmonica. I swear he looks annoyed about the whole thing; I found myself wondering, was Leon Russell standing too close? Did Bob D mind that little solo punctuating It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry? I also wondered why he changes the lyrics in Just Like a Woman from “She makes love just like a woman,” to “She aches just like a woman,” and “She wakes just lke a woman.” Was there censorship going on? And listening to A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall, I could practically taste each lyric because I could watch them fall from Dylan’s sensual, twisted mouth.

When my little (albeit brown-eyed) son began singing along with Hard Rain, my heart lifted in ecstasy: a new generation is born?

I hope so.


Dylan, what a poetic genius…

It is too bad he could never sing a lick.

I mean, why didn’t he just write the songs and let Jimi, Joan, Janis, et al sing them!???

I got a blue-eyed girl (my sweet-haht) who I sing (off-key) Van Morrison to…it still works.

I hope the magic and wonder of the works of geniuses like George, Eric and Bob lives on not just to our children’s generations, but for many generations beyond.

Thanks for bringing back some great memories.

— added by Kudla on Thursday, December 29, 2005 at 5:22 pm

Click here for Bangladesh Profile

— added by Anonymous on Monday, July 3, 2006 at 12:20 am

I can relate to what you said about George Harrison.

Your book made me think about the John Lennon classic, “Give Peace a Chance.”

Harrison RULES!

— added by Anonymous on Saturday, December 15, 2007 at 2:11 am

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