Saturday, 27 May 2023


Following the split of The Beatles, each of the band members acrimoniously splintered off into their own directions and started from scratch. While Paul McCartney and George Harrison would later work together, McCartney turned down a request to perform at the ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ at Madison Square Garden in 1971.

The two concerts at the New York venue marked the first big charity musical event and paved the way for future shows such as Live Aid. Harrison, who hadn’t performed live for many years, was inspired to get back on stage to help the Bangladeshi people, ravaged by The Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, with his friend Ravi Shankar alerting him to the disaster.
In 1992, Harrison recalled how Shankar pleaded with him to help. He stated: “The ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ happened because of my relationship with Ravi … I said, ‘If you want me to be involved, I think I’d better be really involved,’ so I started recruiting all these people.”

The shows and the resulting live album were a monumental success. Initially, Shankar hoped to raise $25,000, and Harrison later claimed it had raised over $45million for the United Nations. At the shows, special guests included Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and Badfinger. However, despite Harrison’s best efforts, McCartney was unwilling to participate and help his old friend because of Allen Klein, The Beatles’ former manager.

Speaking to Melody Maker in 1971, McCartney explained how Klein’s involvement with the concerts was why he couldn’t bring himself to play. “You know I was asked to play George’s concert in New York for Bangladesh and I didn’t? Well, listen. Klein called a press conference and told everyone I had refused to do it – it wasn’t so,” he said.
“I said to George the reason I couldn’t do it was because it would mean that all the world’s press would scream that The Beatles had got back together again and I know that would have made Klein very happy. It would have been a historical event and Klein would have taken the credit,” he continued.

McCartney added: “I didn’t really fancy playing anyway. If it wasn’t for Klein, I might have had second thoughts about it but I don’t know, really. Allen’s a good talker. The others really dig him, but I’ve made the mistake of trying to advise them against him and that pissed them off. I think they might secretly feel that I am right though.”

Years later, McCartney was proven right when Klein stopped working with Harrison and had a bitter dispute with the former Beatles guitarist, which played out in court. Klein purchased the company Bright Tunes, which accused Harrison of “subconscious plagiarism” on his track ‘My Sweet Lord’.

While it would have been pleasant to see McCartney share a stage with Harrison and Starr at the ‘Concert for Bangladesh’, he wasn’t prepared to give Klein the pleasure of bringing three-quarters of The Beatles back together.

Paul McCartney turned down George Harrison's request to perform at the 'Concert for Bangladesh' for a number of reasons.

The Beatles were still in the midst of a legal battle. The band had broken up in 1970, and the four members were still in the process of dividing up their assets. McCartney was concerned that if he performed at the concert, it would be seen as a Beatles reunion, which could jeopardize the legal proceedings.
McCartney was not happy with Allen Klein, who was managing the Beatles at the time. Klein was a controversial figure, and McCartney believed that he was not acting in the best interests of the band. McCartney was concerned that if he performed at the concert, it would be seen as an endorsement of Klein.

McCartney was not convinced that the concert would be successful. The concert was being organized on a very short notice, and McCartney was not sure that it would be able to sell enough tickets to be profitable.
In the end, McCartney decided to decline Harrison's invitation. 

The concert went on without him, and it was a huge success. It raised over $2 million for the relief of the people of Bangladesh, and it helped to raise awareness of the crisis.

In the years since the concert, McCartney has expressed regret for not participating. He has said that he was wrong to let his personal feelings get in the way of helping a good cause.

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