memories of the ’70s – The Concert for Bangladesh

In 1971, a war and devastation in a country barely known in North America became the focus of concerts that helped raised money and awareness – The Concert for Bangladesh.

East Pakistan was struggling to become independent during 1970-71 liberation war, while the Bhola cyclone hit the area in November 1970. These two events caused the displacement of seven million people, refugees trying to survive the effects of war and famine.

Musician Ravi Shankar, working with former Beatle George Harrison on an album, expressed his anger and horror at the unfolding crisis in East Pakistan (colonial name prior to Bangladesh).

Harrison and Shankar read an article in London’s Sunday Times, showing the horrible conditions and atrocities that were happening and decided to do something to raise awareness, and support the people’s independence.

With three months of planning, George Harrison called on his well-known musician pals to create The Concert for Bangladesh, two concerts on Sunday August 1, 1971 at New York City’s Madison Square Gardens.

Mixing traditional Indian music with contemporary pop, the concert started with Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, traditional Indian musicians, and then was a well-known list of American and Brit performers – Harrison, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Leon Russell and the band Badfinger.

The headliners were backed by a nine member band, the six member Hollywood Horns and seven back-up singers – plus two well-known Indian musicians.

The two sold out shows, with 40,000 people attending, became the first well-known concert done for charity. Shankar had hoped to raise $25,000 for refugees. UNICEF, who helped administer the money, benefitted with $250,000 raised from the concerts.

NME¬†described the concerts as the “greatest rock spectacle of the decade” since this was the first time two ex-Beatle members had graced the stage together and with the appearance of Dylan, who had quit touring.

A triple-live album The Concert for Bangladesh, recorded by Phil Spector, was released in December 1971/January 1972, which became a bestseller on the charts.

Controversy did strike this project – as there was no tax-exempt status for the project, buying the album or eventual video of concerts, which led to many problems with proper distribution of funds to the charity, as it was held in escrow until taxes were assessed and paid.

All money was eventually channeled through the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF, which continues to benefit from sales of the album and concert film to this day, and these concerts are credited with being the first time pop music took a stand to help those in need on such a large scale.


memories of the ’80s – The Great Mouse Detective

In the mid 1980s, it was a film starring mice that captured the hearts of kids at the box office: The Great Mouse Detective.

Based on a series of books by author Eve Titus, Basil of Baker Street, this creature version of the classic Sherlock Holmes tale was made for the big screen by Walt Disney Studios.

The film, set in Victorian London, starts with Hiram and Olivia, a father and daughter, who make toys. Hiram is taken forcibly to Professor Ratigan and told to create a robot that looks like the Queen of Mice so he can take over England. If he doesn’t, the Professor will kill Olivia.

Olivia goes looking for Basil of Baker Street to help her father, assisted by Dr. David Dawson. Basil and David disguise themselves to discover the lair or Ratigan, rescue the Queen of Mice after being kidnapped by Ratigan and exposing Professor Ratigan and his nefarious schemes.

Well-known voice actors worked on this project – and one very well-known stage and screen actor: Vincent Price, who was the voice of Professor Ratigan.

With a new head of studio, the budget for this film was cut from $24 million to $10 million and later came in at $14 million. The production team knew they had a lot to prove as the previous animated feature, The Black Cauldron, had been a financial flop.

Released in July 1996, The Great Mouse Detective made almost $24 million in its initial run at the box office. The simple story was a hit with kids and critics, pushing the box office total to almost $39 million.

And thanks to the success of this film, Disney Studios was back in the game again with animation and two years later released one of its major successes of the 1980s – The Little Mermaid.

memories of the ’70s – The Rescuers

In the summer of 1977, the Rescue Aid Society debuted on the big screen, better known as The Rescuers.

This international mouse organization, based in New York City, is headed up by two wiley mice: Bernard (with voice by Bob Newhart) and Miss Bianca (with voice by Eva Gabor).

Their mission: to rescue Penny, who is being held hostage by Madame Medusa (voiced by Geraldine Page), a treasure hunter, and helped by her second in command, Mr. Snoops (voiced by voice actor veteran Joe Flynn).

Based on a series of books by British writer Margery Sharp called The Rescuers, the nine books were all about the adventures of Miss Bianca and Bernard.

In the film, Bernard and Miss Bianca find a message in a bottle in NYC, sent by Penny, being held captive in Devil’s Bayou. With the help of an albatross named Orville and a dragonfly named Evinrude, the duo figure out where to find Madame Medusa’s lair and that she thinks Penny is the link to finding the rare Devil’s Eye diamond.

A series of animals come to help the Rescue Aid Society including a couple of muskrats, an owl, and a turtle, while two fierce alligators act as Madame Medusa’s protectors.

It took four years to create this film – with 40 animators working on the project full-time and was the first time that the Disney production team was a mix of experienced animators and new-hires.

Released in June 1977, and made for a budget of 1.2 million, the film eventually grossed $71 million, another success for Walt Disney Studios, thanks to a cast of creatures.

I definitely remember this fun kids film – I loved the antics of rescuing a young orphan, trying to find the diamond and trying to escape the bayou. Little did I know that years later I would explore the bayou of Louisiana – although without two mice.