Special thanks to ThisDayinMusic.com.

It all started with a simple request from one friend to another. That was George Harrison’s response to a reporter’s question during a press conference for The Concert for Bangladesh. “With all the enormous problems in the world, how did you happen to choose this one to do something about?” the reporter asked.

“Because I was asked by a friend if I would help, you know,” Harrison responded. “That’s all.”

The former Beatle started by recording and releasing the single “Bangla Desh” to help raise awareness. He also lobbied Apple Records to release Shankar’s single “Joy Bangla.” Wanting to do even more for a country ravaged by war, terrorism, famine and the devastating 1970 Bhola cyclone, Harrison picked up the phone and started enlisting his friends and musical colleagues to join the cause by performing in a benefit concert.

Harrison approached his fellow Beatles to perform. John Lennon agreed, but Harrison’s stipulation that Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono not perform (a stipulation Lennon initially agreed to) was not met well by Ono, and on the eve of the concert, John and Yoko left New York City. Paul McCartney wanted no part in the event. Bad feelings and legal wranglings had left McCartney feeling a bit too raw about getting back together so soon: “George came up and asked if I wanted to play Bangladesh, and I thought, blimey, what’s the point?” McCartney said in an interview with Rolling Stone years later. “We’re just broken up, and we’re joining up again? It just seemed a bit crazy.” Ringo Starr, of course, agreed.

Eric Clapton agreed to perform, but there were questions the week leading up to the event whether he’d actually make it because he’d taken ill. Harrison made sure to book plane tickets for Clapton on every available London to New York flight on the week leading up to the concert. Other guitarists were brought into the fold just in case Clapton was unable to perform (Clapton did eventually make it in time to perform, but just barely; he arrived just in time for soundcheck and missed the entire week of rehearsals.)

The final roster of stars performing made the lineup a veritable supergroup: In addition to Harrison, Clapton, Ringo and Shankar, Bob Dylan performed, as did Billy Preston, Leon Russell and members of Badfinger.

Madison Square Garden was booked for the event, which took place on this day in 1971. The benefit actually turned into two different full-length concerts, the first being held at noon and the second at 7 p.m. 40,000 people attended the two shows, which carried essentially the same set lists though there were a few differences between the afternoon and evening concerts.

Despite a couple of backing roles for Delaney & Bonnie and John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, The Concert for Bangladesh was Harrison’s first live performance since the demise of The Beatles. It was also Clapton’s first live show since ending a Derek and the Dominos tour nine months earlier. And Dylan hadn’t been on stage since 1969’s Isle of Wight Festival. It also marked the first live performance of the Harrison-Clapton collaboration “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

The Concert for Bangladesh was recorded and filmed with Phil Spector overseeing the sound production. The resulting triple album, which was released later in 1971, hit #1 in the U.K., #2 in the States and won the Grammy for Album of the Year. The concert film was released in 1972, then, again, years later on home video. In 2005 it was re-issued on DVD and accompanied by a new documentary full of interviews and additional behind the scenes footage.

UNICEF was put in charge of administering all funds raised from the event. The original concert generated $243,418. Sales of the album and 2005 DVD continue to benefit the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF, which to date has generated over $12 million dollars.

And it all started because one friend asked another for a helping hand.