Notes on Sandy and Shankar

The day before this post was written was 12/12/12, the day a major all-star benefit concert was held at New York's Madison Square Garden to raise funds for victims of Hurricane Sandy. It was an amazing night. The Rolling Stones performed! The Who performed! Eric Clapton performed! Billy Joel came out of retirement! (Not that he ever really retired from performing). Baby boomer icons performed alongside heroes of Generation X. Bruce Springsteen sang two duets with Jon Bon Jovi. Roger Waters shared the stage with Eddie Vedder. And, most unpredictably of all, Paul McCartney stood in for the late Kurt Cobain as part of a Nirvana reunion! There was one unexpected pairing of Generation X and Y, when REM's Michael Stipe joined Coldplay's Chris Martin on stage for a performance of "Losing My Religion". And, unfortunately, there was also an overlong set from the egomaniacal Kanye West, who stuck out like a sore thumb.

The big news was the Nirvana reunion. Nirvana survivors Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic took the stage with sometime collaborator Pat Smear and the one and only Paul McCartney, to perform a new song titled "Cut Me Some Slack". I feared the worst, but the song rocked! See for yourself below:

Other high points of the evening included a solemn introductory set by Springsteen, a knockout set by the Who (who interacted with film footage of the late Keith Moon for a performance of "Bellboy"), and a short but graceful set by Clapton. The low point: an abrasive ego trip from Kanye West, who appeared to have borrowed a skirt from Kim Kardashian to wear on stage. I found myself wishing that someone would give Kanye a taste of his own medicine by storming the stage and interrupting his set.

Earlier in the day on 12/12/12, the news was reported that Indian music legend Ravi Shankar died at the age of 92. Shankar's impact on the music world was significant. He brought Indian music to the West, especially when he performed at the Monterey Pop and Woodstock festivals, and he taught George Harrison to play the sitar, leading Harrison to incorporate Indian sounds into Beatles recordings. And, on top of all that, he also brought Norah Jones into the world.

I couldn't help but think that the Hurricane Sandy benefit concert inadvertently served as a fitting tribute to Shankar, who may well have invented the concept of the rock benefit concert as we know it. In 1971, Shankar reached out to George Harrison to organize two famous benefit concerts at Madison Square Garden, to raise money for UNICEF to aid refugees from war-torn Bangladesh who were fleeing to India. Shankar later described The Concert For Bangladesh as "one of the most moving and intense musical experiences of the century".

The 12/12/12 concert is just the latest example of the many benefit concerts that have been inspired by the Concert For Bangladesh. It was held in the same venue and featured at least one of the same artists, namely Eric Clapton. To me, it was touching that this event was held on the same day as the passing of the man who helped to begin the proud tradition of benefit concerts.