Concerts were held worldwide on Saturday, July 13, 1985, for the Live Aid charity. The first concert was organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to continue the popularity of the 1984 charity record “Do They Know It’s Christmas? “, which had raised a lot of money to help alleviate the famine in Ethiopia from 1983 to 1985. Wembley Stadium in London hosted the event, which dubbed itself the “global jukebox,” and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia saw an audience of 89,484.
The Soviet Union, Canada, Japan, Yugoslavia, Austria, Australia, and West Germany were only some of the countries that performed performances that were influenced by the idea on the same day. An estimated 1.9 billion people from 150 countries, or about 40% of the world’s population, watched the live broadcast, making it one of the greatest satellite link-ups and television broadcasts in history.
Live Aid’s effect on hunger alleviation has been hotly contested for a long time. With the exposure from the concert, “humanitarian concern is now at the center of foreign policy for Western nations,” an aid relief worker said.
According to Geldof: “We took an issue that was nowhere on the political agenda and, using the lingua franca of the earth — which is not English but rock ‘n’ roll — we were able to address the intellectual absurdity and the moral repulsion of people dying of want in a world of surplus.”
The charity record “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was also the inspiration for the 1985 Live Aid concert, which was also the brainchild of Geldof and Ure. The BBC News broadcasts by Michael Buerk in October 1984 showed horrible scenes of starvation in Ethiopia, where an estimated one million people were affected by the famine.
The hunger was initially reported by the BBC News team on 23 October, with Buerk calling it “a biblical famine in the 20th century” and “the closest thing to hell on Earth.” A young nurse named Claire Bertschinger was highlighted in the news stories; she described her sadness at choosing which children would be permitted access to the feeding station’s limited food supplies and which were too sick to be saved.
Geldof once said of her, “In her was vested the power of life and death,” because she would mark the selected children. Godhood, as she now possessed it, is intolerable to human beings.
Harvey Goldsmith, who was in charge of the Wembley Stadium performance, and Bill Graham, who organized the American portion, were both instrumental in the planning and execution of Live Aid. Goldsmith said when asked about advertising the event, “I didn’t get a chance to say no. During his visit to my office, Bob [Geldof] said, “We’re doing this.” From there, it spread.
More performers were added on both sides of the Atlantic, expanding the concert’s scope. Through his friendship with Philadelphia Mayor Goode, instant replay creator Tony Verna was able to secure a game at John F. Kennedy Stadium, secure a three-hour prime time slot on the ABC Network, and supplement the long program with meetings that resulted in the addition of an ad hoc network within the US, which covered 85 percent of TVs there.
Verna drew up the necessary satellite diagram and went on to serve as Executive Director and Co-Executive Producer alongside Hal Uplinger. Uplinger proposed making a four-hour cut of Live Aid to send to countries lacking satellite capability to rebroadcast the live signal.
The concert at Wembley Stadium in the United Kingdom started at 12:00 British Summer Time (BST) or 7:00 Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). At 13:51 British Summer Time (BST), it resumed at America’s John F. Kennedy Stadium (JFK) (8:51 EDT). Wembley Stadium’s shows in the UK concluded at 22:00 BST (17:00 EDT).
At 4:05 a.m. on 14 July BST, the JFK performances and the rest of the concert in the United States concluded (23:05 EDT). Thus, the show lasted slightly longer than 16 hours, albeit it lasted much longer because many musicians performed simultaneously at both Wembley and JFK.
The plan was for Mick Jagger to be in Philadelphia and David Bowie to be in London for a transatlantic duet. Because of timing issues, the best option was probably to have one performer (presumably Bowie at Wembley) lip sync to produce vocals broadcast as part of the live sound mix for Jagger’s performance in Philadelphia.
Both artists also took issue with miming what they saw as a momentous occasion. Instead of performing live, Jagger and Bowie collaborated with Richards to produce a video of their cover of “Dancing in the Street,” which was shown on the screens of both stadiums and transmitted as part of the coverage by numerous TV networks.
‘Royal Salute,’ a condensed version of ‘God Save the Queen,’ was played by the Coldstream Guards band to kick off the proceedings. The show opened with Status Quo, who opened with “Rockin’ All Over the World” and continued with “Caroline” and the crowd pleaser “Don’t Waste My Time.
” Singer/guitarist Francis Rossi recalls, “Bob told me, ‘It doesn’t matter a fuck what you sound like, just so long as you’re there. “I appreciate your forthrightness, Sir Bob,” This performance would be the final to feature original members Alan Lancaster on bass and Pete Kircher on drums. When the concert began, many royals, including Princess Diana and Prince Charles, were in attendance.
The John F. Kennedy Stadium
Live Aid concert in Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium, as seen from the stage. Actor Jack Nicholson hosted the event broadcast from Philadelphia. Before leading the crowd in renditions of “Amazing Grace” and “We Are the World,” opening performer Joan Baez declared, “this is your Woodstock, and it’s a long time.”
Madonna, referring to the recent publication of early nude images of her in Playboy and Penthouse magazines, declared, “I ain’t taking shit off today!” during her act, despite the 95 °F (35 °C) ambient temperature.
Criticism and Controversies
In between “Ballad of Hollis Brown” and “When the Ship Comes In,” Bob Dylan made a controversial statement: “I hope that some of the money… maybe they can just take a little bit of it, maybe… one or two million, maybe… and use it, say, to pay the mortgages on some of the farms and, the farmers here owe to the banks.
Geldof criticized the comment in his autobiography, Is That It? (1986), writing, “He exhibited a complete lack of comprehension of the concerns presented by Live Aid.” In Live Aid, we mourned the loss of life. Inconceivably, losing your job is very different from losing your life. It was a crude, dumb, and patriotic thing to say, but it helped spark Farm Aid, which was a wonderful thing.
Was Live Aid 1985 The Best Concert Ever?
More than 33 years have passed since Queen, led by their electrifying frontman Freddie Mercury, stormed the stage at the 1985 Live Aid event and delivered the performance widely considered the most fantastic live gig ever.
Who Was The Best Live Aid Performer?
On July 13, 1985, Live Aid took place and forever altered the course of popular music.
The historic benefit concert aired live from both Wembley Stadium in London and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. Over a billion people tuned in live to watch it, raising over $125 million for African famine relief.
In celebration of its 10th year, here are the performances you really must see.
- Mick Jagger and Tina Turner
- David Bowie
- The Cars
- Dire Straits
- Judas Priest
- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
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