Live Aid was a multi-venue rock music concert held on July 13, 1985. The event was organised by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in order to raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia. Billed as a "global jukebox", the main sites for the event were Wembley Stadium, London, (with some 72,000 in attendance) and JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, (with approximately 90,000 attending), with some acts performing at other venues such as Sydney and Moscow. It was the largest scale satellite link-up and TV broadcast of all time -- an estimated 1.5 billion viewers watched the live broadcast.
The concert was conceived as a follow-up to another Geldof/Ure project, the successful charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" performed by a collection of British and Irish music acts billed as "Band Aid" and released the previous winter.
The concert grew in scope as more acts were added on both sides of the Atlantic. As a charity fundraiser, the concert far exceeded its goals: on a television programme in 2001 one of the organisers stated that while initially it had been hoped that Live Aid would raise £1 million ($1.64 million), when the money raised was finally totted up, it had raised more than £150 million (approx. $245.4 million) for famine relief. Partly in recognition of the Live Aid effort, Geldof subsequently received an honorary knighthood.
As Geldof himself said during the concert, the Republic of Ireland gave the most donations per capita, despite being in the throes of a serious economic depression at the time.
The concert was the most ambitious international satellite television venture ever, broadcast in the UK by the BBC, while ABC was largely responsible for the U.S. broadcast (although ABC themselves telecast only the final three hours of the concert from Philadelphia, hosted by Dick Clark, with the rest shown in syndication). An entirely separate and simultaneous U.S. feed was provided for cable viewers by MTV.
At one point midway through the concert Billy Connolly announced he had just been informed that 95% of the television sets in the world were tuned to the event.
No one concert before or since has brought together such legendary talent from the past and present, whose names are shown below (under Live Aid performers). However, some of the artists who had been slated to perform did not appear at the last minute, including Julian Lennon and Cat Stevens (who wrote a song for the Live Aid concert that he never got to perform--had he done so, he would have made his first public concert appearance since converting to Islam and changing his name to Yusuf Islam), while Prince provided a clip of 4 The Tears In Your Eyes.
It was the original intention for Mick Jagger to perform an intercontinental duet from the U.S. with David Bowie in London, but problems of synchronisation made it impossible -- instead, Jagger and Bowie created a video clip for the song they would have performed, a cover of Dancing In The Street. Jagger still performed with Tina Turner live at the Philadelphia portion of the concert.
Each of the two main portions of the concert ended with their particular continental all-star anti-hunger anthems, with Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas closing the UK concert, and USA for Africa's We Are The World closing the US concert (and thus the day's proceedings).
Since the concert, bootleg videos and CDs have circulated widely. The concert was never supposed to have been released commercially due to music rights issues but in November 2004 Warner Bros. released a 4 disc DVD edition of the concert.
Bob Dylan's comments
Bob Dylan's performance generated controversy for his comment:
- "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..."
He is often misquoted, as on the Farm Aid web site, as saying "Wouldn't it be great if we did something for our own farmers right here in America?". In his biography Bob Geldof was extremely critical of the remark; he states:
- "He displayed a complete lack of understanding of the issues raised by Live Aid.... Live Aid was about people losing their lives. There is a radical difference between losing your livelihood and losing your life. It did instigate Farm Aid, which was a good thing in itself, but it was a crass, stupid, and nationalistic thing to say."
The success of Live Aid inspired Roger Waters' song "The Tide is Turning" and Queen's song "One Vision."
Memorable moments at JFK Stadium
When Bob Dylan broke a guitar string, Ron Wood took off his own guitar and gave it to Dylan. Wood was left standing on stage guitarless. After shrugging to the audience, he played air guitar, even mimicking The Who's Pete Townshend by swinging his arm in wide circles, until a stagehand brought him a replacement.
The transatlantic broadcast from Wembley Stadium suffered technical problems and failed during The Who's performance of their song "My Generation," immediately after Roger Daltrey sang "Why don't you all f-fade away."
Memorable moments at Wembley Stadium
Status Quo opened with "Rocking All Over The World"
Queen played better and more tightly than ever, and the antics of lead singer Freddie Mercury got the entire Wembley crowd clapping in unison to "Radio Ga-Ga" and singing along, word-for-word, to "We Will Rock You" and "We Are The Champions."
Another moment that garnered a huge crowd response was when David Bowie performed "Heroes" and dedicated it to his young son, as well as "all our children, and the children of the world."
U2's performance established them as a pre-eminent live group for the first time — something they would eventually become superstars for.
Aside from the Band Aid finale, the evening closed with Paul McCartney alone, playing a grand piano.
Live Aid performers
(in order of appearance):
Live Aid DVD
A DVD of the Live Aid concerts was released on November 8, 2004. The decision to finally release it was taken by Bob Geldof over 20 years later, he found a number of pirate copies of the concert on the Internet. There has been controversy over the DVD release because a decision had been taken for a substantial number of tracks not to be included in this edited version. The rock band Led Zeppelin have defended their decision not to be included on the grounds that their performance was "sub-standard," but to lend their support Jimmy Page and Robert Plant have pledged to donate proceeds from an upcoming Led Zeppelin DVD release to the campaign, and John Paul Jones has pledged proceeds from his current American tour with Mutual Admiration Society . The British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown has decided the VAT collected on the DVD will be given back to the charity, which will raise an extra £5 for every DVD sold.