July 13, 1985: Live Aid Rocks the Planet

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live aid ukposter01In the wake of the group charity singles “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and “We Are The World” – both U.S. #1 hits – Ethiopian famine relief crusader Bob Geldof conceived a concert event that “should be as big as is humanly possible.” And that’s just what happened: A 16-hour show simultaneously staged at London’s Wembley Stadium (before 60,000 people) and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, PA (which drew 90,000) and broadcast around the world to 1.5 billion viewers, celebrating its anniversary on July 12.

At 12 noon on a Saturday in England the Coldstream Guards took the stage at Wembley, and after they played “God Save The Queen,” Prince Charles and Princess Diana officially inaugurated the event, and then Status Quo kicked off the music. Superstars that performed among the 50-plus acts were Paul McCartney, Elton John, David BowieMick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Neil Young, to name some but hardly all.

Watch Bowie’s bravura performance of “Heroes”

The Who, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath all reunited to appear at the show. Phil Collins performed in London and then flew to America on the Concorde – which was rerouted from landing in New York City to Philadelphia – to appear at JFK Stadium. The appearances by U2 and Queen boosted their careers to new heights.

Watch Queen’s amazing set in London

MTV aired the entire event in the U.S. which significantly boosted the awareness of the still fledgling cable network. ABC TV aired several hours live in primetime.

Here’s McCartney performing a Beatles favorite

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Watch Jack Nicholson introduce Dylan, who then introduces his bandmates Richards and Ron Wood for their joint performance in Philadelphia of “Blowing in the Wind”

The mega-concert raised over $150 million and earned Geldof a knighthood. For all the criticism and cynicism about the event, as Time.com noted on the event’s 30th anniversary, “Live Aid demonstrated that compassion could be commodified in the interest of the greater good. In an era commonly remembered as one of egotistical greed and unfeeling indifference, a third of the world’s population turned to their television sets to watch an exercise in empathy.”

Watch Clapton and Collins perform “Layla” on the Philadelphia stage

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