June 12, 1982: Ronstadt, Browne at Anti-Nukes Rally

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Rally Poster by artist Keith Haring

Rally Poster by artist Keith Haring

A crowd estimated at somewhere between 750,000 to more than one million people gathered on the Great Lawn in Manhattan’s Central Park on Saturday, June 12, 1982, in support of nuclear disarmament and to call for a freeze in the ever-increasing Cold War arms race between the United States and the U.S.S.R. They were drawn to the rally by an all-star lineup of classic rock artists that included Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Gary “U.S.” Bonds and protest movement veteran Joan Baez.

Artist Keith Haring created artwork for the event and a poster of it was handed out to the attendees.

The demonstration coincided with a Special Session on Disarmament at the United Nations, where a march to the rally in the park began earlier in the day. It is thought to be the largest political demonstration in U.S. history. The New York Times’ coverage of the rally seems almost quaint in retrospect. But as much as the day was a high water mark in the involvement of rock musicians in political issues, it was also followed by an ever-growing dissatisfaction on the part of some fans with the acts they enjoyed using their music to support and promote partisan causes.

Here are Browne and Springsteen performing the former’s “Running on Empty”…

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And Ronstadt belting one of her familiar covers…

The event’s setlist included:

Linda Ronstadt

Tumbling Dice
Blue Bayou
The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss)
Desperado
Heat Wave
Back in the U.S.A.

James Taylor

That Lonesome Road
You’ve Got a Friend
Up on the Roof
Stand and Fight
It’s Growing (with Chaka Khan)
Children’s Cry (with John Hall)
It’s Gonna Work Out Fine (with Ronstadt)

Jackson Browne

The Pretender (with Bonds)
The Promised Land (with Springsteen)
Running on Empty (with Springsteen)

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