Live Aid

Live Aid

July 13, 1985
Live Aid
Live Aid 1985 and JFK Stadium, Philadelphia
The best known philanthropic rock concert was George Harrison and Ravi Shankar's Concert for Bangladesh in 1971. It wasn't the first though. Likely that honor belongs to the 1969 Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival. That event was also the first rock festival.

1983 – 85 famine in Ethiopia

 Ethiopia, like other African countries, suffered from political and military corruption and abuse. The abuse resulted in civil uprisings and presented an opportunity to outside infiltration.


In the mid-1980s record low rainfalls added to the intense suffering of a mainly agrarian population, particularly in the northern area of the country.

The country's own internal disorder hindered international relief group efforts to assist. Over one million people died in 1984.

In October 1984 a BBC news crew with Michael Buerk was the first to document the famine The report motivated British viewers to bring world attention to the crisis in Ethiopia.

Do They Know It’s Christmas

Irish musician Bob Geldof organised a supergroup and named it Band Aid.  Released for Christmas, their single, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" became the biggest selling single in British history.

We Are the World

The following March, an American  coalition of musicians released "We Are the World."  Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie wrote the song. The musicians called themselves the United Support of Artists (USA). Quincy Jones produced the song and the album. 

Live Aid

On the financially successful heels of the British and American releases,  and Midge Ure organized Live Aid. Boy George had suggested the idea following a December concert of his that closed with "Do They Know Its Christmas." 

Live Aid was held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London, England, United Kingdom (attended by 72,000 people) and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia (attended by about 100,000 people).

The viewed concert was over 16 hours long, but the total time of the music was more as the two sites sometimes overlapped.      

Viewers saw on screen messages and heard organizers ask for donations. Geldolf famously said "fuck the address" when a moderator wanted to give the address to send money to as opposed to giving the phone number to immediately give money with a credit card.

Over 1.5 billion people watched the shows and it is estimated that the concerts raised around $160 million. (see NYT article)

Dozens of artists participated. Below is Eric Clapton and Phil Collins doing "Layla."

  • Eric Clapton (Guitar ; Vocals)
  • Tim Renwick (Guitar)
  • Donald “Duck” Dunn (Bass)
  • Chris Stainton (Keyboards)
  1. Jamie Oldaker (Drums)
  2. Shaun Murphy (Backing Vocals)
  3. Marcy Levy (Backing Vocals)
  4. Phil Collins (Drums)
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