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Live Aid Concert

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

Thirty five years ago, on July 13, 1985, Live Aid, a benefit concert held in Wembley Stadium in London, as well as an ongoing music-based fundraising initiative. The original event was organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for relief of the ongoing Ethiopian famine. Billed as the "global jukebox", the event was held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London, UK, attended by about 72,000 people, and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, US, attended by exactly 89,484 people. The line-up of all star performers included Paul McCartney, Elton John, George Michael, Madonna, David Bowie and Freddy Mercury with Queen. Prince Charles and Princess Diana were among those in attendance.

On the same day, concerts inspired by the initiative were held in other countries, such as the Soviet Union, Canada, Japan, Yugoslavia, Austria, Australia and West Germany. It was one of the largest-scale satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time; an estimated audience of 1.9 billion, across 150 nations, watched the live broadcast, nearly 40% of the world population. This clip gives some background on Bob Geldoff, the originator and organizer of the event. As a a fading pop-star himself, convincing his pop-star friends about the charity work to perform at Live Aid:

The impact of Live Aid on famine relief has been debated for years. One aid relief worker stated that following the publicity generated by the concert, "humanitarian concern is now at the centre of foreign policy" for western governments. Geldof has said, "We took an issue that was nowhere on the political agenda and, through the lingua franca of the planet – 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." In another interview he stated that Live Aid "created something permanent and self-sustaining", but also asked why Africa is getting poorer.

The following are clips of the incredible performances of the All Star lineup at Live Aid. The event was broadcast by satellite to 95% of the televisions on earth:

Freddy Mercury performing Bohemian Rhapsody:

Madonna performing "Holiday":

Bono and U2 performing "Sunday Bloody Sunday":

David Bowie performing "Rebel Rebel":

Elton John performing "Bennie And The Jets":

Elton John and George Michael perform "Don't Let The Sun Go Down":

Paul McCartney performs "Let It Be":

As an encore, with arguably the best performance of the event, Freddie Mercury performs "We Are The Champions":

Live Aid eventually raised $127 million in famine relief for African nations, and the publicity it generated encouraged Western nations to make available enough surplus grain to end the immediate hunger crisis in Africa. Geldof was later knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his efforts.

The organizers of Live Aid tried, without much success, to run aid efforts directly, channelling millions of pounds to NGOs in Ethiopia. Much of this, however, went directly to the Ethiopian government of Mengistu Haile Mariam (a regime the UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wanted to "destabilise") – and was spent on guns.

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