1985: ‘Live Aid’ is Staged in London, Philadelphia
In the summer of 1971, George Harrison and Ravi Shankar hosted a pair of benefit concerts at New York’s Madison Square Garden, aimed to raise money for famine victims in Bangladesh. It was an all-star concert and major musical success, featuring Harrison, Shankar, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Leon Russell, and others, and was captured for posterity in the 1971 album The Concert for Bangladesh and in a 1972 film version.
On this day in 1985, more than a dozen summers later, rocker Bob Geldof decided to mount another superstar concert to benefit famine victims — in Africa this time — and enlisted the live aid of Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, The Who, Phil Collins, David Bowie, Sting, Madonna, and dozens of others. (With the video and single of “We Are the World,” another all-star musical effort to provide African famine relief, having topped the charts a few months earlier, it was a relatively easy sell.)
Staged simultaneously in London and Philadelphia, Live Aid relied on satellite TV to feed performances from one arena to another, and to an international audience as well: one way or another, most, but not all, of the sixteen-hour event was televised. (Collins, by flying via Concorde, managed to perform at both Live Aid sites during the concert’s duration.)
One memorable, and ironic, technical glitch occurred during The Who’s performance of “My Generation,” with sound and picture being lost just as Roger Daltrey was singing, “Why don’t you’ll f-f-f-fade away…”
Live Aid raised lots of money, and also raised consciousness about using rock music as a social force once again: Willie Nelson staged the first of several Farm Aid concerts (fundraisers for needy American farmers) later that same year.
—Excerpted from Dictionary of Teleliteracy: Television’s 500 Biggest Hits, Misses and Events