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‘Global jukebox’ | Live Aid benefit concert made history, 35 years ago

Live Aid was a global music event held 35 years ago.
Live Aid was a global music event held 35 years ago.

Live Aid was a benefit concert held on July 13, 1985, an ongoing music-based fundraising initiative organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise Ethiopian famine funds.

Billed as the “global jukebox”, the event was held simultaneously in front of 72,000 fans at Wembley Stadium in London and more than 89,000 fans at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia.

Live Aid was a benefit concert held on Saturday 13 July 1985, as well as an ongoing music-based fundraising initiative. The original event was organised 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.[1][2] 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,[3] nearly 40% of the world population.[4] 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.[5] 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."[6] In another interview he stated that Live Aid "created something permanent and self-sustaining", but also asked why Africa is getting poorer.[5] The organisers 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 to the Ethiopian government of Mengistu Haile Mariam – a regime the UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wanted to "destabilise"[7] – and was spent on guns.[5][8]   

On the same day, concerts inspired by the initiative were held in the Soviet Union, Canada, Japan, Yugoslavia, Austria, Australia and West Germany. The event 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.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana officially opened Live Aid in London, while Joan Baez kicked it off in the U.S. The 16-hour superconcert raised more than $125 million in famine relief for Africa.

The lineup featured more than 75 acts, including Elton John, Queen, Madonna, Santana, Phil Collins, Run DMC, Sade, Sting, Bryan Adams, the Beach Boys, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Duran Duran, U2, The Who, Rick Springfield, Tom Petty, Neil Young and Eric Clapton.