On July 13, 1985, at Wembley Stadium in London, Prince Charles and Princess Diana officially open Live Aid, an internationally rock concert organized to improve money for the relief of famine-stricken Africans. Continued at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia and at other arenas all over the world, the 16-hour “superconcert” was globally linked by satellite to greater than a billion viewers in 110 nations. In a triumph of technology and good will, the function raised a lot more than $125 million in famine relief for Africa.
Live Aid was the brainchild of Bob Geldof, the singer of an Irish rock group called the Boomtown Rats. In 1984, Geldof traveled to Ethiopia after hearing news reports of a horrific famine that had killed thousands of Ethiopians and threatened to kill millions more. After time for London, he called Britain’s and Ireland’s top pop artists together to record an individual to benefit Ethiopian famine relief. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was compiled by Geldof and Ultravox singer Midge Ure and performed by “Band Aid,” an ensemble that featured Culture Club, Duran Duran, Phil Collins, U2, Wham!, among others. It was the best-selling single in Britain compared to that date and raised a lot more than $10 million.
“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was also a No. 1 hit in the United States and inspired U.S. pop artists ahead together and perform “We Are the World,” a song compiled by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie. “USA for Africa,” because the U.S. ensemble was known, featured Jackson, Ritchie, Geldof, Harry Belafonte, Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, and many more. The single visited the very best of the charts and finally raised $44 million.
With the crisis continuing in Ethiopia, and the neighboring Sudan also stricken with famine, Geldof proposed Live Aid, an ambitious global charity concert targeted at raising more funds and increasing knowing of the plight of several Africans. Organized in only 10 weeks, Live Aid was staged on Saturday, July 13, 1985. More than 75 acts performed, including Elton John, Madonna, Santana, Run DMC, Sade, Sting, Bryan Adams, the Beach Boys, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Queen, Duran Duran, U2, the Who, Tom Petty, Neil Young, and Eric Clapton. The most these artists performed at either Wembley Stadium in London, in which a crowd of 70,000 proved, or at Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium, where 100,000 watched. Thirteen satellites beamed a live television broadcast of the function to several billion viewers in 110 countries. More than 40 of the nations held telethons for African famine relief through the broadcast.
A memorable moment of the concert was Phil Collins’ performance in Philadelphia after flying by Concorde from London, where he performed at Wembley early in the day. He later played drums in a reunion of the surviving members of Led Zeppelin. Beatle Paul McCartney and the Who’s Pete Townsend held Bob Geldof aloft on the shoulders through the London finale, which featured a collective performance of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Six hours later, the U.S. concert ended with “We Are the World.”
Live Aid eventually raised $127 million in famine relief for African nations, and the publicity it generated encouraged Western nations to offer enough surplus grain to get rid of the immediate hunger crisis in Africa. Geldof was later knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his efforts.
In early July 2005, Geldof staged a number of “Live 8″ concerts in 11 countries around the world to help raise awareness of global poverty. Organizers, led by Geldof, purposely scheduled the concert days before the annual G8 summit in an effort to increase political pressure on G8 nations to address issues facing the extremely poor around the world. Live 8 claims that an estimated 3 billion people watched 1,000 musicians perform in 11 shows, which were broadcast on 182 television networks and by 2,000 radio stations. Unlike Live Aid, Live 8 was intentionally not billed as a fundraiser–Geldof’s slogan was, “We don’t want your money, we want your voice.” Perhaps partly due to the spotlight taken to such issues by Live 8, the G8 subsequently voted to cancel your debt of 18 of the world’s poorest nations, make AIDS drugs more accessible, and double degrees of annual aid to Africa, to $50 billion by 2010.