On this day, 30 years ago, Prince Charles and Princess Diana kicked off Live Aid, the worldwide rock concert organized by Irish rocker Bob Geldof to raise money for African famine relief. Taking in place in both London and Philadelphia, the record-breaking charity event was televised in 110 countries, 40 of which held a telethon during the broadcast.
Prompted to action by his travel to Ethopia, Geldof first organized Band Aid – a charity super group comprised of the UK’s top artists – to record “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, a chart-topping single that raised $10 million in donations.
A US ensemble followed suit soon after with the smash hit “We Are the World” featuring Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder and Lionel Ritchie. The American single raised $44 million for famine relief. Buoyed by the success of the record sales, Geldof proposed the idea of the global concert Live Aid to raise both awareness and funds.
The legacy of Live Aid is astounding. Organized in just 10 weeks and featuring 75 musical acts, the 16-hour super concert raised over $127 million. Moreover, the publicity it generated encouraged Western nations to make available enough surplus grain to end the 1985 famine in Ethiopia and Sudan. Over 1.5 billion people tuned in to watch the concert in an era before the internet, email or Twitter.
But this musical marathon wasn’t just important for the year 1985. It led to many more charity concerts, and more importantly, inspired the next generation of political activists, including ONE co-founder Bono, who also founded DATA, EDUN, and Product Red.