“Don’t go to the pub…give us your money”: Happy birthday, Live AidTuesday 16 July 2013, by The Media Team
Bob Geldof and Midge Ure don’t know the meaning of the phrase ‘charity fatigue’. Not satisfied with having co-written 1984’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?, in the process generating a gazillion quid for African famine relief, the pair set about organising the biggest fund-raiser the world had ever seen. That fund-raiser was Live Aid and, would you believe, it was 28 years ago this week.
It was a gargantuan undertaking. Wembley and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia hosted simultaneous concerts to a combined live crowd of 170-odd thousand and an estimated worldwide television audience of 1.9 billion across 160 countries. Some of the biggest acts of the day played – the likes of U2, Madonna, Dire Straits, Sting and Phil Collins (who managed to perform at both venues) – as well as a few old favourites who had reformed especially for the occasion, such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Imagine trying to coordinate diaries for that lot.
At Wembley, acts were helicoptered to and from the performance area. Bruce Springsteen, who was in the middle of his Born In The USA world tour, declined the chance to appear at the concert but he did loan his stage and set.
And no act rocked that stage quite like Queen. Many critics view theirs as one of the greatest live performances of all time, even though it lasted only twenty minutes. The incomparable Freddie Mercury was on inspired form that evening. He strutted on in his white singlet and spray-on jeans and, to use the X Factor phrase of today, ‘absolutely smashed it.’ The band managed to cram a gig and a half into that time, scorching through Bohemian Rhapsody (a shortened version, obviously!), Radio Gaga, Hammer To Fall, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions.
Geldof appeared at regular intervals during the UK TV broadcast, urging the watching millions to give, give and give again. “Don’t go to the pub tonight,” he implored at one point. “Please stay in and give us your money.” People did. The event raised £40 million worldwide, four times what had been predicted.
Mr Geldof/Sir Bob/Saint Robert, Gumtree salutes you. You may look like a dishevelled spaniel but, gee whizz, you can raise cash for a good cause.
But even that wasn’t enough. Live Aid itself was a one-off but it left a genuine legacy. In 2005, Geldof again was instrumental in the staging of Live 8. Truly global events by then were more commonplace than 20 years before, thanks to the digital age. Now, though, we were witnessing, even participating in, something that had a single aim: to bring an end to world poverty. Live 8’s rather superb achievement was to persuade leaders of the G8 nations to commit to a $50 billion aid package.
So there you go. We’ve always known it deep down, haven’t we, but all this reminds us that music has the awesome ability to be a force for good on a global scale. We hope you commemorate the anniversary of Live Aid by making a donation to a charity of your choice.