Six moments that defined Live Aid 1985
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Jul 13, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Six moments that defined Live Aid 1985

On its 30th anniversary, a look back at the charity concert of epic proportion


On July 13, 1985, rock n’ roll’s biggest stars put on a charity concert of epic proportion. Organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, Live Aid raised money for Ethiopian famine relief while showcasing rock n’ roll legends and rising stars alike.

Simulcast from both Wembley Stadium in London and JFK stadium in Philadelphia, the show was seen by billions worldwide, raised millions for charity, and more cynically, boosted record sales for many of its performers.

On its 30th anniversary, here are six moments that defined that concert.

1. “We are the World”

This charity song, written in 1985 by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, would come to define the spirit of Live Aid. Sung by supergroup USA for Africa, practically anyone who was anyone in the 1980s contributed vocals to the track.

The song closed out the Philadelphia set during Live Aid, although many of its original performers did not make it to the taping, including Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper.

Flash forward: In just a year, the song raised $44 million (U.S.) and the song continues to earn money for charity to this day.

2. Queen’s entire setlist

In just 20 minutes, Queen delivered possibly one of the greatest live performances of all time. Fronted by virtuoso Freddie Mercury, the band delivered hit after hit, beginning with the operatic “Bohemian Rhapsody” and ending with the stadium-pleasing power ballad “We are the Champions.”

A mustachioed Mercury delivered the performance of his career. Clad in a low-cut white tank top and skin-tight acid-washed jeans, Mercury’s pitch-perfect vibrato and electric swagger helped make Queen’s performance the create the most memorable setlist, if not song, of the evening.

Flash forward: In 2005 BBC poll, the Live Aid set was voted best live performance of all time.

3. Phil Collins, a trans-atlantic superstar

Phil Collins, lead singer for Genesis and famed solo artist in his own right, crossed the Atlantic to play both sets of Live Aid, at London’s Wembley and Philadelphia’s JFK stadium.

Collins took supersonic jet the Concorde in order to make it to Philadelphia in time, and when he arrived, he greeted the crowd this way:

“I was in England this afternoon. Funny old world, innit?”

Flash forward:

4. U2 goes mainstream

When U2 took to the Wembley stage in 1985, they delivered what they thought was the worst performance of their career. But in the end, their 17 minute set, which really only consisted of two songs “Bad” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” would help transform them from underdogs to superstars.

At the end of the night, Bono would be crooning next to Paul McCartney, effectively picking up the ex-Beatle’s torch as rock’s moral conscience.

Flash forward: Bono is now the musician most likely to put on a charity concert, and helped organize Live 8, the sequel to Live Aid. He now travels the world trying to influence world leaders, like Stephen Harper, to do more for human rights.

5. Tragedy gets a soundtrack

The Cars are perhaps best known for their catchy, synthy pop-rock. But when their downtempo song “Drive” became the soundtrack to a CBC-produced video depicting the horrors of famine in Ethiopia, there was not a dry eye left in Wembley Stadium.

Flash forward: The video was replayed in 2005, during Live 8. Today, questions still remain whether the money raised really went to people in need, and about the ethics of rockstars raising money for charity while benefiting from album sales.

6. Mick Jagger rips Tina Turner’s dress

In one of the most sexually charged performances of the night, Mick Jagger performed a duet with his longtime friend Tina Turner to “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It).” Jagger began the song in a T-shirt and baggy slacks before stripping down to an open neon jacket (naturally).

Tina Turner, Ike-less and all legs and signature electric-socket hair, kept pace with Jagger’s antics, who even ripped off her leather dress revealing nothing but a leotard.

Flash forward: Was this the original Janet Jackson moment? In 2004, Janet Jackson caused quite a stir when Justin Timberlake ripped off her costume, revealing a breast on live television. Unlike that faux pas, Turner was still technically fully clothed the entire time, and if anyone can rock fishnet stockings like pants, it’s her.

Toronto Star

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