Live Aid 30th Anniversary: 30 Facts & Memorable Moments From The Charity Concert

Author: Britt Bickel

It was on this day (July 13) in 1985 that the global fundraiser Live Aid united the world through music all to help raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia.

Organized by Bob Geldof along with Midge Ure, duel concerts were planned at London’s Wembly Stadium and Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium with over 70 artists taking the stage for a 16 hour event.

Inspired by the previously released charity singles “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and “We Are The World” from the all-star group Band Aid, this “superconcert” became one of the most important live events in music history due to its sheer massiveness and technological achievements.

In celebration of the historic charity concert’s 30th anniversary today, take a look at 30 fun facts and memorable takeaways that happened during Live Aid (via

1. Live Aid by the numbers (via MTV): 70 artists performed. 16 hours of continuous live music. 162,000 people were in attendance of the two concerts combined. 1.5 billion viewers in 150 countries watched the broadcasts. 150 million pounds ($245 million) was raised for famine relief.

2. Phil Collins made history after performing at both venues! After taking the stage at Wembley Stadium, Collins flew on the Concorde from London to Philadelphia to perform at JFK Stadium. When he arrived on stage in Philly, he joked to the crowd, “I was in England this afternoon. Funny old world init.”

3. Live Aid hosted the reunions of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the original Black Sabbath lineup with Ozzy Osbourne and surviving members of Led Zeppelin.

4. While performing at JFK, Joan Baez seized the moment by announcing to the crowd “this is your Woodstock!”

5. Artists at Wembley stadium included Status Quo, Spandau Ballet, Elvis Costello, Sade, Sting, Howards Jones, U2, Queen, David Bowie, Dire Straits, The Who, Elton John, Paul McCartney and more.

6. Artists at JFK Stadium included Joan Baez, The Hooters, Four Tops, Black Sabbath, Run DMC, Rick Springfield, REO Speedwagon, Bryan Adams, The Beach Boys, CSNY, The Pretenders, Santana, Madonna, Kenny Loggins, The Cars, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Duran Duran, Hall & Oates, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, Bob Dylan and more.

7. Jack Nicholson, Chevy Chase, Bette Midler and Don Johnson were among the presenters at the US concert.

8. Teddy Pendergrass made his first public appearance after being in a near-fatal car crash that left him paralyzed in 1982. He performed a duet with Ashford & Simpson singing “Reach Out and Touch.”

9. At Wembley Stadium, David Bowie dedicated his performance of “Heroes” to his son and “All our children, and the children of the world.”

10. Prince didn’t play live at the event, but did send in a pre-taped video perfoming “4 The Tears In Your Eyes.”

11. Queen rocked Wembley Stadium with a performance that would later be dubbed as one of the greatest live performances in rock history. Freddie Mercury led the crowd of 72,000 in a huge sing along to “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions.”

12. Alternatively, Duran Duran were criticized by the media for a lack-luster performance after lead singer Simon Le Bon sang an off-key note on “A View To Kill.” It was later dubbed ‘The Bum Note Heard Round the World.’ That was the last performance the band played together until 2003.

13. During his performance at JFK Stadium, Bob Dylan broke a guitar string, to which Ron Wood took off his own and gave it to Dylan. Standing guitarless, Wood just shrugged to the audience and played air guitar, even mimicking Who guitarist’s Pete Townshend’s windmill move until he got a replacement.

14. The Who’s performance at JFK suffered a malfunction when the broadcast feed cut out during the group’s hit “My Generation” just as Roger Daltry sang “Why don’t you all f-fade away.”

15. Speaking of The Who, the group wound up going five minutes over their allotted time after guitarist Pete Townshend stepped on and broke the red flashing light that warned performers that their time was up.

16. Facing controversy after nude photos appeared in Playboy and Penthouse, Madonna deflected negative press by telling the crowd, “I’m not taking s— off today” and gave a high-energy performance that included hits “Holiday” and “Into The Groove.”

17. Mick Jagger and Tina Turner performed on stage together at JFK Stadium where a duet of “It’s Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)” ended with Jagger ripping off Turner’s mini-skirt to reveal a black leotard.

18. Michael Jackson reportedly refused to take part of the event and even attempted to organize a boycott with Stevie Wonder to protest the low number of African American artists on the lineup.

19. Other artists who were announced to make appearances, but dropped out last minute included Tears For Fears, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, and Huey Lewis and the News.

20. Bruce Springsteen was also invited to play at Wembley Stadium, but turned the offer down not realizing how big the event would be. He later said he regretted not being part of it.

21. Cat Stevens actually wrote a new song for Live Aid, but didn’t get to perform it because he showed up unannounced last minute. It would have marked his first public performance since converting to Islam and changing his name to Yusuf Islam.

22. David Bowie and Mick Jagger were supposed to make history with an intercontinental duet between the US and UK. However, synchronization problems between feeds made it difficult and they ultimately sent a video of them performing “Dancing In The Street” for the event.

23. Hall & Oates played as Mick Jagger’s back up band during his sets.

24. After U2 took the stage, their live performance helped seal their status as a “pre-eminent” live group that they still hold to this day.

25. After being disappointed with the low amount of money that had been raised halfway through the event, Geldof gave a memorable interview to the BBC in which he dropped the F-bomb on TV. After pleading to viewers that “People are dying now. Give us the money now,” Geldof told the presenter “F— the address, just give the phone. Here’s the number.” His outburst helped increase donations by an estimated £300 per second.

26. The biggest single donation came from the ruling family of Dubai, who gave £1m after a conversation with Geldof.

27. Wanting it to be a one-time thing, Geldof ordered the broadcasters to destroy all footage after the event. ABC complied with his request, but BBC ignored, and their archival footage makes up the bulk of the official Live Aid DVD release.

28. Both venues ended the full day of performances with Band Aid anti-hunger anthems; “Do They Know It’s Christmas” was performed in London and “We Are The World” closed the Philadelphia show.

29. At the end of the Wembley performances, organizer Bob Geldof was raised onto the shoulders of The Who’s Pete Townshend and Paul McCartney.

30. Partly for his efforts organizing Live Aid, Geldof later earned honorary knighthood from the Queen of England.

What your favorite moments from the event? Share it in the comments below! Hear The K-EARTH 101 Morning Show discuss more about Live Aid in the clip below.

Live Aid
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