Everything you need to know about Live Aid


You’ve seen the pictures of Wembley filled to the brim, you’ve heard that Freddie Mercury did a great job, maybe you’ve even watched the recordings, but how much else do you know about the charity event? Me? Well I knew barely anything, so together, let’s delve into one of the greatest live events in history!

Here’s the facts; Live Aid was organized by Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats fame (yeah, me neither?!) and Ultravox’s Midge Ure as a reaction to a BBC News Report that documented the 1984 famine in Ethiopia. Before Live Aid came Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ in 1984. The song has been re-recorded three times since, but the original British and Irish supergroup included acts such as Duran Duran, Bono, and George Michael. The single became the fastest selling single in UK history and raised £8 million for famine relief. The duo didn’t stop there though. Instead, Ure and Geldof put on one of the biggest broadcasts of all time, literally and culturally.

Live Aid took place on the 13th of July in 1985. The concert was held in London at Wembley Stadium and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, and was broadcast to 150 nations, pulling in 1.5 billion viewers! And guess how long the concert was! Over 16 hours!!!!!! The madness doesn’t end there though. Perhaps the weirdest thing you’ll ever read is that Genesis drummer Phil Collins performed at both venues in person, being flown to Heathrow in a helicopter by none other than Noel Edmonds! 

Acts included Paul McCartney, Madonna, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, and Mick Jagger. But here are some of the stand-outs:

First, of course, is Queen. The Live-Aid performance opens and closes the 2019 biopic Bohemian Rhapsody because it was so phenomenal. Queen took to the stage at prime time, 6.41PM to be exact and performed a 21-minute set full of incredible vocal power and musical expertise. Freddie Mercury’s confident stage presence was always conquering, and he strutted out to the piano to play a short version of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, dressed in the iconic white vest, blue jeans, black silver-studded armband, and his trademark mustache!

During Queen’s playing of ‘Radio GaGa’, Mercury created the most iconic moment of his career.  Dubbed ‘the note heard around the world’, Mercury performed an incredible acapella, call and response adaptation of the hit. It’s impossible to not be blown away by his formidable live vocals. Lead Guitarist Brian May said, “I’d never seen anything like it in my life and it wasn’t calculated either… it was the greatest day of our lives.” A rousing performance of ‘We Are The Champions’ finished the iconic 21 minute set. Even Elton John admitted they stole the show! The 80’s really was an iconic time for flamboyant, exciting, and exceptional live acts! 

Following Queen’s performance would be a difficult task, and as such, David Bowie’s appearance has gone underrated. The unreliability of technology meant a live duet with Mick Jagger in Philadelphia was scrapped, but the two still recorded a version of ‘Dancing in the Street’ for the event. Bowie then went on to perform a four song set, concluding with ‘Heroes’, one of the most inspiring and sentimental songs ever! Watching this performance is beautiful, and the humility of Bowie shines through as he takes the time to introduce his band, and dedicate the song to “My son, to all our children, and to the children of the world.” To be there live and to experience the beautiful way in which music can bring us all together must have been so special. 

Live Aid went on to raise over £100 million for famine relief in Africa. The charity event has also been commended for bringing humanitarian concern at the forefront of foreign policy for the West, as well as highlighting how successful live events can be in raising awareness.


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Editor in Chief 22/23 & Fundraising, Events, and Publicity Officer 21/22, and occasional Deputy Editor :)

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