Live Aid in 1985
As Prince Charles and Princess Diana had put the live global television event back on the map in the early 1980s with the Royal Wedding, they were there to kick off the biggest worldwide live music event in 1985 when cameras focused on official opening of Live Aid. The idea for a globally televised live concert grew out of the Band Aid single in aid of the victims of famine in Africa. After seeing BBC News reports on the tragedy, former Boomtown Rats lead singer Bob Geldof enlisted Midge Ure from Ultravox to write the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” to raise money to help alleviate crisis. The song, recorded by a group of chart-topping ‘80s pop stars under the name Band Aid, immediately had huge success and this gave Geldof the idea to have the greatest artists of the time play a massive benefit concert to raise money for Africa.
Live Aid wasn’t only one concert but two held simultaneously on two massive stages in London and in Philadelphia. The event brought together the biggest names in music – Queen, David Bowie, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Duran Duran, Paul Simon and many others – and was attended by 172,000 people. BBC Television Centre coordinated the TV pictures beamed all over the world. The worldwide rock concert lasted for a combined 16 hours and was globally broadcast to more than 1.5 billion viewers in 160 countries, thanks to 13 satellites – making it the biggest television event ever. A remarkable feat for a medium which just 30 years ago was barely pulling itself together for the Queen’s coronation service.
Throughout the concerts, viewers were urged to donate money to the Live Aid cause and as the London event drew to a close, Britain had contributed £1,100,000 to the global total of £40 millions – half of the money was spent on food and half on long-term development. Television became instrumental in driving fundraising globally to help with the famine in Africa and paved the way for musicians to be heard by connecting with the world beyond pop music for a variety of causes afterward.
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