Music History

Live Aid was 35 years ago today

After achieving some success with the release of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” the organizer of the project, Boomtown Rats’ frontman Bob Geldof, decided that the music industry needed to do more when it came to the famine in Ethiopia. His idea was Live Aid, a one-day, two-country stadium fundraiser event televised to the planet.

Logistically, this was an insanely ambitious plan. Booking all those acts in London and Philadelphia. All the band requirements. The politics of the lineup. The infrastructure for the satellite broadcast. Installing the phone lines for donations and the accounting of all the money. Convincing TV networks around the world to carry the day-long program.

If you were around back then, you’ll remember how big a deal Live Aid was, not just for the cause but because we got to see a parade of musical heroes on TV, something that was still brand new to most of us. I remember watching it at work while on the air at Q94 FM in Winnipeg. None of the conventional channels would carry it, so it was up to the local public access channel to take the feed!

Yes, MTV was broadcasting by then, but it had only been around for four years. MuchMusic was less than a year old and was still unavailable to large swaths of Canada. And yes, individual acts showed up on late-night TV, but in a very sanitized sort of way. Outside of a very few other TV events (the US Festival comes to mind), we’d never, ever seen anything like Live Aid. Nor will any future music event have the same kind of impact.

Here are some highlights.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38398 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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