Pop music is often thought of as a trifle, and rightfully so. Much of it feels disposable, and the cycle of fame for most artists continues to move so quickly that it’s often difficult to catch his or her name on the way out the door. But since pop and rock has the ear of millions of people at once, it can certainly be used as an agent of change. At least that’s what Boomtown Rats frontman Bob Geldof was hoping when he organized Live Aid, which took place 25 years ago today. Billed as a massive worldwide event put together in hopes of raising money to wipe out hunger in Africa, Live Aid featured dozens of the biggest rock acts of all time playing in two separate stadiums on two different continents. The show was then broadcast around the world, and it is estimated that 1.5 billion people tuned in to see the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Queen, a reunited Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, U2 and a host of others fill stages in London and Philadelphia and spread the word about African famine.
The entire thing was an incredible undertaking and featured a number of memorable performances. U2 had already built quite a bit of momentum for themselves, but Live Aid established them internationally not only as an incredible concert presence but also as a passionate group of people who were ready to get involved in worldwide affairs (something they’ve certainly stuck to). Mick Jagger and Tina Turner partnered for a memorable duet on “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It)” and a reunited Who tore through a blistering version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
But in retrospect, the day’s most memorable series of events didn’t belong to Phil Collins (who played both in London and Philadelphia thanks to a supersonic trans-Atlantic flight) but rather to Madonna. Introduced by Bette Midler as “an up-and-coming singer,” she played in the middle of a sweltering afternoon and noted “I’m not taking sh– off today” (a reference to the recent nude photos of her that surfaced in a number of publications). Her outfit was pure ’80s, but her attitude was already ahead of its time.
What’s your Live Aid memory? Let us know in the comments!