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Live Aid: The Complicated History of the World's Biggest Charity Concert

Bob Geldof organized the charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas" in 1984 to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. It raised more than $28 million, but it wasn't enough, so he decided to go bigger the next summer with an all-star concert. Thirty-five years later, Live Aid is still considered to be the biggest music event ever, featuring 50 of the music industry's biggest stars on two continents. It wasn't easy to pull off.

“He had to call Elton and say 'Queen are in and Bowie's in,' and of course they weren't,” production manager Andy Zweck told The Guardian of Geldof’s tactics. “Then he’d call Bowie and say 'Elton and Queen are in.' It was a game of bluff.”

With the help of producer Michael C. Mitchell, Live Aid sold broadcast rights to 150 countries, at least 22 of which aired telethons. Both MTV and ABC carried the feed in the United States, the latter in the form of a primetime special hosted by Dick Clark. All told, Live Aid raised approximately $140 million.

Read about the production of Live Aid, some of its unique stories, and its lasting legacy at Mental Floss.


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I remember we had that song at the radio station when I happened to be manning the DJ booth. The idea was all stations that could play the tune at 11 AM Eastern time. I did.
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