Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L is for Live Aid

This month I'm participating in the A to Z Challenge. My theme is the 80s. Today's letter is:



In 1984, two musicians brought together some of the biggest stars in the world for a song. Recorded in just one day and released four days later, the song became this:


Proceeds from the sale of the Christmas song were used to help alleviate poverty in Ethiopia. Inspired by the success, producers set their sights on a summer concert to raise even more funds. On July 13, 1985, Live Aid was held in London and Philadelphia, as well as being televised worldwide. It was the most ambitious international satellite TV event ever at the time.


According to Joan Baez's memoir, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson were deliberately absent from the event, even attempting to start a boycott. I couldn't find information on why they were against it but that same year, they were both very much a part of this (notably much more diverse) project to benefit Africa:


USA for Africa is responsible for We Are the World, which sold 20 million copies worldwide. Only 15 songs have sold more than 15 million copies...EVER. Still today, it stands as a tribute to some of the best musical artists of our time. In a sense, it's a musical time capsule:


The trend seemed to have ended in the early 90s, when David Foster gave it one more try.



The song was designed to boost the morale of troops serving in Operation Desert Storm. It did fairly well, but all of the celebrity compilation songs inspired a parody by SNL. Perhaps that is what ended the trend?



Maybe the music industry should give this another try. What do you think?

82 comments:

  1. It was a trend in the 80's. Don't forget Hear 'n Aid and their charity album for famine relief in Africa. (Put together by Ronnie James Dio, their hit was We're Stars.)

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    1. I had no idea! I may have been aware of it at the time. 1985 was a year when I was paying more attention to my social life than what was going on around me!

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  2. There was also some recent song (last few years, I can't remember) that was a Saturday Night Live skit waiting to happen. If it can be done well, then sure. But most of the time, they can come off as being cheesy.

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    1. I think music has changed too much. Even looking at what David Foster did, you can see a big difference. Michael Bolton, Kenny G, and Will Smith rapping? Cheeeeeesy! Love David Foster but Quincy Jones put together a masterpiece. Everything that followed just paled in comparison.

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  3. We've had more - in fact we've had at least 3 other versions of Do They Know It's Christmas for various relief projects. The last one was last year.
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

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    1. Yeah, music just doesn't have the mass impact it used to. Does anything? They called it "narrowcasting" when I was studying broadcasting in college and it's true--that's exactly what's happened, but much more so than even they could predict back then. We're all watching something different now. In the 70s and 80s, there just weren't as many choices, so you could make a much bigger impact.

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  4. I remember watching Live Aid on my little black and white TV in the room I rented in college. There's a lot of haters, but I still love the song, Do They Know It's Christmas.

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    1. I know--it was voted worst Christmas song ever a few years ago and I couldn't believe it. I LOVE that song!

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  5. Oh, yes, I remember! I bought a little record of "We are the World." Wow, that brings back so many memories.

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    1. I had Don't They Know It's Christmas (because of Simon LeBon), but I never bought We Are the World. I just remember the video and hearing it on the radio constantly.

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  6. wasn't there a new live aid a few years ago? Not very successful....

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    1. Someone above said there have been a bunch of Do They Know It's Christmas remakes for charity. I knew they'd remade the song a billion times but I wasn't aware of the funds going to charity, although that makes sense that they would.

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  7. Yeah, there was a new recording of Do They Know It's Christmas just last year.

    I wasn't aware of Jackson and Wonder seemingly boycotting Live Aid or any kind of rivalry between the events. Seems odd, but then Jacko was very odd!

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    1. Of course, Prince couldn't be bothered to participate--I think some people just don't want to blend with a group, even if it's a group of the best musicians. But Joan Baez actually came out and said it had to do with race. Band Aid/Live Aid was overwhelmingly white...but it was also overwhelmingly British. So the boycott could very well be an American vs. British issue.

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    2. According to the article in Rolling Stone, they tried to diversify he concert by adding more African American performers. However, some such as Diana Ross, the Pointer Sisters and Donna Summer were unable to perform because of scheduling conflicts with concert tours or recording sessions. The also pointed out that Stevie wonder had been initially asked. And they quoted a publicist for Michael Jackson as saying the Jackson was "heavily involved in a number of projects that he (was) not able to get out of." (quote paraphrased).

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  8. I don't remember the boycott and it seems odd, really.

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    1. I missed the actual Live Aid concert. All I remember was we had just gotten back from vacation...and I was 14, so I was all about my own life!

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  9. Had to take some doing to get them all together. Most either suck or have too big of an ego or both to do anything like that today.

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    1. In all three cases, the person coordinating called his buddies in for a favor. I think the USA for Africa thing may have been a bit of, "Hey, the British music community is doing this--America's music community needs to kick butt!" I was curious who the guy was at the end of David Foster's video (because I never figured it out back then)...looked it up and found that he was a musician David Foster was nurturing at the time because he was both mentally ill and extremely talented. The musician committed suicide a few years later. Sad story.

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  10. I must have been super busy at that time because I can't remember the song well Do They Know It's Christmas Time. I was working from early morning till late at night in my shop. I remember the other songs much better especially We are the World.
    I couldn't watch the Feee-range Chickens as it says that it not allowing me to watch it here in Canada. Am I missing something special?

    Have a LOVELY day.
    Hugs,
    JB

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    1. I remember using the fact that it was for charity to try to convince my mom to buy Do They Know It's Christmas for me! She saw right through it. I just wanted it because Simon LeBon sang on it.

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  11. They've re-recorded and released Band Aid 3 times in the UK - the last was to raise money for Ebola.

    Band Aid was an incredible thing when it first happened - Bob and Midge organised everything in days - got everyone together on a Sunday to record the single, pressed it and got it into the shops - it was really a seat of the pants reaction by Bob and Midge to a news report about the famine in Ethiopia.
    Sophie
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles
    FB3X
    Wittegen Press

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    1. Yes...I think in 2013 I did a full write-up of how incredible the story of Do They Know It's Christmas was. I got angry that there appears to have become a backlash in recent years where that song has become "the worst Christmas song ever" on some lists. People seem to have forgotten that the original song was done during a time when "donating proceeds to charity" wasn't done every 15 minutes. It was an actual major effort to make a difference in the world.

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  12. such good intentions and yet the SNL version is always stuck in my head--I think it can be done again, but maybe not so hokily? (is that a word lol)

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    1. I think the David Foster version may have proven that Band Aid/Live Aid/USA for Africa was the extent of it! No offense to David Foster, who I deeply respect despite the fact that he's married to a Real Housewife now, but the cheese factor in Voices That Care is way over the top. When you bring Fred Savage in, you go a step too far!

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  13. All great causes. I think the music industry could make this a success if they tried it again and could find the right people to participate.

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    1. I think as I replied to the above comments, I realized that "we're going to record this song and donate proceeds to the charity of the moment" has been devalued over the years. I remember the telethon after 9-11 and how that seemed huge but after that, every time there was an event they attempted a telethon. They even did one after the Nashville flood with the "proceeds benefiting flood victims." Everyone I know was denied any of that money...when you called, they said, "You don't qualify. Your household income is too high." (Even households with $40,000 a year total income were too high.) So if your house flooded, you had to pay out of pocket/take out a loan to rebuild it (beyond what FEMA gave) and they're now using the large amount of money that was "never requested" to renovate the downtown park. I probably got on a soapbox there...I don't donate to charities anymore after personally going through a disaster and seeing how most charities work. Only churches and individual GoFundMe accounts.

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  14. I remember watching Live Aid and I thought it was the greatest thing ever. A few years ago I watched the DVD and had to laugh that some of the performances I remembered as the best haven't exactly stood the test of time. But some were still phenomenal.
    I loved the spirit of these events but they did seem to go a bit overboard as the 80s went on with so many Farm Aid concerts, something related to heavy metal that I can't remember the title of, and others. I think people ended up with benefit concert fatigue. But after all this time I think they could give it another try and see what happens.

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    1. Yeah, it just became too much. Live Aid was amazing because it was new. Then 1,000 events sprung up just like it and now it's probably more effective to just have a regular concert and donate proceeds to a charity, rather than trying to convince people to attend by positioning it as a charity event. People will attend to see the musicians, not for the charity itself.

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  15. We Are the World was a phenomenal hit. I think the celebrities they gathered was a one time wonder. Anything after that would have been downhill and probably why SNL poked fun! lol

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    1. True. A lot of it was thanks to Quincy Jones. He put it all together and he was connected to most of the high-quality artists on the radio at that time.

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  16. I didn't know about the boycott either. Yikes. I do remember that song though as it was played often every single day. It was awesome.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. You don't hear it very often today, though, oddly!

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  17. 'we are the world' is one of a kind, never to be topped. :) i like willie nelson's farm aid efforts, though. :)

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    1. I agree. You can kind of tell when you're watching the video that many of them realized they were making history.

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  18. I don't remember much about Live Aid, but I do remember We Are the World. I always thought that one was well done.

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    1. They did a great job. Voices That Care was a well-written song...some of the artists they chose didn't have longevity, though. Most of us can name many of the We Are the World artists but if you watch Voices That Care, it's a series of, "Who's that guy? Who's that? Who are these people?" :-)

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  19. Thanks for that blast from the past. I seem to remember hearing rumours about SW and MJ refusing to participate at the time but don't recall ever knowing why.

    A first of its kind and therefore great at the time, I've since bought charity records that I felt are much better and I certainly didn't like Live Aid 2014.

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    1. Certainly the quality is better. I think now, charity is so often attached to things we don't think about it. Back then it must have been the novelty of bringing the entire music community together to do something for charity. Heck, Celebrity Apprentice raises more for charity in one season than many charities do on their own! People don't realize the impact of it all anymore.

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  20. I loved We Are The World. I also loved Willie Nelson's Farm Aid concerts that were also very popular here in Texas.

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    1. I always heard of his concerts but I never knew much about them.

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  21. Gosh, I'm old because I remember both of these, the song "We are the World" and Live Aid. What impressed me with Live Aid is that Phil Collins performed at both venues (I was a big Phil Collins fan). It might work if the music industry did something like this these days, but I'm not sure because I don't follow him, does Willie Nelson still do Farm Aid and is that successful these days?

    betty

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    1. Many people don't realize what an amazingly talented drummer Phil Collins was. We all think of him as a singer, first and foremost.

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  22. those were great gatherings of very talented musicians. Could it happen again? What cause--there are so many--could be the focus?

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    1. I think that's what we're lacking now--focus. There are so many charities, so many causes, and every celeb seems to have their own cause they want to support. So it works better to just let them do their own thing and put the proceeds toward wherever they want it to go.

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  23. That's interesting about the boycott. Wonder why? And that's not meant to be a pun.
    :-)

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    1. :-) Joan Baez says it was a race thing. Live Aid/Band Aid was a British thing, though...my guess is that when America's music community saw what Do They Know It's Christmas was able to do, they wanted to get together and do an American thing. While British musicians were taking over the charts in the mid-80s, you also had plenty of American musicians who were holding their own, so perhaps it was more of a British-American thing among the music industry than a race thing?

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  24. It would be interesting if they tried. But putting aside some rock star egos might be at issue.

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    1. So true. I admire that greats like Michael Jackson and Diana Ross were able to put all that silliness aside and work with the rest of the music community for a day (or however long all that took). I notice Prince and Madonna are missing, though...but I just looked it up and it appears the word at the time was that Madonna wasn't even invited.

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  25. I don't think there would ever be a coming together again like that to record a song. Now the artists would just record their track in their own studio and email them to the producer (in fact, there's been a few similar instances of this in the last few years already)

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    1. I thought at first when I was rewatching We Are the World that Michael Jackson had recorded his separately. But nope, he's right there with them. I think that makes it MUCH more powerful. David Foster shot each person separately, then had a group at the end--many of the people who did solos weren't even in with the group. That sort of diva-ism is why USA for Africa was so special. Forget egos--it's all about the charity, people!

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  26. My high school chorus sang We Are The World a few times in our concerts! Such an amazing yet powerful song.

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    1. Especially when the group kicks in for the first time. My only complaint is that we go to the group fairly early on and then it's about five minutes of that, over and over and over and over!

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  27. Live Aid was a great cause. Yes, singing stars should try it again!!!

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    1. Except today it would probably be mostly Disney stars.

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  28. I definitely remember when We Are The World came out. And I think I remember watching some of Live Aid. Wasn't there also a later version called Farm Aid?

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    1. Yes...I'm not sure if Willie Nelson still does Farm Aid.

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  29. The day they showed Live Aid on TV I spent a bit too long in the pub, came home slightly "tired and emotional" and fell asleep, missing pretty well all of it. I know Do They Know It's Christmas was a good idea for raising money, but it was pretty dire.

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    1. Don't feel bad--I was 14 and just too self-absorbed to pay attention. At 14, you miss all the important stuff because you think what your best friend is wearing to the mall tomorrow is more newsworthy!

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  30. I hadn't realised there was a British/American rivalry about those aid concerts. A bit sad really. There are so many issues that really don't need ego - and do need support.

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    1. I've made it about that--but Joan Baez hinted at a race thing. It could just be that Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson were already working with Quincy Adams and declined to participate because they had a big surprise of their own planned.

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  31. Wow, Stephanie, this post brings back a ton of memories! "Do They Know its Christmas," "We Are the World," Live Aid, even "Let the Chickens Run Free," A New York radio station did a parody song for subway vigilante Bernie Goetz. I remember Phil Collins played both London and Philadelphia that day--starting in England and flying to Philly. Amazing stuff.

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    1. Phil Collins is an amazing talent. I don't know if he has been appreciated as he should be for his contributions to music. If he died tomorrow, we'd hear all about it, but someone should let him know how much of an impact he's made while he's still alive!

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  32. I remember watching Live Aid-It was great seeing all the bands. I liked the British a bit better (sorry:)). I never cared for "We are The World"-the song although glad they raised the money. I had no idea those 2 boycotted Live Aid...one day one will find out in a book-maybe a bio on Stevie Wonder

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    1. It's in Joan Baez's book--but the pages I linked above are kind of a mess. I can't make sense of what she's talking about! In light of that...it's possible there was no boycott at all and she just heard a rumor of that. I did read that Prince declined to participate because at the time he'd announced he was giving no more live performances for a while. No mention of why he was absent from USA for Africa--but was he even asked? Madonna wasn't (allegedly).

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  33. I enjoy both songs. I thought SNL was tasteless then. Still feel the same way.

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    1. SNL has its good moments and bad moments...but I went back and watched from the very first episode a couple of years ago (when it was still on Netflix) and those early years just...wow. The first year wasn't at all what people remember. I think it's one of those things that you can't really appreciate unless you were actually there. (I was there, but I wasn't allowed to watch until I was in my teens.)

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  34. Even I remember that song

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  35. I'd love to see the artists come together again on such worthwhile projects.

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  36. I remember it like it was yesterday. I still get goose bumps and chills when I watch an old clip of "We are the World." There is something so fulfilling about musicians coming together for a common cause. I am a huge 80's fan. I am clearly showing my age here.

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  37. Oh, man, Live Aid (the concert) is what started my U2 craze. I fell in love with Bono right then and there. The song was pretty cool, too, as Duran Duran was part of it, but it is very interesting about the boycott. I hadn't heard that. Hmmm. Bob Geldof was a huge force behind Live Aid, and he is pretty awesome, too.

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  38. This looks like fun. Thanks for sharing.

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  39. Every Christmas, I know I'm going to hear "Do They Know It's Christmas." But I do remember Live Aid being such a HUGE deal. I think that was my very first exposure to how massive Wembley Stadium was.

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  40. These songs and videos were a pretty cool idea so they should probably continue doing them now and then at least. I still get moved when I watch the "We Are the World" video. Great stuff.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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  41. I loved these songs and trying to identify who sang which parts.

    Yvonne

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  42. I loved both "We Are the World" and "Do They Know It's Christmas?" but I think the time of the group benefit song has passed.

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  43. What I think is most wonderful is for both Bob Geldoff and Midge Ure ("Do They Know It's Christmas" co-writers and founders of Band Aid, Live Aid) international social justice became their lifetime work. I was a huge fan of their early 80s bands.

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  44. This brings back some memories (and gets a few songs stuck in my head :). It would be interesting if they did another one today!

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  45. This was a great idea and I wish it was still going on.

    Sunni

    http://sunni-survivinglife.blogspot.com/

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  46. Live Aid was AWESOME! I wish they would do it again. It was wonderful seeing our favorite artist giving back like that.

    Scribbles From Jenn - Visiting from the A to Z Challenge

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  47. I think the music industry to should try it again... I think it was awesome what they both did and having so many artists getting together and pulling it off... and raising so much money xox

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  48. I remember this well! It might be nice if they did try something like this again and there are certainly a lot of good causes that could use their support!

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