1985. Live Aid. A satellite coordinated broadcast of simultaneous worldwide concerts that captivated 1.6 billion viewers (roughly 40% of the global population). This single event changed the charity game evermore, raised an estimated $210M+ for famine relief in Africa, and inspired Phil Collins to embody “The Flash”.
Before all that, George Harrison and Ravi Shankar wrangled a few other noteworthy cats and fired up Madison Square Garden during a two night stint in August 1971. Their mission: raise money and awareness for Bengali refugees suffering a world away, thereby birthing the multi-artist benefit concert.
Artists in pandemic-ridden 2021 are still singing a similar tune: one of equitable resource distribution. Yet the resource in question isn’t grub these days, it’s COVID-19 vaccines. The US and friends are stockpiling more doses than actual constituents — with plenty collecting dust thanks to the pricks avoiding the prick. Meanwhile, the developing world lags behind at a deplorable 0.3% overall distribution rate.
But we’re here to talk about benefit concerts, right? Cue Hugh Evans’ Global Citizen, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing the world’s poor through the power of music, politics, and collective action. The org’s latest endeavor, Vax Live, brought the likes of Selena Gomez, Il Papa, The Duke & Duchess of Sussex, Dr. & Mr. Biden, Oprah, JLo, and even her Mamá to SoFi Stadium. The livestream event, performed in front of an in-person audience of 27K+ vaxxed first responders, amassed an astounding $302M in cash and 26M+ vaccine doses — all in the name of Covax (look ‘em up).
If that’s not impressive, you might just be stupid and contagious after all...
Chili Under the Bridge / Podcast Dissects 60 Songs That Explain the ‘90s
LEGO Queens / Freddie Mercury’s Live Aid Performance Immortalized in Plastic
Adopt a Dot for Charity / Put Your Face on a Deftones Album for $20
1971 / The Year That Music Changed Everything
Yo, Check This Out / Cellist & Activist Answers Questions From Twitter
Music Is Power / Punk Ass Kids Call Out Racist, Sexist Boys (Must See)
Together At Home / Virtual Concerts Made to Dance & Donate
No Good, No More / Amy Winehouse NFT Up for Charity Auction
KISS Unmasked / These Masks Were Made For Lovin’ Crews
Turn Up the TED Talk / Musician Madame Gandhi on Opposing Oppression
Want to make the world a better place and rock out at the same time? Get yourself to a benefit concert! Can’t make it to one in person (or virtually)? Have no fear, these films are the next best thing.
The Concert for Bangladesh / Saul Swimmer, 1972 (G)
Billed as the first rock concert fundraiser for humanitarian aid, legendary artists like George Harrison, Ringo Star, and Bob Dylan sought to raise money and awareness for refugees of the 1971 war in Bangladesh.
The Wall: Live in Berlin / Ken O'Neill, Roger Waters, 1990 (NR)
Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters brought together the likes of Bryan Adams, Thomas Dolby, and Tim Curry of their concept album The Wall to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit / Bill Duke, 1993 (PG)
This sequel starring Whoopi Goldberg sees the nightclub singer and sometime nun Sister Mary Clarence raise funds for the St. Francis Academy in San Francisco, including singing some killer James Brown tunes in a benefit concert sequence.
When Harvey Met Bob / Nicholas Renton, 2010 (NR)
A fictionalized re-telling of how in 1984 Bob Geldof (Domhnall Gleeson) convinced concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith (Ian Hart) to help him secure the most legendary lineup of musicians of all time for Live Aid 1984.
Change Begins Within / Michael Dempsey, 2012 (NR)
Hosted by David Lynch and Laura Dern, and featuring performances from Sheryl Crow, Eddie Vedder, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, this benefit helped raise funds to teach at-risk children the benefits of meditation.
Curated by: Marya E. Gates / @OldFilmsFlicker
“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid
‘Tis not the season for world changing Christmas singles, but Live Aid wouldn’t be Live Aid without Band Aid. This vid served as a proof-of-concept for Band Aid founders Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to pitch Live Aid to investors and artists alike, while also establishing the tone and structure for future charity supergroup hits like “We Are The World”.
Not everyone gave the benefit of the doubt. Brit rock group Chumbawamba’s 1986 debut album, titled “Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records”, was a direct critique of Live Aid, designed to knock Geldof down for his “cosmetic spectacle designed to draw attention away from the real political issues that cause world hunger”.
But all parties got up again. Nobody’s keeping celebrity philanthropy down… after all, it’s good for business, right?