Live Aid Turns 30: U2, Madonna, Led Zeppelin Reunion & More Highlights

Peter Still/Redferns

Bono of of U2 performs at Live Aid on July 13, 1985.

It’s hard to believe 30 years have passed since Live Aid. The monumental charity concert, which raised funds for famine relief in Africa, featured a laundry list of '80s artists that now reads like a music fan’s dream concert. The event was held on July 13, 1985, simultaneously in London’s Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium, which was torn down just seven years later. It featured a who’s who of rock and roll and pop music with some heavy metal and hip-hop thrown in for good measure.

The huge event was the brainchild of Sir Bob Geldof, who was inspired by the success of the all-star charity singles “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and “We Are the World,” which both helped raise awareness and funds for Ethiopian famine relief.

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Live Aid was a tremendous success, raising more than $104 million that day (it went on to raise over $150 million thanks to subsequent merchandise sales). More than 1.9 billion people watched the event live on television, which was unprecedented at the time, with many recording the concert on their brand-new VHS machines. The list of acts at the event is still staggering, from The Beach Boys, Elvis Costello and Run-D.M.C. to Madonna, Black Sabbath, Bob Dylan and Duran Duran. The event was a cultural steppingstone and helped launch and maintain the careers of several artists and marked some amazing reunions. Below, we look at some of the highlights and the huge reunions that took place back on July 13, 1985.


U2 were the breakout stars of Live Aid. Their memorable two-song set, featuring “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Bad,” still resonates with fans. There are some amazing moments, including an epic mullet-maned Bono climbing down the front of the huge stage at Wembley Stadium to help 15-year-old Kal Khalique, who was getting crushed against the security barrier. He worked with security guards to pull her out of the crowd and slow-danced with the lucky girl before climbing back up to finish the epic 12-minute version of “Bad.” The song featured teases of Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love” and “Walk on the Wild Side,” as well as the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday.”

Like many of us, legendary artist Joan Baez watched Live Aid unfold on TV. Perhaps she explains U2’s iconic performance the best, saying, “The high point was witnessing the magic of U2. They moved me as nothing else moved me. They moved me in their newness, their youth, and their tenderness.” Ironically, U2 thought they had blown a huge opportunity. According to a Rolling Stone article, the group was unhappy with Bono climbing down to the crowd, which forced the band to cut their biggest hit to date, “(Pride) In the Name of Love,” from the set. Later, they realized that not only did they not blow it, but their Live Aid performance was a career-making moment that helped the band get back on the U.K. charts and established them as a force in the U.S.

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Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath reunited with original singer Ozzy Osbourne for an early 10 a.m. set in Philadelphia. The group performed high-octane versions of “Children of the Grave,” “Iron Man” and “Paranoid.” The reunion was short-lived as Ozzy and Tony Iommi continued their respective solo careers. It wasn’t until 1997 that Sabbath and Osbourne reunited for a full-fledged tour on Ozzfest.