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Charity Concerts

Charity Concerts

Charity and benefit concerts have long been a feature of the concert and musical calendar. Whether it is a humanitarian crisis that prompts the event or just a general call to awareness, benefit concerts usually involve popular artists volunteering their music and performances to help raise money for a cause.

Benefit concerts are one of the most effective ways for popular public figures to put their image and celebrity status to a worthwhile and charitable cause and draw attention to important issues facing the world. They help address issues by raising money but also significantly raise public awareness, which is key to mobilising the Western world to help end poverty.

Because benefit concerts often bring together some of the world’s most celebrated and best musical acts, they are sold out, internationally broadcast events that attract media and public attention from all around the world. With so much talent, celebrity and egos in one show, benefit concerts have created some of the most memorable concert moments in history.

Where were you when these memorable benefit concerts were taking place?

A Gift of Song – The Music for Unicef Concert 1979. Held in the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on January 9, 1979, this benefit concert marked the start of the International Year of the Child and was aimed at raising money for UNICEF world hunger programs. Broadcast around the world, the concert featured ABBA, the Bee Gees, Olivia Newton-John, John Denver, Earth Wind & Fire and many more. All performers declared their support for UNICEF’s goals and the concert was one of the first major collaborative efforts of popular artists for a cause. If this was before your time but you’re still interested in supporting the improvement of child poverty, there are a range of child sponsorship programs available today.

Live Aid 1985. Live Aid was one of the most legendary benefit concerts with stellar talent, a huge international audience and enormous earnings. The concert was the brainchild of Bob Geldof and Midge Ure and was scheduled to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. The event was held simultaneously in Wembley Stadium in London and in the John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia. Performers included Queen, David Bowie, U2, Madonna, Bob Dylan and Duran Duran. Other countries joined in the trend with concerts also held in Australia and Germany. The concert created many memorable concert moments, such as Phil Collins performing at both Wembley Stadium and JFK, hopping on a Concorde flight to get him between the two venues. The concert also brought together the former members of Led Zeppelin at JFK. Queen’s opening of the Wembley concert with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was voted in a 2005 poll as the ‘Greatest Live Gig Ever’. It has been estimated that the concert raised approximately US$283.6 million.

Live 8 2005. A string of benefit concerts held on July 2 2005, Live 8 was scheduled to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Live Aid. Ten concerts were held all around the world with over 1000 artists performing including Madonna, Pink Floyd, Will Smith, Coldplay, Elton John and Stevie Wonder to name but a few. Various figures also spoke at the event and announced the artists, including UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in London and Nelson Mandela in South Africa. A final concert on July 6 before the G8 summit met was held in Edinburgh.

The legacy of benefit concerts and the lasting impact they have in helping end poverty is hard to assess, but their importance in bringing about a greater awareness of the issues facing the Third World cannot be understated. The money raised undoubtedly has a significant impact in the amount of aid and support the people of impoverished nations receive. As a result of the Live 8 concerts, for example, the G8 leaders pledged to double 2004 levels of aid to poor nations from US$25 to US$50 billion by the year 2010 with half of the money to go to Africa. Benefit and charity concerts are a great example of people using their skills, talents and time to help a worthwhile cause. You may not be a celebrity, but follow in the footsteps of artists and ask yourself ‘What’s my skill and talent, and what could I do to help?