The 5: The Benefit Concerts
This Week on the 5: Great Charitable Fundraising Super Shows
The 12.12.12 Concert to benefit victims of Super Storm Sandy takes place at Madison Square Garden tonight. Bon Jovi, Eric Clapton, Dave Grohl, Billy Joel, The Rolling Stones, Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder, Roger Waters, Kanye West, The Who, Paul McCartney, Chris Martin and Alicia Keyes are the headliners. It’s an impressive lineup, but had us looking back at some of the all time greatest benefit concert. Here are 5 of the most memorable.
- Concert for Bangladesh. August 1, 1971 at Madison Square Garden. One of the first events of this magnitude, organizers George Harrison and Ravi Shankar held two concerts on the same day (one in the afternoon and one at night) to raise awareness and to fund relief efforts for refugees from Bangladesh. It was the first benefit concert of such magnitude and set the precedent for all of the mega-fundraisers that followed. Over a quarter of a million dollars was raised, and although the concert, and the money raised was smaller than many of the other shows, it was this concert that served as inspiration for every other show on this list. Performances were by Harrison, Shankar, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, Bob Dylan and others.
- MUSE No Nukes Concert. September 19-23, 1979 at Madison Square Garden. Musicians United for Safe Energy, or MUSE was founded in 1979 by Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, Bonnie Raitt, Harvey Wasserman and John Hall to protest the use of Nuclear Energy and promote the use of alternative, safer sources of energy as well as conservation. Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, Carly Simon, The Doobie Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Ry Cooder, Gil Scott-Heron, Crosby Stills and Nash and others headlined. The concerts were commemorated in a 27-track album that sold over 500,000 copies. Many of the performers re-grouped in 2011 for a benefit show in Mountain View California.
- Farm Aid. September 25, 1985 at University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois to help American farmers in danger of losing their farms through mortgage debt. Organized by Willie Nelson, the concert raised over 9 million dollars and established Farm Aid as an ongoing source of assistance for farmers. Performers at the first Farm Aid included a historic list of The Beach Boys, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Kris Kristofferson, Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Alabama, Arlo Guthrie, Waylon Jennings, Rickie Lee Jones, B.B. King, Randy Newman, Billy Joel, Loretta Lynn, Bonnie Raitt, Eddie Van Halen and so many other great performers. 26 Additional concerts have followed since then and they’re still going, making it the longest running benefit concert series in America, raising over $40 million to date to help keep farmers on their land.
- Live Aid. July 13, 1985 at Wembley Stadium in London England, and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, Pa. It’s hard to imagine any event bigger than Live Aid. Two continents. Two huge arenas. Phil Collins flew across the Atlantic on the Concorde so he could perform at both venues, and it was all televised around the world. An estimated global audience of 1.9 Billion. Over 280 million dollars were raised, all to benefit famine relief in Ethiopia. This follow-up to USA for Africa was organized by Bob Geldof, and the list of performers is massive. U2, Bowie, The Who, Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Bryan Ferry, Queen, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Tina Turner, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, CSN&Y, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Run DMC, The Beach Boys, Duran Duran, Teddy Pendergast, and the list goes on and on and on.
- A Concert for New York. October 20, 2001 concert held at Madison Square Garden to raise money for those in need after the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, and to honor first responders and rescue workers. Incredibly emotional performances were given by all including David Bowie, Billy Joel, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, The Who, Mick and Keith, Macy Gray, James Taylor, Elton John, Paul McCartney (and so many others). The evening’s performances also included politicians, actors, comedians, and a number of filmmakers with strong emotional ties to New York City, who shared short films including Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Kevin Smith, Ed Burns and Spike Lee. Over 35 million dollars were raised in connection with the evening.