Do you know where you were on this date in 1985? If you were like me, and likely millions of other teenagers around the world, you were sitting in front of your television watching Live Aid.
While this date will ring forever bittersweet to me (and probably any other Duranie out there), I can also remember the feeling that we could conquer anything. Sure, to many adults out there, Live Aid was just a festival with two locations that day: one at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia and the other in London at Wembley, but to me and others in my generation, it become something far greater.
For me, Live Aid marked the beginning of a new era. It wasn’t solely about being the last time that all five original members of Duran Duran would convene onstage until 2003. In many ways, it marked the end of my childhood infatuation, and taught me that there is indeed a whole world out there to take care of. Growing up in America at the time certainly had its advantages. Comparatively speaking, I wanted for nothing. Being poor here in the states in the 1980’s was rough – any kid who actually grew up poor will tell you as much ( I was not. While my parents seriously struggled at times, we always had food on the table, a roof over our heads and some semblance of safety and stability. Many others did not.), but it wasn’t quite the same as living in a third world country with no resources, world attention, or funding. Remarkably, I don’t necessarily remember ever really hearing about the plight of others around the world, except in hindsight—like in a history class. Our nightly news would use the Ethiopian Famine as more of a “In other news” than a headline, and I believe that Live Aid marked the beginning of that changing. Live Aid brought awareness, and once that door was cracked open, there was really no turning back.
Some will argue that the US still does very little to help with the rest of the world. I’m not really here to get into that discussion or to prove our self-worth. I can just share my own experience. Prior to Live Aid (and also Band Aid), I really don’t remember having much of an awareness of what went on outside of the United States. Perhaps that was me and my family, or maybe it was my age, but I know from even looking at old newspapers from back in that day, the front page rarely discussed world issues. That was hidden back on page three or four of the first section. I think that speaks volumes about America at the time, and while I will always be proud of where I was born and raised, I recognize our shortcomings – and let’s face it – there are many.
When I think back on Live Aid, I try not to focus on Duran Duran. Enough has been said about all of that, and as I said before—for Duranies, it was a bittersweet day for a multitude of reasons. I think about how for just that 24-hour period, it didn’t seem to matter where we lived or how we grew up. It felt like the world uniting for a common cause, and for this then-fourteen year old, it felt empowering. I think that was probably the first time in my short life that I really felt that way, too.
For me personally, Live Aid took place on an incredibly hot day in July 1985. We didn’t have air conditioning, and in Glendora, California, I’m pretty sure the thermometer hit 100 degrees F or more that day. I can remember hearing the very loud fan on our swamp cooler (if you don’t know what that is – it’s a cooling system that runs cool water past a fan – this theoretically cools off the air that is then blown into the house. Not as good as an A/C, but it was all I knew as a kid.) My parents saw me in one of two places that day: sitting on our brown, thread bare living room carpet, eyes glued to the TV, or sitting outside on our patio on a lounge chair, with the television volume (from the living room) turned way up so I could hear. Their attempts to tear me away in order to do chores were futile—I always managed to sneak back in to see how much longer it would be before Duran Duran would take the stage. At the time, I didn’t think I paid much attention to the cause for the event. I was interested in the music, and the rest of it didn’t matter. Except somehow over the course of that day, the more I watched, the more I began to understand the immensity of what was happening, and why.
Nowadays, having an understanding of what is going on in the world is commonplace. It’s difficult to believe or remember a time when it wasn’t. We’ve got Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ (among others!) to inform, confuse, and confound. Cable news is 24/7, and if that isn’t enough, within a few clicks of the keys, the internet awaits. It wasn’t always that way, and certainly not here. I know American’s boast about the freedom of the press, but that “freedom” was also the choice to cover whatever they wanted. Back then, news from the rest of the world didn’t always make the headlines in the same way it might now.
Live Aid inspired a number of other concerts around the world on that same day. Everywhere from Canada to the Soviet Union took part in their own way, and the world came together—if only for a short while—the music between us. In the decades since, there have been any number of music festivals done in the same vein (albeit not with the same exuberance). Just recently, there was a festival done in Manchester for the victims of the bombing at Ariana Grande’s concert. A variety of different online and print sources claimed it was this generation’s Live Aid.
Only history will decide, but I think we all know how and where Live Aid stands. Thirty-two years later, and we’re still talking about it.