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Live Aid. July 13th 1985

The Boomtown Rats gave their last major live performance on this day in 1985. They were playing in front of a live audience of 72,000 and a television audience of 1.5 billion in 160 countries.

Ok, so perhaps some of the audience tuned in for Queen, David Bowie, Duran Duran, or Tina Turner maybe, but still...

Live Aid, dubbed the Woodstock of the 80's, happened today jointly in Wembley Stadium London, and the JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. Phil Collins performed in London, and then took a helicopter (piloted by Noel Edmonds no less) to Heathrow, where he caught the Concorde to New York, and another helicopter to the JFK stadium in Philadelphia, where he performed again. Legend has it that he saw Cher on the Concorde, who, unaware of the concerts, tagged along to Philly, and joined the stars singing We are the World.

The brainchild of Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, Live Aid was created to raise money for Ethiopian famine relief. The event originally raised over £40 million, and has since become a fundraising initiative raising over £150 million through live concerts. You can relive the event by buying this dvd here.

Often named as one of the best live performances ever, Queen stole the London show. They nearly didn't appear at all. Not wanting to appear political they declined an invitation to perform. Geldof convinced them that the cause was charitable rather than political, so they eventually agreed. Their anxiety about appearing political probably stemmed from the criticism they received for appearing in South Africa during apartheid just 9 months earlier in October 1984.

They performed a run of shows in Sin City (a kind of South African Las Vegas), breaking a United Nations cultural boycott and were placed on a blacklist as a result. Being on this list didn't stop them performing, but increased the likelihood of criticism and protest wherever they went. They were not alone. Frank Sinatra, Barry Manilow and Elton John were also on the list for having performed at Sin City, as were Cher, Rod Stewart and George Benson.

The 16-hour Live Aid concert still holds the record for the most watched television event of all time, with its worldwide 1.5 billion audience. As well as the UK and the US, other countries held shows including Austria, Australia, Russia, Denmark, Germany and Japan.

In other news, in 1955 Ruth Ellis was executed on this day in Holloway prison London. She was the last woman to be executed in the UK being hanged for the murder of David Blakely, her lover, just 3 months before on the 10th April.

David Blakely with Ruth Ellis. Picture courtesy of BBC.

During her trial, the prosecution asked her just one question, "When you fired the revolver at close range into the body of David Blakely, what did you intend to do?" Her answer was "It's obvious when I shot him I intended to kill him." This exchange guaranteed a guilty verdict, and the jury took just 20 minutes to convict. Mr Justice Havers, High Court judge (and grandfather to actor Nigel Havers), had no choice but to issue the death penalty, and although he tried to get the sentence reprieved, the Home Secretary of the time refused.

The film Dance with a Stranger starring Miranda Richardson dramatises the story, and you can buy a copy here, but if you'd prefer to read the story in more detail, you can buy the story here.

Thanks for reading!


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