“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of Another”- Charles Dickens. As music lovers, we all know what a concert is but a ‘Charity Concert’, also called a ‘Benefit concert’ means a concert for the benefit/charitable purposes like humanitarian causes, raising awareness, etc. Music is a form of love that brings people of every generation together. The idea of bringing people together on one platform for a kind purpose where every individual contributes something to create a greater impact through music is so beautiful and something musical artists have been doing since the 20th century. So, here’s the pick of the best charity concerts of all time.
Kritagya Kriti | BeatCurry Team
Festival of Hope (1970)
America dropped the first deadly Atom bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. On the same day in 1970, a Festival For Peace was organized at New York’s iconic Shea Stadium in Queens. It was also the first pop/rock event since the Beatles last-ever live show in 1966. This festival was held to raise money to help fund anti-war political candidates during the Vietnam war. The festival footfall: 20,000 people.
The Concert for Bangladesh (1971)
A charity concert to fund relief and raise global awareness for Bengali refugees in India who fled Bangladesh after their struggle in the genocidal war. It is believed to be the first charity concert so, henceforth, such kinds of concerts embarked into the world. For the struggling and needy refugees, George Harrison (Former The Beatles Guitarist), along with Ravi Shankar(Indian Sitar Player) organized two concerts at Madison Square Garden, New York on August 1, 1971, who performed rock music and traditional Indian music respectively.
Artists like Bob Dylan, Pt. Ravi Shankar, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, Ringo Starr, the Badfinger, and Ali Akbar Khan headlined the event. Attended by a total of 40,000 people, it raised about $250,000 for fund relief, administered by UNICEF, and after-sale of the album and film, an estimated $12 million was raised.
Live Aid (1985)
Organized by Irish rocker Bob Geldof to raise funds for the 1983-1985 famine in Ethiopia, on 13 July 1985 at Wembley Stadium, London where about 72,000 people attended, and at John F. Kennedy Stadium, Philadelphia, 89, 484 people. Also, an estimated audience of 1.9 billion, in 150 countries, watched the live broadcast with the setup of 13 satellites.
The concert raised more than $150 million for famine relief in Ethiopia. More than 75 musical acts by Elton John, Queen, Madonna, Bryan Adams, U2, etc, took place at the 2 stadiums.
Video of U2 performing at the Live Aid
Video of Queen performing at the Live Aid
Farm Aid (1985-present)
It is an ongoing concert held since its first on September 22, 1985, in Champaign, Illinois, with an audience of 80,000. After the remarks of Bob Dylan about the economic struggle of American farmers, the Farm Aid concerts came into existence. Artists like Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young organized it to raise funds for farmers to cope with their economic crisis. Not only was the fund of $9 million raised, but also, the organizers addressed the farmers’ concerns to the legislature which succeeded in passing the bill to help farmers. Till now, it has resulted in an effective outcome in aiding farmers.
The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS (1992)
Held at Wembley Stadium, London, on 20 April 1992 with an audience of 72, 000, this benefit concert was a tribute to Queen’s lead vocalist, Freddie Mercury, who died of AIDS. Queen’s fellow members organized the concert for the celebration of the life and legacy of Mercury and also, to raise funds for AIDS research and spread AIDS global awareness. Other performing artists like Metallica, Def Leppard, Extreme, Gun N’ Roses, U2, etc also performed Queen’s songs. With a live broadcast on television and radio to 76 countries, the audience reached up to 1 billion.
The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS (1992)
Tibetan Freedom Concert (1996)
When the founder of Beastie Boy, Adam Yauch encountered an activist, Erin Potts in Kathmandu, Nepal who gave him insights on Tibetan exiles from China, it led to the launching of the first Tibetan Freedom Concert in 1996.
100,000 people filled up San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to support the cause of Tibetan Independence, with performances by The Beastie Boys, Bjork, A Tribe called Quest, John Lee Hooker, Rage Against the Machine, etc. It raised over $800,000 for the cause. These concerts were held until 2003 by generating public awareness, especially among youths, and funds for encouraging the cause.
America: A Tribute to Heroes (2001)
It was held 10 days after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001. Initiated by 4 major US media: Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS, The America: A Tribute to Heroes show was broadcasted live featuring 21 artists performing songs of mourning and hope, short-spoken messages by influential people, that reached 60 million people, raising $200 million for victims and their families, particularly for firefighters and police forces. At an international level, the show was distributed to more than 210 countries as well.
Stevie Wonder: America: A Tribute to Heroes (2001)
U2: America: A Tribute to Heroes (2001)
One Love Manchester (2017)
After a terrorist attack on her concert at Manchester Arena in May 2017, Ariana Grande organized a benefit concert for the victims 2 weeks later to raise money. The most memorable performance of that day was “Don’t Look Back in Anger ” featuring Coldplay. Many well-known celebrities were supportive of Grande like Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Mac Miller, and Miley Cyrus.
One Love Manchester 2017
The One World: Together At Home concert (2020)
After the global crisis, Covid-19, in April 2020 a historic global event organized by Global Citizen with Lady Gaga called ‘One World: Together At Home’ raised about $127 million to support health workers fighting against COVID-pandemic. Performances by celebrities, tributes to political leaders, health care personnel, and other essential service workers on the frontlines were organized. Over 150 countries took action in support of the response fund. It became the highest-grossing charity concert in history.
I for India (2020)
I for India concert is one of the online fundraising concerts organized by the well-known filmmaker Karan Johar and Zoya Akhtar for the purpose to help raise funds for the India Covid Response fund. From India’s biggest actors, musicians to sportspeople were present to support the cause. The concert was held on Sunday, 3 May 2020. It was a 4 hours long concert that was streamed live globally on Facebook. The event was able to raise a US$6.8 million fund which was managed by GiveIndia for the Covid Relief Purpose.
Consensus: Benefit concerts are proof that music does make the world kinder, brighter, and happier. It brings people together in the most wonderful way, leaving it better than before. With the On-site audience to the global audience via the rise of technologies like tv, radio, internet, these concerts have fulfilled their charitable goal, whether it’s a humanitarian cause, environmental cause, or socio-political cause.
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