Live Aid – Women Who Rocked

One of the most unique parts of the Hard Rock Cafe story is Live Aid. Hard Rock was there in 1985, operating the catering tents on both sides of the Atlantic and we unearthed some photos of the day!

This Saturday marks the 34th anniversary of a music festival that changed the world forever. In a decade of excess and inflated egos, some of music’s biggest stars past, present, and future came together to shine a light on a devastating famine in Ethiopia and world hunger. Live Aid will always be remembered as the day that U2 introduced themselves to a global audience and Queen delivered, quite possibly, the greatest twenty-minute set in rock-n-roll history. However, the festival was not without criticism. Looking back, perhaps the most startling part of the entire day was the lack of women represented on the two stages.

Missing from Live Aid were some of the biggest female artists of 1984 and 1985 including Joan Jett, Heart, Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston, Pat Benatar, Pointer Sisters, Aretha Franklin, Sheena Easton, Cyndi Lauper, ’Til Tuesday, Laura Branigan, Scandal, Sheila E., Bananarama, The Go-Go’s, and Katrina & the Waves, all of whom were experiencing chart success at the time. There is no way that all of the above-mentioned artists were invited and passed on the opportunity. There is also no way they would have sounded as terrible as the reunited Led Zeppelin that day.

The solo female artists that took the stage were Patti Labelle, Sade, Madonna, and folk legend Joan Baez. Chrissie Hynde was there leading The Pretenders though one of the better sets of the day while Ashford & Simpson were on hand to sing their hit “Solid”. Other than that, a few women were given guest appearances including Alison Moyet who joined Paul Young on stage. Tina Turner only had a few minutes on stage with the Rolling Stones but she made the most of it. Her energy matches that of Jagger and she steals the show.

While the magnificent Sade has maintained a constant level of artistic excellence, it was Madonna’s appearance that signaled a wave of change coming over the music industry. Her success as an artist in complete control of her image created a template for others to follow. Her commitment to diversity and reinvention are at the heart of what today’s music stars aspire to. At Live Aid, she was on the cusp of all of that and more. And she knew it.

Look at the introduction to “Love Makes the World Go Round” below. Notice how she pokes fun at the media, who had recently unearthed steamy photos of her, and then summons funk god and producer Nile Rodgers to the stage. Even this early in her career, she understood how the game was played and was determined to seize control from the industry. Later that night, she uses her relationship with Rodgers, who was producing Thompson Twins at the time, to come back out with the Twins and steal a little more spotlight. Crafty!

Thanks to artists such as Madonna, the music landscape has changed since Live Aid. This year’s Primavera Sound festival in Spain proved that gender equity was not something that needed to be mandated. Rather, they signed the artists that represented the tastes of the audience and it turns out that, much like the audience, the music is pretty balanced between gender and genre. Some of this year’s female artists at Primavera included Janelle Monae, Liz Phair, Erykah Badu, FKA Twigs, Christine & the Queens, Charli XCX, Robyn, Kate Tempest, Dream Wife, and Cardi B.

Did Madonna, Sade, and Patti LaBelle know how important their time slots were at Live Aid given the paucity of other female artists? Absolutely. All three delivered entertaining and professional performances that overshadowed many of their male counterparts including Duran Duran, Sting, and even The Who. Check them out below!



Live Aid Program

Menu in the catering tent!

Picture of a clock likely used in the catering tent. Graciously shared with me by Chris, who obtained it from his brother, a long-time Hard Rock employee.

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