In 1985, Bob Dylan joined the dozens of artists playing Live Aid, a benefit concert organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure. Geldof was looking forward to Dylan’s performance but found him to be the night’s biggest letdown. Geldof said he was disappointed in Dylan’s musicianship and a comment he made.
The benefit concert took place in 1985
In 1985, Geldof and Ure organized Live Aid, a benefit concert that raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia. After beginning in London, an American show took place in Philadelphia. In all, the concert took 16 hours and included over 75 artists. Elton John, Queen, David Bowie, Tina Turner, and Bruce Springsteen were among the acts that performed at Live Aid.
Per Britannica, the concert drew 1.5 billion television viewers and raised millions of dollars.
Bob Dylan was a disappointment to the Live Aid organizer
Dylan was one of the last performers at the Philadelphia performance, and Geldof had been looking forward to his set. Dylan, who performed with The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards and Ronny Wood, disappointed Geldof, though.
“For me the biggest disappointment of the evening was Dylan,” Geldof wrote in his book Is That It?. “He sang three of his classics, including ‘Blowing in the Wind,’ which ought to have been one of the greatest moments of the concert. Unfortunately, the performance was catastrophic. He had met Keith Richard and Ronnie Wood in a night club in New York the night before and they had offered to back him. So, there they were — pop music’s seminal songwriter and the world’s greatest rhythm guitarist and his partner. But they were out of time, they couldn’t stay in tune and they seemed to treat the song with disdain.”
During his performance, Dylan also said he hoped some of the money the concert raised could go to American farmers. This infuriated Geldof.
“Then he displayed a complete lack of understanding of the issues raised by Live Aid by saying unforgivably, ‘It would be nice if some of this money went to the American farmers.’ Something so simplistic and crowd-pleasing was beyond belief,” Geldof wrote. “Live Aid was about people losing their lives. There is a radical difference between losing your livelihood and losing your life. It did instigate Farm Aid, which was a good thing in itself, but it was a crass, stupid and nationalistic thing to say.”
After Dylan’s performance, Lionel Richie sang “We Are the World.” Geldof was grateful Dylan wasn’t the last act of the night.
“It was to have been the finale, but thank God Ken Kragen had persuaded Lionel Ritchie to come and sing ‘We are the World,’” Richie said. “Dylan left the stage and as he walked by his manager, he just looked up at him and said ‘sorry.’”
Bob Dylan said he didn’t enjoy himself in the performance
Dylan was also unhappy with his performance. He broke a guitar string and had to use Wood’s guitar. He also said that it was impossible to hear anything.
“Fun? No, we couldn’t hear anything,” Dylan said after his performance, per Rolling Stone. “We had fun rehearsing.”
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