Benefit concert

Benefit concert

A benefit concert or charity concert is a concert, show or gala featuring musicians, comedians, or other performers that is held for a charitable purpose, often directed at a specific and immediate humanitarian crisis. Such events raise both funds and public awareness to address the cause at issue.

Benefit concerts typically feature popular performers working for little or no pay. The largest such effort in recent memory was the multi-venue Live 8 concert organized in 2005 by Bob Geldof and Bono,and the Live Earth concerts organized by Al Gore and Kevin Wall on 07/07/07 who have been involved in several other similar events. [1] [2] Benefit concerts were also arranged following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and Hurricane Katrina.

There are various ways by which additional revenue and awareness for the charitable cause is raised - over and beyond the original event. These methods have included theatrically released concert films, live television, radio and internet broadcasts, audio recordings and home video releases of performances.

The perceived importance of the cause can lead musicians to temporarily set aside disagreements that had led to estrangements. Examples of this include the one-time reunion of Roger Waters with Pink Floyd for their 2005 Live 8 performance; and the first post-break-up reunion of Simon and Garfunkel at a 1972 concert in support of presidential candidate George McGovern.

There have been benefit concerts dating back to the eighteenth century, a notable example is the one held on December 28, 1791 for the benefit of Mozart's family after his death on the 5th of the month. Many prominent musicians of the day attended and performed his works.


Notable benefit concerts

In chronological order, beginning with the earliest date:

  • The Concert for Bangladesh (1971)
August 1, 1971. The Concert for Bangladesh took place at Madison Square Garden, New York. Conceived and produced by George Harrison. Performers included: George Harrison, Ravi Shankar, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Leon Russell.
  • A Poke in the Eye (With A Sharp Stick) (1976)
April 1-April 3, 1976. Amnesty International staged the first in what became its long-running Secret Policeman's Ball series of events raising funds for - and awareness of - the human rights issue. The show titled A Poke in the Eye was staged at Her Majesty's Theatre in London over three consecutive nights. It was primarily a comedy gala starring Monty Python, Peter Cook, Beyond The Fringe and others. Produced by John Cleese and Martin Lewis.
  • A Gift of Song: The Music for UNICEF Concert (1979)
January 9, 1979 - The A Gift of Song: The Music for UNICEF Concert was held at the United Nations General Assembly and broadcast worldwide to raise money for UNICEF and mark the International Year of the Child. Performers included ABBA, Bee Gees, Andy Gibb, Olivia Newton-John, John Denver, Earth, Wind & Fire, Rita Coolidge, Kris Kristofferson, Rod Stewart, Donna Summer. The concert was the idea of impresario Robert Stigwood, the Bee Gees, and David Frost.
  • The Secret Policeman's Ball (1979)
June 27-June 30, 1979 - Amnesty International staged the third of its Secret Policeman's Ball benefits. The show titled The Secret Policeman's Ball was staged in London over four consecutive nights. In addition to the usual comedic performers from Monty Python, producer Martin Lewis secured musical performances from Pete Townshend and Tom Robinson.
  • The No Nukes concerts (1979)
September, 1979 The No Nukes concerts in New York
  • The Concerts for Kampuchea (1979)
December 26-December 29, 1979 - The Concerts for Kampuchea were held at the Hammersmith Odeon, benefitting the citizens of Cambodia who were victims of the tyrannical reign of dictator Pol Pot.
  • The Secret Policeman's Other Ball (1981)
September 9-September 12, 1981 - Amnesty International staged the fourth of its Secret Policeman's Ball benefits. The show titled The Secret Policeman's Other Ball was staged in London over four consecutive nights. This show expanded on its 1979 predecessor with appearances by multiple rock musicians including Sting, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Phil Collins, Donovan and the first-ever benefit concert appearance by a young rock musician named Bob Geldof.
John Fekner's stencil at the Central Park Nuclear Disarmament Rally, June 12th, 1982, NYC. by John Fekner. Estate of John Fekner © 1982-2007.
  • Nuclear Disarmament Rally (1982)
June 12, 1982 - In NYC, 750,000 people marched from the UN to Central Park to protest nuclear weapons — in what was probably the largest single protest in U.S. history. New York City was shut down for the day. The concert featured Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Bruce Springsteen, etc. Keith Haring created a poster for the event which was handed out free to the audience and John Fekner stencils were on the site.
  • Live Aid (1985)
July 13, 1985 - The Live Aid benefit concerts - conceived and organized by Bob Geldof - took place in London and Philadelphia. Similar concerts were held in Sydney and Moscow.
  • Farm Aid (1985)
September 22, 1985 - The first Farm Aid concert, organized by Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp to raise money for family farmers in the United States, was held in Champaign, Illinois. There have been 19 Farm Aid concerts as of 2007.
  • Self Aid (1986)
May 17, 1986 - The Self Aid concert held in Dublin, Ireland aimed to highlight the chronic unemployment problem in Ireland at the time. Performers at the event included U2, Van Morrison and The Pogues.
  • Conspiracy of Hope US Tour (1986)
June 4-June 15, 1986 The Conspiracy of Hope US tour of six rock concerts for Amnesty International. Performers included U2, Sting, Joan Baez, Lou Reed, Jackson Browne, The Neville Brothers and, at the final three concerts, a reunion of The Police.
  • Heart Beat 86 (1986)
March 15, 1986 - The Heart Beat 86 concert was held near Birmingham England to raise money for the Birmingham Children's Hospital.
  • Human Rights Now! World Tour (1988)
September 2- October 15, 1988 The Human Rights Now! World tour of rock concerts for Amnesty International
  • The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert (1992)
April 20, 1992 - The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert was organized at Wembley Stadium, London, to pay homage to recently deceased Queen singer and to raise money for the Mercury Phoenix Trust, a fund for victims of AIDS. Among the performers: David Bowie, Elton John, Guns N' Roses, Metallica, Robert Plant, Liza Minnelli, Roger Daltrey, George Michael.
  • America: A Tribute to Heroes (2001)
September 21, 2001 America: A Tribute to Heroes was a telethon in the style of a benefit concert organized in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon by the four major United States television networks.
  • The Concert for New York City (2001)
October 20, 2001 The Concert for New York City was a benefit concert organized as a tribute to the heroes and survivors of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York. It was initiated by Paul McCartney and produced by a team including Harvey Weinstein and Jann Wenner
  • The SARS Benefit Concert (2003)
July 30, 2003, 450,000 spectators saw The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Rush, The Guess Who, and others at the largest concert in Canadian history, the The SARS Benefit Concert concert in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, held to prove that the city was safe from SARS.
  • Live 8 (2005)
July 2, 2005 - Bob Geldof and Bono organised Live 8, a set of 8 concerts held in 8 cities around the world on the same day - as part of a campaign to persuade the G8 member governments to increase their fight to eradicate poverty in third-world countries.
  • Live Earth (2007)
July 7, 2007 - Al Gore inspired and helped organize Live Earth. During its first year, it consisted of a series of concerts held on all 7 continents of the planet on the same day.
  • A Billion Hands Concert (2008)
5 December 2008 - Anoushka Shankar and Jethro Tull held A Billion Hands Concert in Mumbai, India. All proceeds from the concert went to victims of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.[1]

Parodies and other references

Like other notable cultural phenomena, benefit concerts have been the subject of parody. For example, a South Park episode, Chef Aid, features a concert held for the benefit of the character Chef, featuring performances by Elton John, Ozzy Osbourne, and Meat Loaf.

See also

  • World Doctors Orchestra


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