Bob Geldof will probably be best remembered not for his vocal stylings with the Boomtown Rats, but for the “Live Aid” concert held (primarily) at Wembley Stadium on July 13, 1985. Bob is back, this time with what’s being called “Live 8,” a concert to be held in Hyde Park on July 2, with a lineup including McCartney, Sting, Madonna, Coldplay, the Cure, R.E.M., and even Mariah Carey. The event is, in Geldof’s words, “not for charity but for political justice.” It is meant to draw attention to the appalling conditions that exist in many places on the African continent. The concert will be followed, not coincidentally, by the G8 summit in Edinburgh, Scotland; Geldof is urging people to go to Edinburgh to protest on behalf of debt relief and aid for Africa. Oh, yes, U2 will be at Live 8, though that should go without saying.*
What’s interesting to consider is whether concerts and attendant or associated protests have the same cultural resonance that they once did. The fact that there are artists and performers who are willing to forego their usual stipends for a live performance on behalf of people less fortunate has always been a good thing, although one might wonder whether there aren’t PR consultants who are recommending the participation of, say, Sirrahs Paul and Elton (yes, he’s scheduled, too) in order to maintain public visibility, which can have positive consequences on their disc sales. Perhaps it was ever thus. Without the counsel of the high-priced advisor. The old saw has it, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” Only one part of that is correct.
What’s interesting about this event is that while ostensibly drawing the attention not only of popular music fans everywhere—well, at least in the western world—to the plight of less fortunate people, but also to make the likes of George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin, Jacques Chirac, and the other five leaders to pay heed to the plight in Africa, this is found on the official G8 Gleneagles 2005 website:
Why is the G8 focusing on Africa in 2005?
Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region of the world that has got poorer in the last generation. Its share of world trade halved between 1980 and 2002. It makes up 13% of the world’s population and 28% of world poverty. Sub-Saharan Africa bears the brunt of the world’s AIDS epidemic. To date 13 million men, women and children have died of AIDS, and 26 million are now living with the virus. Nigeria alone is home to 10% of the world’s total number of people living with HIV and AIDS. Maternal and child mortality rates have increased, and a woman has a one in 13 chance of dying during pregnancy or childbirth. These challenges represent a compelling call for international cooperation to support the continent’s efforts to achieve lasting progress.
Apparently, the leaders have noted it. But outside of Geldof, Bono, and possibly Sting, what about the rest of the musical community? “Would you like a T-shirt with that?”
* The U.S. venue is the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the lineup is to include Bon Jovi; Maroon 5; P Diddy; Stevie Wonder; Jay-Z; The Dave Matthews Band; Sarah McLachlan; Rob Thomas; Keith Urban; 50 Cent; the Kaiser Chiefs; and the host, Will Smith.