Eric Clapton at Live Aid: A Look Back

Watch Eric’s Three Song Set from Philadelphia on 13 July 1985!

Live Aid was a dual-venue concert on 13 July 1985 organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for relief of the ongoing Ethiopian famine. Billed as the “global jukebox” and conceived as an event that “should be as big as is humanly possible,” it happened simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia. The 72,000 in attendance in London and 100,000 in Philadelphia were dwarfed by the global television audience of 2 billion. Now, 35 years later, it is known as “the greatest concert ever” and “the day the music changed the world.”

Live Aid was the most ambitious international satellite television venture up to that time. The UK broadcast and global television feed was provided by the BBC, which aired the concerts commercial-free. In the US, two different feeds were available – one from ABC-TV and a stereo feed from MTV – but both were interrupted by commercials. An estimated 2 billion viewers in 60 countries watched the live television broadcast. The 16 hour long event was also broadcast on radio by BBC Radio 1 and the ABC Radio Network.

Eric received the invitation to perform in early summer. As he would be on road in the United States on the second leg of his Behind The Sun Tour, his management hastily rearranged his schedule. A gig in Las Vegas was cancelled and the dates of the two performances at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver were shuffled.

Some of the other superstars that performed were Paul McCartney, Elton John, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Madonna, Queen, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, the Temptations, Neil Young, Hall & Oates while The Who, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath (on stage shortly before 10AM in Philadelphia!) all reunited for the event.

Eric took to the stage in Philadelphia as the sun was setting on a hot and humid day. In addition to his crack 6-piece touring band, Phil Collins sat in for Eric’s three song set on a second kit set up next to Jamie Oldaker’s. (Earlier in the day, Collins performed a solo set plus a set with Sting at Wembley then hopped on a helicopter, the Concorde and another helicopter to get him to the stadium in Philadelphia). Also in the band were the legendary Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass, Chris Stainton on keyboards, Tim Renwick on guitar and Marcy Levy and Shaun Murphy on backing vocals.

Although Queen generally gets the nod from the public for the most iconic performance at Live Aid, Eric’s set brought him legions of new fans based on his blistering performances of “White Room,” “She’s Waiting” and “Layla.”  At the end of the evening, Eric joined in on “We Are The World,” for the all-star finale from JFK Stadium. Check out his entire solo set:

Eric Clapton’s Opening Song at Live Aid…White Room

EC’s second song was “She’s Waiting”…the lead track from his then-current album, “Behind The Sun”

Watch the Philadelphia crowd react to the opening notes of Eric Clapton’s “Layla” on 13 July 1985

In the end, Live Aid raised over $150 million for famine relief in Ethiopia. In 2018, the Live Aid Charity launched it’s own YouTube Channel with dozens of performances and interviews. Check it out here.

01. White Room
02. She’s Waiting
03. Layla
04. We Are The World (All Star Finale)

Eric Clapton – guitar / vocals
Donald “Duck” Dunn – bass
Tim Renwick – guitar
Chris Stainton – keyboards
Jamie Oldaker – drums
Phil Collins – drums
Marcy Levy – backing vocals
Shaun Murphy – backing vocals

Where’s Eric!
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