Monday, July 13, 2015

Remembering Live Aid and more with Midge Ure

In January 2013, I did a great interview with Live Aid co-organizer and performer Midge Ure (Ultravox, Visage) where we discussed the worldwide charity concert and related events. With the 30th Anniversary today, here's another look at what veteran pop/rocker had to say... 

Q: Are you proud of how the Band Aid song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and Live Aid helped create awareness about poverty in Africa during the mid-to-late 1980s? 

At the time, I don’t think there was any question of pride in it at all. We were so embroiled in getting on with the daily task of generating the income, spending the income, and shipping. We didn’t actually see what we’d done until after a couple years. It was much later when a little girl who lived next door came over and said, ‘we were reading about you in history today.’ I thought, ‘What? What do you mean?’ It’s in history books. They teach kids about it in school because it’s not just a music event; it’s a social event. You look back on it and think [all these] 'years later, Bob and I are still there.’ So are the Band Aid trustees. We’re all still there. Because what we didn’t see was that record would be released and played every year all around the world. Every time it’s played, it generates income for the Band Aid Trust to carry on doing what we do in Africa. Bob and I gave the songwriting royalties to the Band Aid Trust. We donated all the royalties for every time that thing is played.

You couldn’t help be proud of everything that was associated with it. Right through to ‘We Are the World’ and Northern Lights in Canada. With Live the time, you couldn’t make a phone call across the Atlantic without [it being a major ordeal]. A mobile phone was the size of a small brick. And everything had to be done by telex! How we managed to pull off the technical aspects of it, I will never know. Whoever is up there looking down on us, it was that day. And that’s enabled the whole thing to roll on. Another great thing is, part of the legacy is, every year, teachers teach their kids in the classrooms what that song was about. The whole thing is like a perpetual motion. When the record gets played, kids sing it to nativities at holiday events at schools and they learn why the record was put together. So it’s an ongoing thing. 

Q: With Live 8, what do you think of the main goal of Making Poverty History now? 

It’s like a sculptor with a great big block of concrete or marble. You’ve got to keep chipping away at it before it actually turns into something you can recognize as usable. The whole Make Poverty History campaign, Band Aid, Live Aid, Live 8, all those things, are all taking steps towards trying to make a larger change we can do as individuals.

Collectively, we have a voice and can do things. The amazing thing now it that we have politicians in positions of power – I defy them to say they didn’t know about Live Aid and were not affected by what they saw. I defy them not to stand up and do something about it. We have people who can, should and hopefully will make those differences. I saw it in the UK. I’ve seen it with David Cameron. I’d like to think Barack Obama would be in the same position. He’s a music fan. Why wouldn’t he know about Band Aid and Live Aid? Why wouldn’t he want to do something about it and make that change? He’s African-American and his family is from Africa. So we’re getting closer to it.

The Make Poverty History campaign doesn’t stop. Every so often, it will re-emerge in the public eye [charity speak]. I think people get tired of artists banging on about starving kids in Africa. It’ll be interesting in the next two years, not that there’s anything official at all, but it’ll be the 30th anniversary of Band Aid and Live Aid. If some celebratory event happens to mark that. Every generation has to be exposed to it and understand what’s going on in the world because we haven’t got a solution yet. Nowhere near a solution yet. It needs something like an anniversary to fuel the fire and get on people’s minds again. 

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