In an effort to provide hunger relief after the drought in Ethiopia, several influential producers arranged a benefit concert to raise funds and awareness. Modeled loosely after the Concert for Bangladesh by George Harrison and others in 1975, the Live Aid Concert added satellite feed technology.

The impact of Live Aid on famine relief has been debated for years. One aid relief worker stated that following the publicity generated by the concert, "humanitarian concern is now at the centre of foreign policy" for Western governments. The idea to stage a charity concert to raise more funds for Ethiopia originally came from Boy George, the lead singer of Culture Club. "The show should be as big as is humanly possible. There's no point just 5,000 fans turning up at Wembley; we need to have Wembley linked with Madison Square Gardens, and the whole show to be televised worldwide."

Phil Collins performed at both Wembley Stadium and JFK, traveling from Wembley by helicopter to London Heathrow Airport, then took a British Airways Concorde flight to New York City, before taking another helicopter to Philadelphia. As well as his own set at both venues, he also played the drums for Eric Clapton, and played with the reuniting surviving members of Led Zeppelin at JFK. On the Concorde flight, Collins encountered singer Cher, who was unaware of the concerts. She attended the Philadelphia concert and can be seen performing as part of the concert's "We Are the World" finale.

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