Updated:
Original:
Year
1985
Month Day
September 22

The first “Farm Aid” concert is held in Champaign, Illinois

It started with an offhand remark made by Bob Dylan during his performance at Live Aid, the massive fundraising concert held at Wembley Stadium, London, and JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, in the early summer of 1985. As television viewers around the world phoned in donations in support of African famine relief, Dylan said from the stage, “I hope that some of the money…maybe they can just take a little bit of it, maybe…one or two million, maybe…and use it, say, to pay the mortgages on some of the farms and, the farmers here, owe to the banks.” Dylan would come under harsh criticism from Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof for his remarks (“It was a crass, stupid and nationalistic thing to say,” Geldof would later write), but he planted a seed with several fellow musicians who shared his concern over the state of the American family farm. Less than one month later, Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp announced plans for “Farm Aid,” a benefit concert for America’s farmers held in Champaign, Illinois, on this day in 1985.

As one might have expected of a concert staged to “raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on their land,” Farm Aid featured a number of performers from the worlds of country, folk and rootsy rock music. There were the three main organizers and the instigator Bob Dylan, for instance, along with Hoyt Axton, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, Joni Mitchell and Charley Pride. But the first Farm Aid, more than any of the annual Farm Aid concerts since, was a bit of a stylistic free-for-all, featuring artists united only by their interest in supporting a good cause.

“As soon as I read in the paper that there was gonna be such a thing,” Sammy Hagar told MTV’s cameras on the day of the show, “I called my manager and said, ‘I wanna do it.’ And he said, ‘It’s all country.’ I said, ‘I don’t care. It’s America. I wanna do it.’ If there was anything more surprising than hearing Hagar perform his hard-rock anthem “I Can’t Drive 55″ on the same stage that had earlier featured the quiet folk of Arlo Guthrie, it was hearing Lou Reed perform “Walk On The Wild Side” on a stage that had featured John Denver.

Over the years since its first charity concert on this day in 1985, the Farm Aid organization has raised upwards of $33 million to support small farmers, promote sustainable farming practices and encourage consumption of “good food from family farms.”

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Shaka Zulu assassinated

Shaka, founder of the Zulu Kingdom of southern Africa, is murdered by his two half-brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana, after Shaka’s mental illness threatened to destroy the Zulu tribe. When Shaka became chief of the Zulus in 1816, the tribe numbered fewer than 1,500 and was among ...read more

U-boat devastates British squadron

In the North Sea, the German U-9 submarine sinks three British cruisers, the Aboukir, the Hogue, and the Cressy, in just over one hour. The one-sided battle, during which 1,400 British sailors lost their lives, alerted the British to the deadly effectiveness of the submarine, ...read more

Iran-Iraq War

Long-standing border disputes and political turmoil in Iran prompt Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to launch an invasion of Iran’s oil-producing province of Khuzestan. After initial advances, the Iraqi offense was repulsed. In 1982, Iraq voluntarily withdrew and sought a peace ...read more

Medina is acquitted of all charges

Captain Ernest Medina is acquitted of all charges relating to the My Lai massacre of March 1968. His unit, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, 11th Infantry Brigade (Light) of the 23rd (Americal) Division, was charged with the murder of over 200 Vietnamese civilians, ...read more

Friends debuts

On this day in 1994, the television sitcom Friends, about six young adults living in New York City, debuts on NBC. The show, which featured a group of relatively unknown actors, went on to become a huge hit and air for 10 seasons. It also propelled the cast–Jennifer Aniston, ...read more

So-called Midtown Stabber kills his first victim

Glenn Dunn is shot and killed outside a Buffalo supermarket by a man carrying a gun concealed in a paper bag. His murder was the first in a series of strange attacks in both upstate New York and New York City. Within two days, three other young men were murdered. One was killed ...read more

Patriot executed for spying

In New York City on this day in 1776, Nathan Hale, a Connecticut schoolteacher and captain in the Continental Army, is executed by the British for spying. A graduate of Yale University, Hale joined a Connecticut regiment in 1775 and served in the successful siege of ...read more