Twenty-nine years ago today, dozens of artists and 80,000 music fans (joined by millions of viewers at home) came together at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, IL, to raise money and awareness to stand up for family farmers. The concert came together and was planned in just six weeks and brought much-needed attention to the crises forcing thousands of family farmers off the land each year in the early- and mid-1980s.
To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to ask Farm Aid staff members for their favorite musical moments from that very first concert. Here are their picks:
Jennifer Fahy: In the spirit of the awesome collaborations that happen on the Farm Aid stage, here’s my pick: Daryl Hall, Billy Joel and Bonnie Raitt on “Everytime You Go Away.”
Kari Williams: The best thing about Farm Aid are the people involved, so I chose Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.”
Caroline Malcolm: Classics!
Carolyn Mugar: A legend.
Jennifer Wehunt: I chose “Refugee” by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, because it’s one of the best songs of all time, obviously!
And John Denver and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band performing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” because any friend of the Muppets is a friend of mine.
Alicia Harvie: A great performance of this song and an amazing way to kick off Farm Aid’s impressive musical history!
It just doesn’t get any better and any badder than Johnny and Waylon.
Carole King brings some sweetness to the first Farm Aid!
Despite some wardrobe choices I wouldn’t necessarily make myself, Bonnie proves why she’s one of the guitar queens with her slide guitar prowess!
Matt Glidden: It’s my turn and I get to pick Neil Young! First up is a quick interview with Neil encouraging TV viewers to call in and donate to Farm Aid and to call their congressional representatives to support supply and pricing reforms that we’re still fighting for today.
And finally, here’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).” It’s one of the most popular videos on Farm Aid’s YouTube channel with nearly 1.3 million views so far, and with good reason. A powerful solo performance.