Whether it's an international relief effort or a local festival to help your charity of choice, music is making a difference.
It’s been nearly five decades since the modern-era benefit concert was born and today events are held at international, national and local levels. In 1971, George Harrison of The Beatles and Ravi Shankar held a concert in New York City’s Madison Square Park dubbed the Concert for Bangladesh. Proceeds were donated to refugees from East Pakistan who had fled genocide. Performers at the star-studded event included the likes of Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and Billy Preston. The Concert for Bangladesh is considered the first benefit concert of the modern era and, in the years since, benefit concerts of all sizes have been instrumental in raising money for causes ranging from social issues to relief in the wake of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.
The Concert for Bangladesh is the first example, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that benefit concerts became mainstream. Live Aid, a dual-venue benefit concert that attracted 72,000 attendees in London and 100,000 in Philadelphia, marked the beginning of a fundraising initiative for relief of the Ethiopian famine. With top artists taking the stage, Live Aid featured some of the most legendary musical performances of all time. One of those being Queen with charismatic frontman, Freddie Mercury at the helm. Other famous benefit concerts include Farm Aid, which has been an annual event since it was founded by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young in 1985.
From 1986-98 The Human Rights Concerts became a global tour featuring 28 benefit concerts in support of Amnesty International. Artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Sting, U2, Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed and many others participated in and supported these iconic shows. Amnesty International was and still is one of the leading organizations to call attention to human rights atrocities in hopes to bring dignity to the injustice in our world.
It’s become a common practice for artists to hold benefit concerts that are relevant to current events, whether it’s a timely social issue or relief in the aftermath of a horrific event. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, George Clooney organized “America: A Tribute to Heroes,” which was held just 10 days after the tragedy and raised over $200 million for the United Way’s September 11 Telethon Fund. In 2017 pop star Ariana Grande held a benefit concert “One Love Manchester” to raise money for the victims of the Manchester Arena Attack, a bombing that killed 22 and injured hundreds of others at a Grande concert in the British city.
Other benefit concerts have focused on social issues like poverty alleviation. Last year Pearl Jam Raised $10.8 million dollars towards the fight against homelessness. A portion of that money came from their “Home Shows” at Safeco Field. High-profile benefit concerts organized by A-listers air on major networks and receive a great deal of attention, but there are many smaller events that are important even if they don’t generate quite as much media buzz. After all, a benefit concert doesn’t have to rake in millions to make a difference — every dollar counts.
Smaller-scale events are happening all over the country — including in our own backyards.
In June, local singer-songwriter Helen Ray headlined PRIDE Benefit Concert, held at Elsom Cellars in Seattle to close out Pride Month. Proceeds were donated to Bailey-Boushay House at Virginia Mason and The GSBA Scholarship Fund, which awards scholarships to LGBTQ+ students who exhibit leadership potential.
On Labor Day weekend, another local benefit concert, Charity Rocks, will be held at Snoqualmie Casino. On Friday August 30, Zepparella (an all-female Led Zeppelin cover band) will headline the event, which will take place outside so attendees can enjoy the beautiful views of Snoqualmie Valley. Regional favorites including Alaskan Brewing Co., Chateau Ste. Michelle, Heritage Distillery and Snoqualmie Falls Brewery will be on hand serving up special brews, cocktails and wine. For every drink purchased, one dollar will be donated to a charity selected by the beverage partner. Every dollar counts so have fun and of course, drink responsibly. It certainly doesn’t hurt that you’ll get to hear a killer cover of “Stairway to Heaven” as part of the deal.
To get your tickets for Charity Rocks, visit www.snocasino.com.