The First Farm Aid

On September 22, 1985, the first “Farm Aid” was held in Champaign, Illinois. Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp organized the benefit concert for struggling American farmers. Performers at that concert included a broad range of performers, including Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Hoyt Axton, Don Henley, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Billy Joel, Waylon Jennings, John Denver, Loretta Lynn, Joni Mitchell, Charley Pride, Sammy Hagar, George Jones, and Lou Reed.

Reportedly, the idea for Farm Aid began when Bob Dylan played at Live Aid earlier in the year in July and suggested some of the money from that concert should go to American farmers. While some — including Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof — were upset that Dylan exploited the stage of a worldwide televised concert in support of African famine relief to focus on Americans, other artists used the comment as inspiration for the Farm Aid concert. And Farm Aid benefit concerts continue to this day.

That September 22 in 1985, the performers did not know that the work would continue for decades. But they joyously sang and played to try to give something back. Below is one of the performances that day in Illinois, featuring Willie Nelson, Arlo Guthrie, and Dottie West singing “City of New Orleans.”



What is your favorite Farm Aid performance? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    2 thoughts on “The First Farm Aid”

    1. I still haven’t made it to a farm aid, but it’s on my list. A couple of years ago it was at Randall’s Island, in NY. I can’t remember why I had to miss it but I was sure disappointed.

      1. I know some folks who went to that one and had a good time. Hopefully you’ll get another chance. Thanks for the comment!

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