Bruce Springsteen declined an invitation to play at Live Aid despite his huge popularity in 1985, later stating that he "simply did not realise how big the whole thing was going to be". He has since expressed regret at turning down Geldof's invitation to appear at Live Aid stating that he could have played a couple of acoustic songs had there been no slot available for a full band performance.
Michael Jackson and Prince also did not play (although Prince did send a pre-taped video of an acoustic version of "4 the Tears in Your Eyes", which was played during the concert. The original version appears on the We Are the World album, while the video version was released in 1993 on Prince's compilation The Hits/The B-Sides.)
Billy Joel, Boy George, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Tears for Fears, and Stevie Wonder, along with Huey Lewis and the News and Paul Simon, were all included in the initial promotional material for the Philadelphia concert, but failed to appear at the show itself. The final poster for the Philadelphia show features the acts Peter, Paul and Mary and Rod Stewart (who also featured in the Philadelphia concert programme). Peter, Paul and Mary were to have joined Bob Dylan for a rendition of "Blowing In The Wind" which on the day failed to happen (though they can be spotted taking part in the concert's finale), while Rod Stewart was not touring at the time and was ultimately unable to put together a band in time for the concert.
Tears for Fears did not appear at the Philadelphia leg of the concert, though listed on the bill. According to band member Roland Orzabal, Bob Geldof "gave us so much gip for not turning up at Live Aid. All those millions of people dying, it was our fault. I felt terrible. I tell you, I know how Hitler must have felt." The group made up for their absence by donating the proceeds from several shows of their world tour that year, and also contributed a re-recording of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" (entitled "Everybody Wants to Run the World") for Geldof's Sport Aid charity event in 1986. The single reached the Top 5 in the UK, even though the band's original version had been a hit only a year earlier.
Cat Stevens wrote a song for the Live Aid concert, which he never got to perform -- had he done so, he would have made his first public concert appearance since converting to Islam and changing his name to Yusuf Islam. However according to the official book that was released after the event, he arrived at Wembley Stadium on the day without prior warning, and Geldof was unable to fit him into the schedule.
Liza Minnelli, Yoko Ono, and Cyndi Lauper were tapped to present at JFK Stadium, but due to scheduling conflicts the singers backed out. Lauper did appear in a commercial for the "Live Aid Book" that aired during the concert.
A reunited Deep Purple were also due to appear from Switzerland via satellite, but pulled out after guitarist Ritchie Blackmore refused to take part in the event. Eurythmics were scheduled to play Wembley but cancelled after Annie Lennox suffered serious throat problems. Huey Lewis and the News and Paul Simon both accepted requests to play the Philadelphia concert but later issued press statements stating they had chosen not to appear after all, citing disagreements with promoter Bill Graham. Deep Purple (minus Blackmore, who left the band in 1993) appeared at Geldof's Live 8 sequel 20 years later, performing at the Toronto leg of the event while Annie Lennox appeared at the London leg of the same event.
There were wild rumours at the time that George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr would reunite as The Beatles; for the first time since the band's dissolution in 1970. There was also frenzied speculation that Julian Lennon would join the three former Beatles. There were no grounds for the rumours or speculation from any of the musicians referred to and there is no evidence that the rumours were anything but fan fantasy. Paul McCartney appeared at the event in his own right.
Bob Geldof also invited Def Leppard to perform at the event, but due to Rick Allen's car accident and uncertain future of the next album, they turned it down. Def Leppard appeared at the Philadelphia leg of Geldof's Live 8 sequel 20 years later.
Talking Heads was to have appeared, but David Byrne was currently busy with his film True Stories at the time of the concert.
AC/DC were also invited to play at the event, however they declined the invitation.
Frank Zappa was invited to perform, but refused because he believed that money raised by Live Aid did not address the core problems facing the developing world. He also questioned the legitimacy of Live Aid, saying "I think Live Aid was the biggest cocaine money laundering scheme of all time."
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