Farm Aid first started back on September 22nd, 1985, when the likes of Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash and more came together in a scintillating show before an 80,000 strong crowd with the goal of raising money for the ailing farmers of America. The show was the brainchild of American legends Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and, of course, Neil Young.
The first show came together after Bob Dylan sparked controversy at Live Aid by stating, “It would be nice if some of this money went towards American farmers”. Whilst Young and co. recognised that one person’s suffering is not comparable to another’s and indeed there was a dire need to assist Africa, it would also be dutiful to set up a concert to support the Americans that were suffering too. The annual event has continued in this benevolent vein ever since.
Over the years, the Farm Aid stage has been graced by names ranging from Carole King to Joni Mitchell, Eddie Van Halen and Kris Kristofferson all taking part and uniting for the greater good. Perhaps the most notable performance came on the festivals 15th anniversary in the form of the reunion of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
The sweet four-part vocal harmonies of the legendary country-folk quartet had been side-lined since 1991 when they reformed to play at a memorial concert in honour of Bill Graham at Golden Gate Park. Since CSNY first came together in 1969, playing only their second ever gig at the iconic Woodstock Festival, there had been more on-and-off reunions than your average sit-com couple. However, with the group growing older a lengthy nine-year stint apart left many wondering whether they would ever see the supergroup unite forces ever again.
When they eventually did team-up for Farm Aid’s 15th anniversary, they put on one hell of a show. Their performance was short but sweet as they raced through seven of their most loved songs, crowning the whole thing off with a visceral version of ‘Almost Cut My Hair’. The crowd at the Nissan Pavilion in Virginia were in awe and screamed just as loudly to the lyrics as they did during the intermissions where Neil Young, a ranch owner himself, lamented the loss of American farms.
During the set, the band opened with a stirring version of the Stephen Stills original ‘Love the One You’re With’, before racing into the classics ‘Helplessly Hoping’ and ‘Our House’ before closing the set with back-to-back guitar classics, ‘Almost Cut My Hair’ and ‘Cinnamon Girl’.
You can check out the show-stopping performance of ‘Helpless’ complete with Young’s poignant introduction, below.