In 1985 Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp wanted to use their fame to support their fans, including small-town farmers. Wanting to keep family farmers on their land to continue providing food for the country, the three singers came up with an annual festival called “Farm Aid.”
The event started as an idea at the Live Aid Concert when Bob Dylan said on stage, “Wouldn’t it be great if we did something for our own farmers right here in America?” Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp agreed that family farmers needed help and decided to plan a concert for American farmers.
After weeks of planning, they saw their dreams come true when the festival began on September 22, 1985, in Champaign, Illinois. The event drew over 80,000 people and raised $7 million for America’s family farmers.
Performers included Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Bonnie Raitt, Charlie Daniels’ Band, Loretta Lynn, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, and many more.
Neil Young Captures Crowd with “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)”
One of the founding fathers of the event, Neil Young, also performed. The musician’s cheerful disposition was evident even as he sang his melancholy tune, “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) from his album, Crazy Horse.
Adorning his signature cowboy hat, acoustic guitar, and throaty vocals, the crowd joined Young in belting out the lyrics.
Standing alone on stage, Young seamlessly captured the audience’s attention. The single spotlight that shined down as he began his harmonica solo created an eerie moment no one would forget.
When Young sang, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away,” the crowd’s enthusiasm was at its highest.
Since the event’s inception, Neil Young has performed at every Farm Aid since. Along with Young, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, and John Mellencamp, live-streamed the event virtually for this year’s Farm Aid. The venue may have changed, but Farm Aid’s mission of bringing awareness to farmers around the country remains.