David Bowie appeared at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness at London’s Wembley Stadium on 20 April 1992.
The event was a tribute to Queen’s singer, Freddie Mercury, who died of AIDS on 24 November 1991. All 72,000 tickets sold out within three hours of going on sale, with profits used to launch the Mercury Phoenix Trust, an AIDS charity.
The show was produced for television by Ray Burdis, directed by David Mallet, and broadcast live on television and radio to 76 countries around the world, with an audience of up to one billion.
Bowie performed three songs, with backing from Queen: ‘Under Pressure’ with Annie Lennox; ‘All The Young Dudes’ with Mick Ronson, Ian Hunter, Joe Elliot, and Phil Collen; and “Heroes” with Mick Ronson.
Following “Heroes”, Bowie unexpectedly dropped to his knees and recited the Lord’s Prayer.
Just before the show started Coco [Schwab] and myself were told that one of our friends, a brilliant young writer who had contracted HIV, was reaching the end of his struggle. In fact, he was to die just a few days later. My decision to introduce the prayer, at the end of “Heroes”, had its genesis in that thought.
I had no idea whether I was going to carry it out or not until that break at the end of the song, then, whooosh… I was down. I felt as if I were being transported by the situation and that I no longer had any control. In hindsight, as it was so alien a gesture within the context of rock, it remains a favourite personal rock ‘moment’ for me. It was astounding to find that I could complete the prayer in front of so many thousands of people without hearing a pin drop It was a magical thing. I was so scared as I was doing it, as I felt the jaw dropping quotient fill the stadium.
A couple of my pals were sitting near Spın̈al Tap and said that they were speechless with disbelief. I’m very proud of that. The most extraordinary aspect was that the producer of the American televised link of the show found it so hard to handle it, that he refused to allow it to be transmitted in the States. I have to admit that there’s an aspect of my personality which continually asks my audience, ‘How long will you tolerate this?’ It’s that old Little Richard/Andy Kaufman quandary.
Q magazine, July 2000
The performance of ‘All The Young Dudes’ was later released on the Mick Ronson album Heaven And Hull, and that song and “Heroes” appeared on the soundtrack album of the 2018 film Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story.
Also on this day...
- 1990: Live: Forest National, Brussels
- 1987: Album release: Never Let Me Down
- 1978: Live: Cobo Hall, Detroit
- 1973: Live: Shibuya Kōkaidō, Tokyo
- 1973: US album release: Aladdin Sane
- 1972: Live: Playhouse, Harlow
Want more? Visit the David Bowie history section.