When it comes to Philadelphia history, 1985 was a pivotal year, two events from opposite ends of the spectrum helped define the year. On the one hand, we have an all-star concert to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia called Live Aid, on the other hand, we have a bombing that happened against the MOVE collective.
“You can’t heal what you don’t discover,” is how Charlamange said God explains the importance of the documentary series titled “Summer of 85.”
An Audible Original has been released to celebrate both events. Produced by Kevin Hart and Charlamange tha God’s SBH Productions, with author Chris Morrow serving as writer and creator. Hart also provides narration.
This is Morrow’s follow up to the highly successful Audible original “Finding Tamika”.
“Summer of 85” features interviews with Bob Geldof (Founder of Band Aid, Live Aid & Live 8), Patti LaBelle, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels and Mike Africa Jr.
Morrow (co-founder of the Network and Author of Loud Speaker) and Charlamagne tha God shared how they got involved in the project.
“I’ve been trying to tell the story of MOVE for a long time. I didn’t think there was much interest, but I give a lot of credit to the SBH productions that are Charlamagne and Kevin Hart,” explained Morrow. He added: “I was watching footage of Live Aid and went to that concert as a teenager. It was my first concert that I somehow talked my parents into letting me attend. In recent years, because of the movie ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ there’s been a resurgence of interest in Queen’s London performance at Live Aid, but nobody was talking about Philadelphia,” Morrow said.
Charlamagne explained saying “that’s what drew me to the project. I had heard about the MOVE incident and Live Aid, but I didn’t know about the connection. I didn’t even know Live Aid was that summer. I’m also a person who will feed into a conspiracy theory whether I believe it or not. “
In the series description, the members of MOVE were referred to as a cult. Morrow addressed the choice.
“It was a reference to a part of the series where we felt when we talked to Mike Africa Jr. He said technically, by definition MOVE is a cult,” he said.
The MOVE bombings had an impact on the survivor and her neighbors. With Penn University’s recent admission of using the unauthorized remains of the MOVE children for anthropological studies, the city is still reeling from the events of that summer.
There is a lot of misinformation about the MOVE bombing. The creator said that they tried to maintain the integrity of the events while telling this story.
“It was really important that we talk to as many people as possible so that there are no questions about this event that was really happening, involving Mike Africa Jr. who was not in MOVE’s home but grew up in the organization. We also spoke with Baba Renfrow, who was 13 at the time and grew up on Osage Avenue. He lost his home to the bombing,” Morrow assured.
The producers want listeners to understand that hearing from the descendants, survivors and witnesses of the MOVE bombings will make it real for them. This happened 37 years ago, so it’s not ancient history. Many of those who participated are still alive.
Live Aid unlike the MOVE bombings was a celebration of music. It was the era of MTV when it was a music channel.
The British were once again ruling the charts in America and Madonna was becoming the “Material Girl”. The concert was watched by almost 2 billion people from all over the world.
Morrow shares some of the most iconic shows in the Philadelphia area.
“Madonna’s performance was great. Led Zeppelin’s reunion, because they hadn’t performed since John Bonham died, proved anticlimactic. But the highlight was Teddy Pendergrass’ performance. It was his first live performance since his car accident. He performed “Reach Out and Touch” with Ashford and Simpson. Also Patti LaBelle’s performance was so iconic,” notes Morrow.
Morrow and Charlamagne want the listening audience to remember that what happened to the members of MOVE wasn’t just for show, there were real people involved.
On the music front, it’s worth noting that Philadelphia has long been a magnet for historic music events, long before Roots Picnic and Made in America.
For more information on “Summer of 85,” visit audible.com.