On This Day: Bruce Springsteen, Linda Ronstadt Perform at One of the Largest Political Rallies in US History in 1982

June 12, 1982 was a big day in American history, though it’s rarely referenced today.

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The “No Nukes” movement was in full swing in response to the then-ongoing Cold War. Over 750,000 people (though many believe it was closer to one million) took to Central Park in New York City to attend the Central Park Rally for Nuclear Disarmament event. And it wasn’t just full of protestors, signage, and megaphones. The event also featured some prominent musical performances.

Namely, musicians like Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, and Linda Ronstadt all performed during the event.

Many of the other performers that day were also members of Musicians United For Safe Energy or MUSE. The group was created after the infamous Pennsylvania Three Mile Island nuclear accident occurred.

Linda Ronstadt played six songs that day, including a cover of “Tumbling Dice” by The Rolling Stones. James Taylor performed “You’ve Got A Friend” and also performed a duet with John Hall. Bruce Springsteen debuted his anti-nuclear war song “The River” and performed with Jackson Browne for several songs.

The Purpose of the “No Nukes” Rally

The gathering was organized in response to the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament. The rally took place in an attempt to freeze and reduce all nuclear weapons and call those in power to transfer budgets allotted to the US military to “human needs” instead.

This was one of many rallies of its kind at the time. The nuclear arms race created a lot of unease and anxiety in the American people. People of all creeds, genders, races, and differences joined together to call for serious change in order to prevent a potential nuclear holocaust.

At the rally, signs reading “End the Arms Race, Not the Human Race” could be seen along with protestors in droves outside of the UN building. The rally ended in a march to Central Park, where the earlier-mentioned musicians played a full concert on the Great Lawn.

Unfortunately, the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament ended in failure. The General Assembly was unable to agree on any sort of strategy for disarmament. Still, the 1982 event was still one of the biggest rallies in US history.

Photo by Lee Frey

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