Editor’s Note: Another chapter ends this weekend for D.C.’s historic RFK Stadium, with the final DC United game on Oct. 22. While it will no longer be the home of DC United, the stadium will continue to be used for events. WTOP takes a look back at the amazing memories made there over the past 56 years. Check out more from our special report, Remembering RFK.
WASHINGTON — For most folks, RFK Stadium triggers memories of “We Want Dallas” chants before the 1983 NFC Championship. Yours Truly will never forget being an 8-year-old with my grandfather as Jason Buck sacked Troy Aikman in the end zone, Emmitt Smith failed to scoop up the fumble and Danny Copeland pounced on it for Joe Gibbs’ last victory at RFK in 1992.
And yet, the history of RFK wouldn’t be complete without the array of entertainment events.
Back when the venue was still called D.C. Stadium — before its renaming after Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 assassination — “Beatlemania” ran wild as The Beatles performed on Aug. 15, 1966. The show came just two weeks before their last paid public concert in San Francisco.
In 1972, The Rolling Stones played their first U.S. tour since the release of their album “Sticky Fingers,” featuring such gems as “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses” and “Can You Hear Me Knockin’.”
In 1973, The Grateful Dead performed their first of many concerts at RFK Stadium.
In 1983, the Reagan administration banned the Beach Boys from a July Fourth concert on the National Mall, saying that rock music attracted “the wrong element,” opting instead for the “wholesome” Wayne Newton. As a result, the Beach Boys concert was moved to RFK after a Washington Diplomats soccer game.
In 1984, Michael Jackson reunited with his Jackson Five brothers to bring his “Victory Tour” to D.C., rattling off mega hits at the height of the “Thriller” album.
In 1985, Bruce Springsteen rocked the nation’s capital with his “Born in the U.S.A.” tour.
In 1992, the legendary Guns N’ Roses, Metallica and U2 all performed at the venue.
In 1994, Billy Joel and Elton John brought dueling pianos for their “Face to Face” tour.
That same year, fans got comfortably numb with Pink Floyd and took it easy with The Eagles.
In 1998, tragedy rocked the Tibet Freedom Concert as lightning struck a fan during Herbie Hancock’s set, forcing Radiohead and Red Hot Chili Peppers to reschedule the next day.
In 2001, Michael Jackson returned for a 9/11 benefit featuring Aerosmith, James Brown, Al Green, Carole King, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey and others. The King of Pop told families of the victims “you are not alone” before a rendition of “Man in the Mirror.”
And in 2015, Foo Fighters rocked a Fourth of July concert with LL Cool J, Heart and Joan Jett.
Still, some of the most exciting times came from discovering new acts at the annual HFStival, which first hit RFK in on July 4, 1993 with INXS, Iggy Pop, Stereo MCs and The Posies.
The tradition continued in 1994 with Counting Crows, Cracker and Violent Femmes.
In 1995, fans enjoyed the contrasting styles of The Ramones, Tony Bennett and Soul Asylum.
In 1996, Foo Fighters rocked the stage along with No Doubt, Jewel and the Gin Blossoms.
In 1997, Beck, Blondie, The Cardigans, The Verve Pipe and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
In 1998, Green Day was a basket case with Scott Weiland, Semisonic and Marcy Playground.
In 1999, Limp Bizkit headlined along with Bush, 311, Fuel, Everclear and Run DMC.
At the turn of the millennium, the new Fed-Ex Field stole HFStival with Rage Against the Machine in 2000, but it returned to RFK in 2001 with Fatboy Slim, Green Day and Incubus.
In 2002, Eminem lead a lineup of Papa Roach, Hoobastank, Sum 41 and The Strokes.
In 2003, it was Godsmack, Audioslave, Good Charlotte, Jane’s Addiction and The Roots.
HFStival held its final RFK show in 2004 with The Cure, The Offspring and Jay-Z, before relocating to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore and Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia.
Of course, it wasn’t only concerts that kept us entertained at RFK over the years.
In 1993, prizefights electrified crowds as Riddick Bowe knocked out Jesse Ferguson to retain the heavyweight crown, while Roy Jones Jr. beat Bernard Hopkins on the undercard.
In 1997, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and wife Hak Ja Han Moon officiated a mass wedding for 2,500 Unification Church couples in front of 40,000 people.
In 2002, the American Le Mans Series held the D.C. Grand Prix in RFK’s parking lot.
In 2009, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden hosted “A Day of Service for Our Military” on MLK Day as 12,000 volunteers made 80,000 care packages for troops overseas.
In 2011, RFK Stadium held its 50th anniversary celebration that began at the stadium then culminated with a VIP dinner at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Nov. 19.
And the venue even transcended into Hollywood, as Michael Fassbender’s Magneto airlifted the stadium to the National Mall in the superhero flick “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (2014).
That’s right, RFK will be frozen in time forever on the silver screen.
Then again, it’s already that way in our memories.
- Part 1: Baseball’s best moments at RFK
- Part 2: Best entertainment moments in RFK history
- Part 3: Best Redskins moments at RFK
- Part 4: Best soccer moments at RFK
- Part 5: What’s next for the RFK site?
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