The Making of Do They Know It’s Christmas?
When Bob Geldof and Midge Ure first sat down in 1984 and formulated their plan for raising funds for victims of the ongoing famine ravishing Ethiopia at the time, writing a fundraising single seemed like the most logic route for the two musicians to take. Geldof, frontman of the Boomtown Rats and Ure, singer for Ultrvox, decided to call in a few favours and enlist the help of some of the UK’s biggest bands and artists of the 80s-U2, Culture Club, Big Country, and Duran Duran, to name a few. And so the supergroup Band Aid was formed, and the charity single was born.
Since the release of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ millions of dollars have been raised through the sale of the single and the affiliated Live Aid concerts. Never one to be outdone by the British, American artists circled the wagons and released their own single in support of famine relief-the truly awful USA for Africa’s ‘We Are the World’, spearheaded by Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson. Whereas Band Aid’s lyrical content was quite depressing, the song was masked in an upbeat tempo that at least made it bearable to listen to on repeated occasions.
But say a prayer, pray for the other ones
At Christmas time it’s hard, but when you’re having fun
There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging
Chimes of doom
Well, tonight, thank God it’s them instead of you
USA for Africa, on the other hand, took the obvious route of a droning over-the-top ballad, complete with a video of the song’s participants (the American chart toppers of the era) arm in arm, swaying in time to the music.
Which may be why, 26 years after the release of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’, Geldof recently said, “I am responsible for two of the worst songs in history. One is Do They Know It’s Christmas? and the other one is We Are The World.”
Of course, since we’re pointing fingers of blame, let’s not forget the Canadian contribution to the fracas, “Tears Are Not Enough’, which followed the USA for Africa playbook almost to the letter.
Geldof may be a little bitter after a quarter century of having his name associated with one song as you can read here, but that doesn’t change the impact Band Aid and ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ had on artists and their ability to draw attention to social and political wrong-doings.
Band Aid, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’
The Making of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’