This is a charity single organized by Bob Geldof, who was the lead singer of The Boomtown Rats. He got the idea after watching a BBC documentary on famine in Ethiopia. Geldof wrote the lyrics and Midge Ure from the band Ultravox wrote the music and produced the track, which was no easy task since so many voices were involved.
In England, and much of the Northern Hemisphere, snow and numerous displays leave no doubt that Christmas is near. In most of Africa, however, it's quite warm on December 25, since it's summer there. This song asks us to think of those who are living in poverty and hunger in Africa during the Christmas season, reminding us that they might not even know it's Christmas. While the sentiment and melody are full of good tidings, the lyrics are quite bleak: "The Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom."
Most of this song was recorded and mixed over a 24-hour period on Sunday, November 25, 1984. Sting and Simon LeBon had recorded their parts ahead of time, but everyone else came that day.
None of the vocalists heard the song before they arrived, so they learned their parts by listening to a guide vocal producer Midge Ure created, then recorded them. With such a tight schedule, there was no time to quibble. In the Songfacts interview with Ure, he said that this time constraint helped the effort. "Sometimes, that kind of pressure gets you to create something magical, gets you to eliminate the liberations that you end up having in the studio," he said. "We just had to nail it and get on with it. Get the vocal track from everyone that was acceptable. As it turns out, a lot of the vocal tracks were exceptional."
The performers who sang verses were, in order: Paul Young, Boy George, George Michael, Simon Le Bon, and Bono. The chorus included David Bowie, Phil Collins, Paul McCartney, Geldof, Ure and many other artists who weren't given a verse but sang the "Feed The World" part and lent their images to the effort by appearing in the promotional photo. Check out the Band Aid photo with list of performers.
The artists were not all friends, but they set aside their differences and were at least cordial to each other during the recording - with one exception. In the book I Want My MTV, George Michael said: "The only person who didn't succumb to the charitable nature of the day was Paul Weller, who decided to have a go at me in front of everybody. I said, 'Don't be a wanker all your life. Have a day off.'"
In the UK, this became the best-selling single ever. Elton John's "Candle In The Wind '97" currently holds that record.
Not everyone in the UK was a fan, however. Morrissey told Time Out in 1985 that the project was "diabolical," adding: "It was the most self-righteous platform ever in the history of popular music."
The single raised $14 million for famine relief in Africa. Geldof is Irish, so he cannot be knighted, but he did receive a KBE, which is equivalent and is popularly known as Sir or Saint Bob.
Suggestion credit: Flo - London, England
The video was directed by Nigel Dick, who had done some videos for The Boomtown Rats. He got the request to make the video on short notice, and had no idea what the song was going to be. He didn't have a budget either, so he simply set up two cameras - one outside and one inside - to capture the action. As the artists trickled in to record their parts, Dick filmed them entering the building and then recording. This footage was used not just for the music video, but also for a 30-minute behind-the-scenes piece documenting the making of the single. This video was also sold, with proceeds going to the relief effort.
In our 2015 talk with Midge Ure, he said: "It's never been a great song. It's kind of grown into a better song than it ever was. But as a recording, as a production, I'm immensely proud of it. So is Bob. Because it did its job phenomenally.
As a record, you hear it now on the radio and the opening clang, the opening atmospherics, my multi-tracked vocal thing, all of that stuff, it still sends shivers up your spine. So as a record, as a production, it did a brilliant job despite the fact that the song was OK."
Who gave the most inspired vocal performance on this song? To Midge Ure's ears, it was Bono. He told us: "When Bono took that line of the song - 'Tonight thank God it's them instead of you' - I had originally sung it on the guide vocal an octave lower, and he just decided to let it rip, and it was phenomenal. Electric. It was just sensational."
Boy George was nearly a no-show, asleep in New York the day of recording. His band Culture Club was huge at the time and Bob Geldof was counting on him for a key vocal, so Geldof called him, woke him up, and told him to get on a Concorde. George flew to London, got behind the microphone and delivered the vocal they were looking for.
Trevor Horn, who was a member of the Buggles and Yes, donated the use of his studio (Sarm Studios in London) to record the song. He also pieced together the B-side of the single, which is an instrumental version with the artists delivering messages over the music. It is called "Feed The World" on the single.
Bob Geldof wrote the original pre-chorus line as "There won't be snow in Ethiopia this Christmas." Midge Ure convinced him to swap "Ethiopia" for "Africa."
"No matter how you try, you cannot scan 'Ethiopia,'" Ure told us. "That just does not work."
John Taylor from Duran Duran played bass; Phil Collins played drums. The rest of the instrumentation was done by Midge Ure, who handed the programming and keyboards.
Two versions of the single were released. The 7-inch, which is what radio stations usually play, runs 3:55. The 12-inch runs 6:18 and features spoken messages from some of the performers. The 7-inch single was re-released the next year, raising more money for famine relief in Africa.
Downloading didn't exist in 1984, so obtaining the rights needed to sell downloads of this song proved very difficult, and for many years it wasn't available on iTunes or Amazon except in knockoff versions.
When Geldof wrote the basic part of this song, he envisioned it as a Boomtown Rats song, but when he played it for his bandmates they turned it down.
The cover of the single was designed by Peter Blake, who is famous for shooting the cover of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Bob Geldof explained in the book I Want My MTV: "To me, the '80s were characterized by overwhelming generosity and kindness. Prior to Live Aid, People had been participating in this phenomenon for months. 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' was sold in butcher shops all during Christmas. For whatever reason, this song - not a particularly good song - tapped into a groundswell of compassion. We never said we'd eliminate world hunger, but we could draw attention to a monstrous human crime, a moral and intellectual absurdity. It worked."
In 1989, a group of artists including Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, and Bros (Featuring Luke Goss on drums) re-recorded this as Band Aid II. The only artists left over from the original Band Aid were Bananarama.
This effort was produced by the team of Stock, Aitken And Waterman and once again raised money for African famine relief.
In 2004, a new version recorded by a group of artists including Bono, Paul McCartney, Chris Martin and Dido was released as a single in the UK, with proceeds going to help victims of political and humanitarian crisis in Sudan. "Band Aid 20," as this collective was known, was produced by Nigel Godrich. Bono is the only artist on this version who was also on the original.
In 2014, a fourth permutation of Band Aid was assembled to once again record this song. Known as "Band Aid 30," this rendition was produced by Paul Epworth with proceeds going to Ebola relief. Singers included One Direction, Sam Smith, and once again... Bono.
Bob "Humbug" Geldof told Australia's The Daily Telegraph in a 2010 interview: "I am responsible for two of the worst songs in history. One is 'Do They Know It's Christmas?', the other one is 'We Are The World.' Any day soon, I will go to the supermarket, head to the meat counter and it will be playing. Every f---ing Christmas."
Geldof added that he gets irritated when carol singers perform the charity hit in front of his home during the holidays. "They think 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' is as old as 'Silent Night.' Sometimes I think that's wild because I wrote it. Or else I am thinking how much I want them to stop because they are doing it really badly."
After this song generated about £10 million for famine relief, Bob Geldof traveled to Ethiopia to oversee distribution of the aid. He took a very hands-on approach, meeting with relief agencies to determine where the money could do the most good. To acknowledge the artists and the folks who bought the album, he made sure that "Love from Band Aid" was emblazoned on many of the supplies, including vehicles.
Geldof never glorified the relief effort. Asked if he was proud of his work to end hunger in a 1985 Radio Times interview, Geldof replied: "Not at all, It's exhausting and a total bore if you want to know truth. It's not fulfilling at all. I'm endlessly frustrated."
Spin magazine later reported that the money Geldof brought to Ethiopia was used by the war-torn country's dictator to arm his forces and crush his enemies. According to the report, the Ethiopian famine was mostly caused by its government, which poisoned farms of its opponents.
A high-profile absence from the Band Aid project was Queen, who weren't invited because they had played South Africa earlier that year, violating a boycott against the apartheid-torn country. Bob Geldof would later forgive them and invite Queen to perform at Live Aid, where their invigorating set was a highlight of the concerts.
George Michael released "Last Christmas" around the same time. He gave all proceeds from the song to Geldof's relief effort.
In 2003, Deftones lead singer Chino Moreno recorded a rock version of this song with the band Far for the A Santa Cause (It's A Punk Rock Christmas) compilation. The song spread thanks to peer-to-peer networks.
Bono enjoyed the song except for the line "Tonight, thank God, it's them instead of you." He recalled in the book U2 by U2: "It's the most biting line, and actually reveals how selfish a mindset we all have underneath. I think Bob was trying to be honest and raw and self-accusatory. Rather than sing, 'We're lucky it's not us' he was saying: 'Well, when you say that, you mean 'lucky it's them.' Now look at it. Now look at yourself.'"
As it turned out, that was the very line Bob Geldof expected Bono to sing. "I told him I didn't want to sing the line. He said, 'This is not about what you want, OK? This is about what these people need.' I was too young to say, 'This is about what you want.' But it was his show and I was happy to be in it. I knew it needed some force, the line. I kind of did an impersonation of Bruce Springsteen, that was really what was in my mind."
Cheryl from UkNot true about Queen - they were on tour in Japan when the song was recorded so couldn't contribute. I think they redeemed themselves at Live Aid - Queen's set is the best live performance ever!!
Seventhmist from 7th HeavenNot a "great" song, but far more palatable than the nauseating "We Are the World," which was inflicted upon humanity and my ears the following year.
Connercat from Cleveland Lynne - that's the lead singer from Spandau Ballet.
Lynne from Malinta, OhIn the 1985 original video of Do They Know It's Christmas, who is the guy the camera zeros in on, who is singing the line, "where the only water flowing"?
Tou from Fresno, CaThe intent of this song was to help Ethiopians. It doesn't matter what anyone thinks. All that matter was that THEY tried. Whether it’s volunteering at the local Ronald McDonald House or organizing a neighborhood watch. It can be a policeman putting a coat on a frightened child or a movie star who raised millions for a charity. Band Aid may not even know if their money ever got to Ethiopia, but they we're doing something to help someone. Me? I don't have that kind of gift or talent. Every year, for one day, I volunteer to help my local newspaper sell papers to benefit "Children's Hospital Central California". Now, instead of bickering and complaining, maybe you should do something too.
Mikail from Manila, PhilippinesDoes this song really care for the dying and starving people of the world as an ultimate act of unselfish love for the others and not for ones self? Then why should "thank God it's them" who suffer "instead of you?" Can we not just pray and ask God for mercy on these people? This song only made it looked good with its music and nothing else but hypocrisy.
Esskayess from Dallas, TxI much preferred this song to 'We Are the World,' which came across to me as a hollow ripoff and which I was soon sick to death of.
Jenn from Norwalk, CtAnyone who doesn't realize the line "Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you" is sarcasm or satire is truly a freaking idiot and I pity them for not being intelligent enough to grasp that. Furthermore, these comments are fantastic.
Alex from Washington, DcWhat I don't understand is why 1) you have to perpetuate false stereotypes of Africa to get a message across, 2) create an "us/them" dichotomy by asking me to thank God it's them instead of me. It would have been nicer to try to create a sense of common humanity ("if only I could help shoulder some of your pain" instead of "whew, thank the Lord it happened to you and not me"). Confused ignorance perpetuating your own biases even if they are well-meaning is pointless? Why not try to make the extra effort to be BOTH well-meaning AND respectful? Symbolism matters. What if Americans tried to help raise money for an orphanage in Edinburgh and then ran a campaign "Help the English orphans" and sent over little care packages wrapped in ribbons stating "Little English children are the best!" And if anyone deigned to point out that that wasn't really the best choice of words, the Americans just rolled their eyes and said "Britain, England, Scotland --- what the heck is the big freakin difference? We are trying to do something nice and they're just nitpicking about political correctness." Maybe true, but would it have killed the Americans to try to be just a little more aware?
Alex from Washington, DcI have no doubt the intention of the song was well-meaning but it is nonetheless offensive. Can you imagine if the Arab world took up the cause of trying to help raise money to help feed English orphans or American families out of work with a song with the following lyrics? Don't try to analyze it, just read it and be honest about what your gut reaction would be. Do you even care what Ramadan or Eid Al-Fitr is? Wouldn't your first reaction be, "don't patronize me you Arab raghead!"
It's Ramadantime, there's no need to be afraid At Ramadantime, we let in light and we banish shade And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy Throw your arms around the world at Ramadantime
But say a prayer, pray for the other ones At Eid Al-Fitr 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 Eid Al-Fitr bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom Well tonight thank Allah it's them instead of you
And there won't be feasts in Europe/America this Ramadantime The greatest gift they'll get this year is life (Oooh) Where no employment ever grows No mortgages or dignity flow Do they know it's Ramadantime at all?
Here's to you raise a glass for little Joe Here's to them underneath that freezing snow Do they know it's Ramadantime at all?
Feed the world Feed the world Feed the world Let them know it's Eid Al-Fitr time again
Feed the world Let them know it's Eid Al-Fitr time again
Jackie from Virginia Beach, VaPatricia may be trolling, but I'll respond anyway. The song was written for Ethopia, which has a 2/3 majority Christian population, dating back to the establishment of the official state religion in the 4th century (hardly a time of great missionary activity). Ethopia is very close to the birthplace of Christianity (and Judiaism, and Islam) and is closely tied with these religions (claims to have the Ark of the Covenant, may be a source of King Solomon's mines, etc.). But frankly, the Christmas reference was for the benefits of the listeners of the song, who speak English and were in Christian dominated countries. If it was produced for Israelites or Muslims, or anyone else for that matter, it would be a different holiday, but the same spirit: helping your fellow human in a time of need.
Nikita from Drogheda, IrelandThis song has made history, helping Africa and the like. Definately history.
Alex from Cambridge, United KingdomIt's a great Christmas song but i rated three star
Kevin from San Francisco, CaThis is my favorite Christmas song. I love the fact that it sounds like such a light, airy song, but then you listen closer to the lyrics and realize the subject matter is so dark. I never heard the bit about Bono disagreeing with the "thank god it's them instead of you" lyric. It's interesting though, because it is by far the most powerful line in the song, and you'd have to be an idiot to misinterpret it (especially in the context of this song).
I agree some of the characterizations of Africa are somewhat simplistic and inaccurate (the "nothing every grows" part) and I wonder why Geldof wrote it that way, but the bottom line is that it calls attention to suffering at a time of year when people are most thankful for the fact that they are NOT suffering. And it's got Bono following George Michael in consecutive verses, which doesn't suck either.
Jeff from Liverpool, Englandin response to ex-roadie you forgot to mention jody watley of shalamar,isn't she american?
Tracey from Johannesburg, South AfricaBoth Patrica in Chicago and Takashi in Tokoyo should do some geography homework, IT DOES SNOW IN AFRICA, I am from the UK but live in South Africa and we get snow in the Drakensburg, it has even snowed in Joburg, and what about Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania? Both countries are on the African continent! I recall being in the UK and watching the documentary on TV in absolute horror, what Band Aid and Live Aid did was fantastic, it was just a shame the food aid and medical aid could not be distributed properly, but this was down to the infrastructure of where the aid was destined to go. Put simply there wasn't any roads to transport the aid.
Ralph from Newton, MaAlright maybe Patricia is a bit too technical in some of her objections, but the truth is that most, if not all, famines since the early to mid-20th century were man made and Ethiopia's was the worst example of it. Don't know about the proceeds from this song, but all the Live Aid food rotted in the harbors of Ethiopia cuz the communist dictators wouldn't let it in cuz they were starving people who lived in areas that were causing the govt trouble. I'm sure not everyone who gave money to that stuff had big wads of cash sitting around to spare. Doesn't necessarily negate the good intentions of those involved though, just the ones (Bono and Phil Collins immediately spring to mind) who used it as an ego-inflating platform. Geldof basically gave up everything he had in these efforts and continues to.
Siobhan from Milton Keynes, EnglandTo Patricia....last time I checked this song was released to raise awareness of the problems in Africa. If you knew anything you'd know that Bono was unhappy with that line, and tried to change it at first, due to the possible interpretation that the singer is thanking God for inflicting misery on other people, rather than on them. Bob Geldof had deliberately put that line in, however, and the two friends fought over it - Bob obviously winning. Later, Bono admitted that it is a painful truth that, while we can feel sympathy and guilt about the plight of others, we're still not prepared to take their place. Could you? And it says a lot about why the rest of the world has a bad opinion of america when you say things like "Don't these UK stars realize that the whole world doesn't celebrate Christmas?" Implying that it's to do with the fact that thy're from the UK... how stupid.
Annabelle from Eugene, OrI'm confused, Here, I just read that Adam Clayton of U2 played bass on this song. But an article on Band Aid in Wikipedia clearly states that John Taylor of Duran Duran played bass. So which one played bass? Was it Adam Clayton? Or was it John Taylor?
Annabelle from Eugene, OrI'm confused, Here, I just read that Adam Clayton of U2 played bass on this song. But an article on Band Aid in Wickipedia clearly states that John Taylor of Duran Duran played bass. So which one played bass? Was it Adam Clayton? Or was it John Taylor?
Jay from Atlanta, GaThanks, Patricia, for your wise views. What these others are saying is that you can say whatever you want (no matter how incorrect) and as long as it makes money for charity you're justified(?) What do you want to bet, at the taping of this, there was a huge buffet table for the singers? Hypocrites.
Annabelle from Eugene, OrDidn't John Taylor of Duran Duran play Bass on this song?
Paige from Geelong, AustraliaPeople like you, patricia, are the reason there are people still starving. i bet there were heaps more like you who thought the song was stupid and didnt buy it, making a huge dint in the amount of money that could have been raised. When you think about it, the amount of money could have tripled in size, except for people like YOU who hate anything that helps people, and those who just couldnt get it. myself, I only heard of the song a couple of years ago, when they put on a documentary kinda about it, and so i looked through my parents cd's and found it on a 4 disk set of xmas songs. Then, when the new one came out, i was stoked. I saw it on tv, though, and was disgusted. I hated it. I know it was aimed at the "younger" generation, but i'm 16, and seeing people thrusting into their guitars and rapping so you cant understand it ruined the christmas spirit. I hated watching them trying to fake the same emotion that the originals had. Sure, they used singers that the KIDS are supposed to know, but does that mean they have to act like complete idiots?
Ana from Lokev, EuropeI like this song but not the new one. I don't think that rap goes with it! it's more beautiful the original.
Morgaine from Calgary, CanadaFor the love of Obi Wan, the song raised 14 MILLION dollars for famine relief, and Patricia is talking about how it doesnt snow in Africa? At least Bono, Sting, and Paul McCartney and others are making an effort to end third world country debt. And its not only Africa. If their debt was paid off, then they could feed the starving people. John lennon made a statement: 'Where do people get off saying that the Beatles should give 20 million to Africa? I mean, after they've had a meal, then what?' He had a really good point, feeding them doesnt end their debt that has to be paid off.
Robert from Leeds, EnglandWhat do you people think about the Band Aid - 1984 album cover and the Beatles - Sgt Peppers lonely hearts club band album cover? Answers please
Damien from Sydney, AustraliaThe Original is much better than the new version. The Darkness, Coldplay - PFFF! GO U2, bananarama and the rest
Rhiannon from Perth, AustraliaI think Patrica you are getting too technical. This song was released to help people and isn't that really the only thing that matters?
Takashi from Tokyo, JapanI totlly agree with Patricia, you know. Oh- and there is NO SNOW IN AFRICA!!!!! Mabye you guys don't know your geography, because, Africa is too close to the equator.
Laura from Leicester, EnglandI am 13 years old and I absolutely love the "Do They Know It's Christmas-time?" re-make. And it does appeal to people of our age. We brought it and so did loads of people I know who are younger and older. My big siter (16) loves it because she loves the darkness who are in it which really helps. And my little sister (6) doesn't even like music that much but she always asks mum to play it even when it isn't christmas.I totally agree with Adam from London, Patricia you just are pathetic if you think that it is all about being politically correct because it is charity. And most people would support that! Maybe not you though!
Dee from Indianapolis, InI've always liked this tune regardless of it's social or political agendas. It had many a great artist perform it and it's a catchy tune at that. I look forward to hearing it around the Christmas season, and it brings back memories of my last true family vacation to Florida during the winter of 84-85 when some of the best music was out on the radio.
Tony from Rapid City, SdI read this about the famine i bet no one remembers this part
IN A devastating piece in England's Spectator, Daniel Wolf reports on what happened after the music stopped. In the '80s, Colonel Haile Mariam Mengistu, the despot who overthrew (and later executed) Haile Selassie as ruler of Ethiopia in 1974, was more than willing to exploit Geldof and the millions of dollars Live Aid raised.
And the BBC documentary which inspired Geldof made little mention of how Mengistu exploited famine as a political weapon. His goal was to depopulate rebel-held areas by forcibly relocating hundreds of thousands of villagers from northern Ethiopia to areas in the south. Instead, the BBC's Michael Buerk merely described Ethiopia's situation as "biblical famine."
Buerk knew what he was doing. As he later told Wolf, "You've got . . . to make the decision, is this side story of any real significance? And also, at the back of your mind, is: if I overemphasize a negative angle to this, I am going to be responsible for . . . inhibiting people from coughing up their money." Why let facts complicate a good story?
Between the BBC documentary, other news stories, and the Live Aid concerts, nearly a billion dollars flowed into Ethiopia during the '80s. Most of it came from various foreign governments; Geldof's efforts represented nearly a quarter of total.
Along with the cash, thousands of western workers and journalists began to enter Ethiopia. Mengistu knew agood thing when he saw it and used the combined tidal wave
of money and sympathy to prop up his regime. He required that relief workers convert their western tender to the local currency at a rate favorable to his junta, which tripled its foreign currency reserves, allowing it to buy arms and materiel. Mengistu's troops also commandeered aid vehicles and fed themselves on the incoming foodstuffs. As Wolf notes, "it became clear that a significant proportion of the relief food in Tigray--the epicenter of the famine--was consigned to the militia. The militias were known locally as 'wheat militias'."
The money allowed Mengistu to string out his war efforts for six more years. Between starvation and outright murder, the war cost more than 100,000 Ethiopian lives.
DURING THE SHOW, The Who performed their '70s anthem, "We Won't Get Fooled Again." The Boomer and MTV generations frequently forget how often they get fooled again.
While Live Aid was spectacular television, it was just another in a series of Big Events from people who believed that throwing money at a problem eventually solves it.
Paul from London, EnglandMichela quotes Mark Curtis of the WDM who poses the question 'Is it too much to ask for lyrics that...explain the real reasons why Africa remains poor?' By way of answering his own question, he might like to try and rewrite his prose article in lyrical form (now let's see, what rhymes with G8?) and then put it to music. Social and political change proceeds by degree - would that it were otherwise.
Paul from London, EnglandPatricia. Words have sense and words have meaning. Do not confuse the two. The literal sense of these lyrics may indeed, in places, warrant further qualification. The validity of their meaning, however, is irrefutable: people of compassion may not celebrate in good conscience whilst their fellow humans starve.
John from Hartford, CtIt doesn't matter wheter you like the tune or the lyrics. It doesn't matter if it snows in Africa or not. It doesn't matter if most people in Africa are Christian or not. Most of them will never hear the song and most of them don't speak English anyway. It wasn't recorded for them to hear. It was recorded for us to hear, and if it inspires a few people to help others less fortunate - be it in Africa or anywhere else - then it was a good cause.
Helen from Liverpool, EnglandSir Bob is asking us to think about those less fortunate than ourselves, especially at Christmas, a time for fun and frivolity. He is not patronizing the non-Christian world. Oh, and I'm pretty sure that Bob Geldolf is aware that there is no snow in Africa at 'Christmastime'.
Michelia from Christchurch, New ZealandAn article that may interest you all published Dec 10 2004.
Africa's plight can't be explained by a pop song
Mark Curtis Guardian Weekly
Christmas pop songs aren't famous for their insightful lyrics, but the words of Do They Know It's Christmas?, Band Aid 20's remake but sadly not rewrite of the 1984 single, matter too much to be excused.
Here's how the song goes: "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". Africa, it informs us, is a land "underneath a burning sun", "where nothing ever grows" and "no rain nor river flows".
Let's leave aside the nonsense that nothing grows in Africa or that no river flows. More important is that the song perpetuates the myth that Africa's poverty can be blamed on natural causes. It reinforces the stereotype of a continent inhabited entirely by starving children.
Hang on a minute, some might say, this is only a pop song. But this is not just another pop song: it sold 72,000 copies on its first day of release, making it the fastest-selling single of 2004. It is meant to signify the British public's commitment to the poor in Africa. Yet a recent study of the Live Aid legacy by Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), found that "the very power of the Live Aid image fuels a belief that the developing world and its people are helpless victims".
The chief executive of VSO, Mark Goldring, said that "the Live Aid images that were once such a force for good have left a legacy that hangs like a cloud over our relationship with the developing world".
It has taken a long time for organisations such as the World Development Movement (WDM) to get across the message that poverty is caused by economic and political factors. African poverty is not due to an unfortunate accident of geography and climate: much responsibility lies with western governments forcing policies on Africa that increase poverty such as pushing free trade, which undermines African economies by exposing them to global market forces, refusing to cancel unpayable debts, and forcing the privatisation of basic services.
The problem in Ethiopia is not that nothing will grow, but that their coffee is worthless thanks to falls in market prices caused by the mismanagement of the global economy.
Nor are Africans the passive victims of circumstance, dependent on handouts. Africans give to us as much as we give to them. In 2002 Africa paid $21.9bn in debt repayments while it received aid worth $22.2bn. Across the continent there are dozens of cases of protest demanding trade justice, debt cancellation and the regulation of multinational companies. The "helpless victims" image deflects attention away from these struggles.
At worst the patronising and dated image of Africa conveyed in the Band Aid song could reinforce old prejudices and even discourage people from taking action. The real issues are not hard for "ordinary people" to understand. The lesson of the Jubilee 2000 debt campaign was that the public are perfectly capable of understanding the abusive nature of the relationship between rich and poor. Approaching 2005 when the British government hosts the G8 summit meeting of leading industrialised nations Africa will be higher up the political agenda than ever. It is vital that the British government is pressed to change its policies and that we challenge the absurd posturing by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown that they are the saviours of Africa.
WDM doesn't want to discourage anyone from buying the single. But is it too much to ask for lyrics that inspire people to take action and explain the real reasons why Africa remains poor?
Changing perceptions and campaigning for political change is a better use of multi-millionaire pop stars' energy than urging ordinary people to dip into their pockets for small change and perpetuating false images of Africa.
Mark Curtis is director of the World Development Movement
Scott from Hampshire, EnglandThe song is about raising money to help the impoverished! that's it! why do you americans have to TRY and psycho-analyse everything?!?!?
Caitlin from Saint Paul, Mnoh, and dominic, i wouldn't go start slandering against america either. just because there are some complete jerks in our country, you can't just go and label all of us like that, that would be called prejudice. don't start being narrow-minded and unfair to all the people in america, just because you heard about a small percent. and im not just saying this either. yeah, we do have a president who doesn't exactly know what he's doing but, you can't just judge all of us like that if you don't even know us. im sure that if someone said this about england, you would say the same thing.
Caitlin from Saint Paul, MnThis song was written to show you that people in ethiopia are starving, and that they don't get all the same things we do, even though they deserve it just as much as us, and people take it for granted. the line "thank God it's them, not you" was to show you that you should be grateful of what you have! AND the whole thing about 'not everybody is a christian' yea, that might be true, but you can't possibly expect them to list every religious holiday there is in the world, do you? because that would be pretty pathetic.
Jodie from Nr London, Englandmmmmmm Patricia... surely it would be an idea to appreciate what this song has done for millions of people before critising and quite frankly scraping the bottom of the barrel to do that properly. Not only did this song raise millions it was also the inspiration behind We Are The World released the following year AND one of the biggest charity concerts of all time.
Mark from Newcastle, EnglandI have to put right some of the absurd objections to this song from "Patricia, Chicago, IL".
1)The lyrics are outdated and even offensive. "Do they know it's Christmastime at all?"
I can't see how mentioning "Christmastime" is that offensive. The lyrics aren't "Feed the world, as long as they're Christian" And it is a Christmas song.
2) You mustn't have checked recently, or, more likely, at all, but a large proportion of Africans are Christian. Even if we're going on your strange view of the world, I'd rather have my "traditional indigenous culture" , as you patronisingly put it, disrespected than starve to death.
3) "Don't these UK stars realize that the whole world doesn't celebrate Christmas"
Again, you miss the point beautifully. This is for famine relief. I'm sure those that don't celebrate Christmas will nevertheless agree with the song's purpose.
4)Oh, I'm so glad it's them who are suffering and not me--better them than me
That's the point of this line, and why Bono really didn't want to sing it. It's a shocker delivered to us. We couldn't survive in a famine. It's supposed to state how lucky we are.
5)How about "And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time"? Duh! It's a little too close to the equator for snow, Sir Bob
I'm not sure if you know where Africa is or its size, but it's not all on the Equator. It doesn't just have one type of weather. Get a map. Have a look. Then comment.
And yes, Sting was on this song. He isn't on the new one though, which is probably why it isn't as good.
Adam from London, EnglandI think Patricia(Chicago, IL) has completely missed the point of this song. It's not being sung to those starving in Africa - it's being sung to us in the West. It doesn't matter if they celebrate Christmas or not. I can't speak about the US but in the UK, Christmas is a time for giving and charity. It's also not about how good the song is - it's about the message! (Duh!) I happen to prefer the original but i definitely see the merit in a re-release - unfortunatley things haven't changed as much as we might have liked since 1984. You should pay to download the new single now (it actually isn't as bad as some make out and WILL appeal to today's generation of teens) and think about what you can do in 2005 to change things. Take a look at the Make Poverty History campaign. The UK is looking to have a dramatic change on the G8 nations. Oh and finally, they do actually get snow in Africa!!!
Dominic from Newcastle, EnglandI dont see what the problem is with some people, Patricia from Chicago, IL has basically come on here slandering the lyrics in band Aids 1984 version of "Do they know its christmas" The single rolled over millions of Dollars with a fantastic $70,000 worth of food going out shortly afterwards. You are slandering the lyrics of a perfectly good song the English people woke up to reality in 1984 about Ethopia and the 3rd world, America obviously didnt because it got to 13 in US Charts. What did America do for the 3rd world??? Give them money??? NOPE give them food???? NOPE give anything???? NOPE. Its disturbing to see you coming on here talking about LYRICS of a song that raised MILLIONS, For gods sake dont give a about how something looks or sounds if it makes people happy. I think its a fantastic idea it has been re-released even though the new one is crap at least more money will go towards the 3rd world and help those who really need food, water, good health. We take for granted turkeys in Thanksgiving and and Christmas dinner think about the waste think about what others are doing. and maybe in the song when they sing "Here's to you, raise a glass for everyone here's to them, underneath that burning sun" you not think this was raise a glass for respect?? Obviously not.
Patricia from Chicago, IlThis song cracks me up everytime it comes on the radio because the lyrics are so laughable. What shocks me it that it is being redone. Geldolf et al should be too embarrassed by it to do a remake. The lyrics are outdated and even offensive. "Do they know it's Christmastime at all?" Last time I checked, traditional African cultures have their own religions, and they're not Christian. Sure, missionaries have converted many of them over the centuries, but here in the 21st c. do we still not respect traditional indigenous cultures? "And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom"--whoa, that's heavy! Don't these UK stars realize that the whole world doesn't celebrate Christmas? And about the line "Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you", so passionately delivered the first time around by the epitome of bleeding-heart celebrities with big egos (Bono)--what is that? Is that compassion? "Oh, I'm so glad it's them who are suffering and not me--better them than me." How about "And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time"? Duh! It's a little too close to the equator for snow, Sir Bob! Finally, "Here's to you, raise a glass for everyone; here's to them, underneath that burning sun." Oh yes, cheers, pip pip cheerio, let's drink a toast to all the poor starving children in Africa, shall we? That will really do them a lot of good.
Jonathan Horgan from Cork, IrelandEveryone does Know that there is a new version just recorded it features The Darkness , Coldplay , Travis and many more
Shirley from Ocean, NjActually, the first event for a charity was put together by George Harrison in 1971 for Bangla Desh. Leave it to a "Beatle" to think of it first.
Debby from Taichung, TaiwanSting DID sing on that song!!! I can't believe he was left out, and he did the longest part, I think. He did the background vocals on Simon Lebon's and Bono's part.
Annabelle from Eugene, OrWhen I listened to this song, I could've sworn I heard Sting singing on parts of this song. Did Sting Sing on this song?
Jon from Grand Forks, NdThis was a flop. Yes, I did my part and bought all the albums. The key is, the "proceeds" re:profits were used to buy food. Everyone was compensated. Then when the food actually arrived, most of it rotted in hangers for lack of transportation. I appreciate the effort, but next time try to find "artists" who do it for the people they purport to care about from their mansions. then, maybe I'll buy a few more albums. Oh yeah, try to have a distribution setup that works.
John from Greeneville, TnPhil Collins on drums
Exroadie from Tampa, FlKool & the Gang are the only american group represented on the record & video.