Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid

Words and Music: Bob Geldof and Midge Ure

Certain years evoke specific memories. For me 1984 was a very special year, in 1984 and 1985 I was in Ontario, Canada with a Christian missions group called Youth With A Mission (YWAM). Even though you could probably call YWAM a conservative fundamentalist organization, being there in another country with people from different countries was actually part of the process that led to me becoming less fundamentalist, more liberal in my theology and my politics, and less ethnocentric and USA centered.

In November and December of 84, when this song was out, I don’t remember hearing it a whole lot. I didn’t have a car in Canada with me and didn’t listen to the radio or watch TV much when I was on the YWAM campus. I couldn’t afford to go home (which at the time was Las Vegas, NV) for Christmas so I stayed with the family of two staff members there in Ontario.

This was also my first white Christmas. Even though I had spent Christmases with family in parts of the states that often do get snow at Christmastime, I had never actually had a white Christmas and it wasn’t looking good for Canada either, by Christmas Eve it still hadn’t snowed. I thought, man, I can’t even get a white Christmas in freaking Canada!

So when I went to bed that night in my gracious hosts’ guest room, I said a prayer to St. Bing and sure enough he came through for me. So, why am I telling you this story now? Why didn’t I relate this as part of my previous post that was actually about the song White Christmas? For two very good reasons:

  1. I forgot.
  2. It was while I was staying with my friend’s family that I finally saw the video for Do They Know It’s Christmas.

There they were, the UK lads of the day (only two of whom, Sting and Bono, are still on the cultural radar screen today) with their fresh faces and 80s hair (can you say “Euromullet?”). And, oh yeah, Bob & Midge, what’s up with only guys having solos? In case you need a refresher course on who these lads were, courtesy of blogger Maryahlity, here’s a rundown of who sang what:

(Paul Young)
It’s Christmas time
There’s no need to be afraid
At Christmas time
We let in light and we banish shade
(Boy George)
And in our world of plenty
We can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world
At Christmas time

(George Michael)
But say a prayer
Pray for the other ones
At Christmas time it’s hard
(Simon LeBon)
But when you’re having fun
There’s a world outside your window
(Sting joins in) And it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is
(Bono joins in)
The bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that are ringing
Are clanging chimes of doom
(Bono only) Well, tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time.
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life
Where nothing ever grows
No rain or rivers flow
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmas time
Feed the world
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

(Paul Young)
Here’s to you
raise a glass for everyone
Here’s to them
underneath that burning sun
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

Feed the world
Feed the world
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmas time again

Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmas time again
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmas time again

But seeing and hearing it again brings back good memories. Sure there continue to be questions about whether the money that the song and subsequent Live Aid concert raised was spent wisely and some think that the song’s portrayal of Africa is condescending, but it raised awareness and it sparked a movement that inspired caring artists around the world. Plus it’s a great song that still holds up. When was the last time you heard our weak contribution We Are The World?

So here’s to you Sir Bob and youth of the 80s, good show.

And just for Christmas shits and giggles, here are some other versions. Starting with Live Aid in 1985.

Who can forget the immortal words of Sir Bob, “Let’s all cock it up together?”

Band Aid II – 1989

Band Aid 20 – 2004

2010 Update

Well, as I keep finding while updating these posts from last year, the Grinches at YouTube or whoever have swooped in and stolen the videos that I linked.

Fortunately there are always plenty of brave souls out there willing to risk being sent to YouJail, and so far I’ve been able to replace them. For now:


One thought on “The 12 Good Songs of Christmas: #8

  1. The Christmas of 1984 was quite memorable for me as well. – Were you staying in Stratford, by any chance? My jostled memory places you there.
    I had forgotten about this song. It does seem a bit dated in retrospect, although at the time it was very cool.

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