♫ Do They Know It’s Christmas? ♫

In May of last year, when I played We Are the World, our friend David suggested another song that is about bringing people together, about helping people, about feeding the world.  The title, of course, is Do They Know It’s Christmas, but it’s a song that is apropos any time of the year, and I first played it in June 2020, about as far from Christmas as you can get!  This is one of those, like “Christmas 1914”, that should become an annual tradition on Filosofa’s Word, though admittedly I had forgotten about it until Ellen reminded me last evening!

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 the UK, 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.

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.  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.'”

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.

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.

Phil Collins arrived with his entire drum kit to record a live drum track on top of the already programmed drum machine. He set up the kit and then waited patiently until early evening until after all the vocals had been recorded. Ure was content with the first take that Collins performed, but the perfectionist Collins was unhappy with it and asked for a second take to be recorded, which he was satisfied with.

Released on December 3rd 1984 in the UK, the song quickly hit #1 on the charts and stayed there for 5 weeks.  The song became the biggest-selling single of all time in the UK until it was overtaken in 1997 by Elton John’s Candle in the Wind.  In the U.S., the song reached only #13 due to a lack of airplay.

Do They Know It’s Christmas?
Band Aid

It’s Christmastime, there’s no need to be afraid
At Christmastime, 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 Christmastime

But say a prayer, pray for the other ones
At Christmastime 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

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life
Where nothing ever grows
No rain nor rivers flow
Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?
Here’s to you
Raise a glass for everyone

Here’s to them
Underneath that burning sun
Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?

Feed the world
Feed the world
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmastime again
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmastime again
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmastime again
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmastime again
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmastime again
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmastime again

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Bob Geldof / Midge Ure
Do They Know It’s Christmas? lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc

35 thoughts on “♫ Do They Know It’s Christmas? ♫

  1. Pingback: Do They Know It’s Christmas ? | Ramblings of an Occupy Liberal

  2. “Paul Weller, who decided to have a go at me”

    As a huge Paul Weller fan and George Michael hater it hurts me to read this. Was this when Geldof told the whole crew that everybody please check their ego at the door, else they’d be chauffeured home … by Stevie Wonder?

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  3. Hello Jill. Thank you again for introducing me to both a new song and teaching me some history I had not known until now. I am so glad people came together to help others in need then, is the charity still on going? I wonder if anyone could pull such a feat off now? Of course, not until the virus situation is much better. Scottie

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t say for sure, but I do know that this song has been re-issued a few times and that the royalties all go to charity, so I’m guessing so. It is a heartwarming song, isn’t it? I’m so glad to have introduced you to a bit of history and a new song! That’s part of what I love about blogging … we all learn new things! Hope your Christmas was wonderful! Hugs

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  4. That brings back so many memories for me. I worked in our postal service and was part of the Chairman’s staff at the time. The posties’ Union volunteered to waive their payment for delivering leaflets so that an envelope for donations could be delivered to every home in the country. I was given the job of co-ordinating it all, from design and printing through to delivery. It was incredibly hectic but we got it done, and it was one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever worked on. I met two future Members of Parliament – who both later were high ranking in government – in the process. And this song is so much better than the copycat American effort!

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  5. I just finished and published my Dec. 25 post, so this was a good follow-up. It is nice to know so many people came together and we’re able to (mostly) set aside their differences and do something for others. I have never had cranberry orange sauce. Do you have the recipe?

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