The Music of Christmas – Day 16: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
By Band Aid

It’s hard to believe this song is over thirty five years old. Recorded in November of 1984, this is one of the biggest supergroup recordings ever, and it was all for charity.

To help relieve suffering due to famine in Ethiopia, producer Bob Geldof and Donna Yates, his wife, were moved to do something after watching a television report on the hardship.  Yates happened across singer Midge Ure who agreed to help, Geldof enlisted Sting, and the whole thing just steamrolled from there. 

Geldof and Ure came up with the basic melody and lyrics, tweaking as needed. Lor singers and musicians signed up to do a part, studios and executives donated time and resources, and eventually the song was released in December and would raise £8 million for the cause.

While doing some research for this write-up, I found that there are some rather negative views of it, justifiably so. I mean, I know at first glance this song isn’t exactly Christmas material. It certainly isn’t about snow or Santa or presents or winter. It deals with a very serious subject, and you could be forgiven for not liking it as a Christmas song as such. It’s a song that I have to hear at Christmas, but I know it’s not for everyone.

However, I was reading more about the song and was struck by the fact that it does have some very colonizer attitudes towards Africa, and presents some stereotypes of the land and people. It has a bit of an Outside Savior message as well, and these are all true critiques of it. Even the producers in recent years have acknowledged these faults, and subsequent rerecordings have changed the lyrics to make them better and not as stereotypical.

In the end, I think that we need to remember that the intentions of the song were noble but that we should always be open to knowing how to respect others and be willing to change how we address them.

I still love this as a song for the holidays, and we need to remember that this time is hard for many, and we need to help out however we can.