Keep Writing
Saturday Blessings

Do They Know it's Christmas?

The third day of December and not too early, I hope, to start sharing some Christmas music?

Later down the line we might have a few carols and other festive tunes, but today I want to mark a day in pop music history which is pretty significant.

Back in October 1984 BBC news broadcast a series of reports about a disastrous situation in Ethiopia in north east Africa. The legendary BBC broadcast journalist Michael Buerk reported on what he described as a “biblical famine”. 

The crisis had actually begun the previous year, in 1983, and would, sadly, affect many millions of some of the world's poorest people for another year. But the images, especially of starving children, touched the hearts and consciences of the world.

Remember, this was before satellite, social media and all the broadcast tools we have at our disposal nowadays, but Michael Buerk's report went 'viral' ... it was transmitted by more than 400 television stations worldwide and it is one of the most famous television reports in modern media history. 

And it resulted in the first ever 'celebrity fundraiser' ... the sort of fundraising events with which we are now very familiar. 

On Saturday July 13th 1985 a huge concert to raise money for the Ethiopian Famine Appeal  was held at Wembley Stadium in London in the UK (attended by about 72,000 people) and the John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, USA (attended by 89,484 people). It featured some of the biggest pop and music stars of the day, it was broadcast around the world,  and it was the brainchild of pop supremoes Bob Geldof and Midge Ure.

It was called 'Live Aid' ... but before that there was 'Band Aid'.

After seeing Michael Buerk's reports, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure wrote a song which reflected the crisis unfolding in Ethiopia. They put together a supergroup consisting some of the most popular British and Irish musical acts at the time, to start to raise awareness of and raise funds for the victims of the 1983–1985 famine in Ethiopia

DO they know its ChristmasThe song - Do They Know It's Christmas? - was first recorded in a single day at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill in London on November 25th 1984 and was released in the UK on this day - December 3rd  1984.

It entered the UK Singles Chart at Number One and stayed there for five weeks, which means it was the Christmas Number One of 1984. At the time it became the fastest selling single in UK chart history, selling a million copies in the first week and passing three million sales on the last day of 1984. It held this accolade until 1997 when it was overtaken by Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997", released in tribute to Princess Diana following her death.

The original version of Do They Know It's Christmas? has sold nearly 4 million copies in the UK. It has to date been re-released, featuring a whole new batch of pop stars, in 1989, 2004 and 2014. All the re-recordings were also charity records; the 1989 and 2004 versions also provided money for famine relief, while the 2014 which was released to mark the 30th anniversary of the original record, was used to raise funds for the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

Do They Know It's Christmas? is a song we hear regularly on the radio especially at this time of year, but it's worth reminding ourselves of the reason it was created, the history of the song and the sentiment behind the concept.  At the time it was released it wasn't universally loved by the critics, but the public loved it, if only because the video showed some of their favourite stars. Down the years the song has been the subject of some criticism, and in these 'contemporary times' some people say it is has a 'colonial western-centric viewpoint', with 'condescending stereotypical descriptions of Africa', and poor people. As a result, down the years some of the lyrics have been changed.

Yes, the song is a product of its time, but that takes nothing away from the impact it has made on the world. So today I make no excuses for sharing with you that original song and video which so inspired us at the time.

This song really pricked the conscience of a generation, especially those of us who were young at the time. In the mid 1980's the UK was living in Thatcher Britain where the ethos was very much  'every man / woman for him or herself'' ... but Michael Buerk's reports, and the song and fundraising that followed, made us realise that WE are the fortunate ones. We have been blessed with so much and others have so little.

So today, as we did all those years ago, let's remember other people as we approach Christmas. 

And if people need someone to help them - either financially, emotionally or by sharing resources - let us be that Someone.



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)