Songs That Changed The World: Do They Know It’s Christmas?

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is a song made by a charity musical group called “Band Aid”. It was mostly made of British musicians. Founded in 1984 by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, the intention was to raise money for anti-famine efforts in Ethiopia. The group was quickly formed in response to raise awareness about the famine situation in Ethiopia between 1983-1985. The project exceeded expectations and went on to raise eight million pounds within twelve months of its release.

Ethiopia is a country that has been plagued with famine since antiquity (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famines_in_Ethiopia). In recent years, relatively speaking, the world and various organizations have turned much effort into attempts to relieve famine across the world to improve the situation of countries and areas deprived of food and water. Fundraisers, especially by big events or music artists have proven successful to one degree or another because people with influence can direct a lot of attention to a specific issue if the influencer so chooses, making the awareness obstacle much less difficult to overcome. Arguably, the first very successful incarnations of this were Live-Aid and Band-Aid, an event and a supergroup that culminated both as a social response to the Ethiopian famine between nineteen eighty-three and nineteen eighty-five. A news crew from BBC with Michael Buerk were the first to document this and the founders Geldof and Ure formed these events quickly as a response to what they had witnessed. They had relatively low expectations of seventy thousand pounds being raised for the cause but ended up raising over eight million pounds within twelve months of release and has sold over three and a half million copies in the UK to date. According to various sources the money had helped the effort but there are also sources that claim the effort did more harm than good.

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Live-Aid and Band-Aid were arguably the first real game-changers as far as supergroups are concerned because of their wild success. Although not technically the first, they were arguably the most memorable by making a record that was so famous and that raised so much attention during that time. In the late 1960s rock scene it became popular for members of already famous groups or entities to record a one-off album and then usually split after.

Rolling Stone credited Cream with being the first supergroup.

In the years between 1983 and 1985 a terrible famine struck Ethiopia, the worst the country had seen in a long time according to some sources. The famine was happening in the background of an ongoing civil war and the government was stretched thin by all the things going on at that time. This made them for the most part unable but they were also unwilling to provide relief to the affected areas because a lot of famine victims resided in rebel territories opposing the government. A BBC news crew went in and made a documentary revealing the atrocities of the situation. Bob Geldof saw this, and and as a reaction quickly formed the group to raise money and awareness.

Midge Ure and Bob Geldof had to quickly make an original record that reflected their concept and write it in such a way that multiple artists could sing on it. The song recieved mixed reviews but sold a lot of records and raised a lot of money and awareness.

The song has been negatively recieved by many for being stereotypical and condescending which many argue to be a serious detriment to the record. The argument being that a misinformed or ill-advised performance spread the wrong image about a situation which was really complex and brushed over too simply by the lyrics in the song. The song also recieved positive reviews, perhaps not in particular for the music but for the good intentions of the artists to raise money for a noble cause. Another big criticism comes from some who believe the entire event was a scam to gather money for selfish or ill purposes. There are some sources who claim not all the money went to charity, with some people asserting that money got lost in transferrance and ended up in the hands of the army to further suppress rebel efforts, or in the hands of people posing as official who then used a cut for personal use or circulated the money elsewhere away from the famine relief effort.

This source in particular details the effort funding a ‘warlord’ (the then president/governer of Ethiopia):

Any source that claims something extreme should be taken with a grain of salt, especially if irrefutable evidence is not at hand to prove the claim.

This source puts the effort in a more favourable light, and mentions the above source:

  • “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.”

 

In conclusion an argument can be put forth to support the claim that this song really did change the world. A lot of attention and money was raised and it was a landmark in musical history for being a very successful record from a supergroup containing many big names who came together on short notice to record a record with the intention of donating all the money to the relief effort to help make a difference in the world. This record went on to be very memorable, for whichever reason, and spawned the Live-Aid concert, which also went down in the history books and also raised a lot of money.

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