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Today in History (1984): Supergroup Band Aid Records ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ for the Benefit of Ethiopia

Time and again we’ve seen some of the world’s biggest musicians join forces for charitable reasons, and “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is without a doubt one of the most influential efforts to have ever been assembled.

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Video via YouTube

Between 1983 and 1985, Ethiopia experienced what was regarded as the worst famine to have hit the country in a century. By 1984, there had been a reported estimate of almost eight million people said to have been affected by it while over a million people perished.

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was an effort spearheaded by Irish singer Bob Geldof after seeing a report about the famine sometime in October 1984. Geldof, together with fellow musician Midge Ure, penned the song and rounded up an all-star ensemble of musicians for the cause which would collectively be known as Band Aid.

Band Aid. Photo via Shapers of the 80s

We could only imagine the media having a field day when the song was recorded on this day in 1984: some of the biggest names in music at the time were in attendance that day, including U2, Phil Collins, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, Bananarama, George Michael, Sting, David Bowie, Steven Tyler, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, and Culture Club. They convened at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London, which its owner, producer and musician Trevor Hall allowed the team to use for the project for 24 hours.

The song’s producer Ure immediately went to work and mixed the track overnight, finally finishing the entire task reportedly at 8 am the following day. On the B-side of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was “Feed the World,” in which one would be able to hear spoken word statements by Geldof, Bowie, Ure, and other artists.

“Feed the World” video via YouTube

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was released just a few days later, on the 28th. It faced a legal dispute with the British Government regarding taxes (apparently, the government initially declined to waive the sales tax despite Geldof’s statement that all funds raised from the sale of the single will be donated to the cause), which thankfully was immediately resolved. The song was immediately put on heavy rotation in British radio stations.

Artist Peter Blake created the cover art for the original release of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Photo via Shapers of the 80s

December 3 saw the release of the entire single, which went straight on top of the UK charts and stayed there for five weeks. On the first week of its release alone, one million copies were said to have been sold, making it become the “fastest single of all time in the UK.”

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was said to have raised “many millions of pounds,” making it at one point the “biggest-selling single in UK singles chart history” before Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” was released in 1997.

Video via YouTube

The song would be re-recorded a number of times in the years that would follow. In 1989, “Do they Know It’s Christmas?” was recorded by Band Aid II, which composed a new lineup including Kylie Minogue, Cliff Richard, Wet Wet Wet, and Jason Donovan.

Video via YouTube

To celebrate the song’s 20th anniversary, the song was recorded again in 2004 by Band Aid 20 which included Daniel and Natasha Bedingfield, Chris Martin, Estelle, Snow Patrol, Joss Stone, and Robbie Williams. The third version differed to the other two in that it had a rap part courtesy of rapper Dizzee Rascal. In any case, all versions ended up clinching the #1 spot in music charts during their respective time of release, although the original version remains unparalleled. Apart from these official releases, there has also been numerous other covers and parodies for “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

All information in this article were sourced from Wikipedia.

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Further reading: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and 1983-85 famine in Ethiopia on Wikipedia.

written by chooolss

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