In 1984, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure wrote a song to raise awareness and funds for the famine in Ethiopia. "Do They Know It's Christmas?" was recorded by Band Aid, a supergroup comprised of British and Irish musicians popular during this era. One stand-out lyric, sung by Bono of U2, is often misunderstood.
The song, released in December 1984, would top the charts in the UK but fall short of the top ten in the US Billboard Top 100 due to lack of airplay. By January 1985, the song would sell 2.5 million copies in the US. The song was re-recorded in 1989, 2004, and 2014, with the first two re-recordings also raising money for famine relief and the 2014 raising money for the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
"Do They Know It's Christmas?" lyrics
While the song lyrics help listeners think of others during the holiday season, as with this lyric sung by Boy George, "And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy. Throw your arms around the world at Christmas time." One phrase stands out to really hit the message home. Bono of U2 belts out, "Well, tonight, thank God it's them instead of you." This lyric is often misunderstood, but it is meant in a sarcastic tone to convey the fact that first-world people have things much better than others around the world and should be thankful. Bono belting that out each Christmas season reminds us to do something kind for others.
Many have questioned Geldof and Ure's title question as the whole of Africa isn't shrouded in famine and poverty. This wasn't the intent, as Africa was lyrically better than Ethiopia but the overall message is what is important. As a young girl, it was inspiring to see all of these famous faces gather together to remind us what we should remember always, and that is to extend a hand to our fellow humans. This is something we should strive for all year and not just during Christmas and the holiday season.