This Monday November 17, Band Aid 30 will release the charity single “Do They Know it’s Christmas”. The proceeds will go towards helping the Ebola crisis in West Africa, whereas the original raised money for the support of famine in Ethiopia.
Artists involved this time include Bono, One Direction, Chris Martin, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and Rita Ora. This is actually the fourth time the song has been recorded, with the most recent version released a decade ago.
Sweeter lyrics for 2014
What has changed since the original in 1984? Lyric-wise quite a lot. Although the original song written by Midge Ure and Bob Geldof was an impassioned call for help, it also carried Geldof’s wry tone that jarred many people at the time.
The most glaring change is: “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you” which has become: “Well tonight we’re reaching out and touching you.”
The 1984 lyrics: “And there’s won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time. The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life. Where nothing ever grows. No rain or rivers flow. Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?” have been changed to the following:
“No peace and joy this Christmas in West Africa. The only hope they’ll have is being alive. Where to comfort is to fear. Where to touch is to be scared. How can they know it’s Christmas time at all.”
People had pointed out that there are both snow and rivers in Africa, which I thought was a bit literal of a reading. The song was really intended for the drought in Ethiopia, after all.
It really doesn’t matter if you don’t like this song. It really doesn’t matter if you don’t like the artists, it really doesn’t matter if it turns out to be a lousy recording – what you have to do is buy this thing.”
The original words “Here’s to you. Raise a glass for everyone. Here’s to them underneath that burning sun. Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?” have been altered to say:
“Here’s to you. Raise a glass to everyone. And here’s to them. And all their years to come. Let them know it’s Christmas after all.”
The “feed the world” chorus now also has one reference to “Heal the world”.
So overall, we’re going for a touchy-feely approach rather than Geldof’s gritty realism. At the end of the day, it doesn’t make much difference. It’s a charity single, after all. I agree with Geldof when he says: “It really doesn’t matter if you don’t like this song. It really doesn’t matter if you don’t like the artists, it really doesn’t matter if it turns out to be a lousy recording – what you have to do is buy this thing.”