- ‘Coney Island,’ Good Old War
- ‘Margaritaville,’ Jimmy Buffett
- ‘Come Sail Away,’ Styx
- ‘Too Shy’, Kajagoogoo
- ‘One Night in Bangkok,’ Murray Head
- Falling Asleep to Kate Rusby
- ‘Mr. Harris,’ Aimee Mann
- ‘Praying for Time,’ George Michael
- ‘God Save the Queen’
- ‘Hey, Soul Sister’, Train
- ‘Northern Sky’, Nick Drake
- I Song I Want Played at my Funeral?
- ‘Near You,’ Teenage Fanclub
- ‘Washing of the Water,’ Peter Gabriel
- ‘From the Morning,’ Nick Drake
- ‘We Are the World’ – USA for Africa
- ‘Planet Telex’, Radiohead
- ‘B.O.S.T.O.N.’, Bleu
- ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ – Band Aid
- ‘St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)’ – John Parr
- ‘Saturday Night,’ The Bay City Rollers
- Least Favorite Band – The Black Eyed Peas
- ‘I Found Love’, The Free Design
- ‘The King Is Half Undressed,’ Jellyfish
- ‘Keeping Awake,’ The Innocence Mission
- ‘It’s the End of the World as We Know It’, R.E.M.
- ‘Ah Tutti Contenti’ – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- ‘For No One’, the Beatles
- ‘The Wing and the Wheel’ – Nanci Griffith
- ‘Superkid,’ Candy Butchers
A Guilty Song
To be fair, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” isn’t really a Christmas song, even though it’s played ad nauseam on pop stations during the holiday season. When I hear it, I don’t think of Christmas. I think of Band Aid, Bob Geldof, Midge Ure, and starving children in Africa.
The premise of the song, which was performed by England’s greatest superstars at the time, is that while we’re eating the fatted calf and having our figgy pudding for Christmas, there are children who have nothing to eat in Africa:
But say a prayer to pray for the other ones
At Christmas time
It’s hard, but when you’re having fun
There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring there
Are the clanging chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you
Wow. There goes all the fun for Christmas.
But most of the top U.K. artists (and a few U.S. artists) jumped on board the project:
- Kool & the Gang
- The Boomtown Rats
- Phil Collins
- Culture Club
- George Michael
- Heaven 17
- Spandau Ballet
- Dura Duran
- Status Quo
- Jody Watley
- Paul Weller (The Style Council)
- Paul Young
- David Bowie
- Frankie Goes To Hollywood
- Paul McCartney
- Big Country
The song featured solos by Paul Young, Boy George, George Michael, Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran, Sting and Bono.
And it worked. The single sold 11.9 million copies worldwide and helped spark Live Aid, a mega-concert whose proceeds went to Africa. The concert raised almost $200 million. And it all started with a simple tune that sounded nothing like a Christmas song.
Looking back, I never felt truly guilty listening to the song; instead, I became more aware of the famine in Ethiopia and felt empowered to do something about it. But the lyrics do raise a spark of guilt in you, and you feel obligated to give something (I bought the single – a drop in the bucket).
Of course, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was the impetus for the horrible “We Are the World,” which for some unknown reason outsold its former single. (So horrible, in fact, that it’s the song that makes me laugh in this series.) But it helped the kids in Africa, so not all of it is bad. I just wish more credit would be given to Mssrs. Geldof and Ure, the former having earned a knighthood for his actions. The two wrote a great song that does tug at your heartstrings – and your wallet.