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18# The controversial history of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’

4 min read

Here’s the surprising history behind your favorite Christmas Carols!
What if “The Red-Nosed Reindeer”, Frosty and the “One Horse Open Sleigh” had nothing to do with Christmas?
Singing Christmas songs goes hand in hand with baking Christmas treats, listening our favorite Christmas tales, watching our favorite Christmas movies, and not only.
Like everything around this period of the year, everything has a story.
From songs that have been saved from being erased forever to not really knowing for sure where a song came from, here is the history of a few Christmas Carols you know and sing still today!

Enjoy our Advent Calendar 2022!

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🎄🎅🏻 THERE ARE ONLY 7 DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS 🎅🏻🎄

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Bob Geldof realized Boy George was missing.
It was November 25, 1984, and Bob, popular musician and frontman for the Boomtown Rats, had assembled a who’s who of talent for a charity single titled “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
He had corralled Bono, Sting, Kool and the Gang, and all of Bananarama, among others, but Boy George was nowhere to be found. Making calls from the London studio where everyone had gathered, he tracked him down and realized he was sound asleep in a hotel room in New York City.
Expletives followed and, eventually, Boy George jumped on the Concorde, which could make the trip between the cities in under four hours. He immediately fell in tune with the impressive display, launching what would become a mini-industry of songs and concerts intended to offer financial relief to those in need.
Bob Geldof even named his collection of singers Band Aid. And, while “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” would prove to be a monster hit, it would also stand as an example of the lesson that no good deed ever goes unpunished.

He got the idea for “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in October of that year, when he was watching the BBC in England, grew concerned by the plight of Ethiopians experiencing a severe famine, and he believed he could raise money through music.
Thus he phoned his girlfriend, Paula Yates, who co-hosting a show with musician Midge Ure at the time, and explained to him his idea of a charity single, asking him to help polish a song he had originally rewritten for the Boomtown Rats. If Ure would focus on the arrangement, Bob Geldof said, he would handle the talent booking.
By avoiding all music industry bureaucracy, he was able to secure commitments from Sting, Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran, Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet, Paul Young, Boy George, George Michael, Bono, and Phil Collins, among others. (David Bowie and Paul McCartney were invited but had scheduling conflicts and recorded spoken word verses for the B-side single, “Feed the World”.)

Because Geldof and Ure wanted to issue the record in time for the holidays to make an appeal to listeners emotionally affected by the season, they didn’t have much time. So they raced into production, recording for a full 24 hours at Sarm West Studios in London, which owner Trevor Horn had opened to him and his collaborators at no cost.
Boy George confusion apart, the session went surprisingly smoothly, although some observers noticed illicit substances being passed among the participants.
And so, it was November 29, just four days after its marathon recording session, when the song made its official debut.
The single immediately shot to the top spot on sales charts and remained there for five weeks, ultimately it went on to sell 3.8 million copies in the UK and 12 million worldwide. As a result, in all, more than $28 million was raised. Given that proceeds went to a good cause, who could find fault with Bob Geldof’s altruistic efforts?
Well, as it turned out, there were a few people.
Critics took umbrage at the fact that the song appeared to be pandering, portraying Africans as oblivious to Christmas. Worse was a 1986 exposé in Spin magazine that reported proceeds from the song, as well as Geldof’s follow-up projects “We Are the World” and Live Aid, may have unintentionally helped African dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam buy weapons from Russia.
Bob Geldof refused to comment for the article, but had a statement for people who found the song itself lacking when it was re-recorded in 2014 with One Direction, Sam Smith, and others to help fund the fight against the Ebola virus.
“It’s a pop song,” he said.
“It’s not a doctoral thesis. They can f*** off.”
This was a change of tune for Geldof, who in 2010 declared: “I am responsible for two of the worst songs in history. One is ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ The other one is ‘We Are The World.’ Any day soon, I will go to the supermarket, head to the meat counter, and it will be playing. Every f***ing Christmas!”

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🎄🎅🏻 THERE ARE ONLY 7 DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS 🎅🏻🎄

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MORE STORIES
🎄 ADVENT CALENDAR 2018
🎄 ADVENT CALENDAR 2019
🎄 ADVENT CALENDAR 2020
🎄 ADVENT CALENDAR 2021

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