34 Years Ago Today, Do They Know It's Christmas?

In 1984 Bob Geldof and Midge Ure watched in horror at television reports of the 1983–85 famine in Ethiopia. The two musicians decided to do something about it. On this day in 1984, November 25th Band-Aid was formed. A supergroup consisting of Paul McCartney, U2’s Bono and Adam Clayton, David Bowie, Phil Collins, Sting, and a bunch of other members of big-name ‘80s bands headed into a London studio to record the benefit single “Do They Know It’s Christmas.”

 

The single was released in the U.K. on December 3, 1984 and entered the UK Singles Chart at number one and stayed there for five weeks, becoming the Christmas number one of 1984. The record became the fastest selling single in UK chart history, selling a million copies in the first week alone and passing 3 million on the last day of 1984. The original version of "Do They Know It's Christmas?" has sold 3.8 million copies in the UK to date. An extended version with spoken-word wishes was also created.

 

The song was also a major success around the world, reaching number one in thirteen other countries outside the UK. In the US, the single sold an estimated 2.5 million copies by January 1985. Worldwide the single had sold 11.7 million copies by 1989.  Geldof's cautious hope was that the single would raise £70,000 for Ethiopia, but "Do They Know It's Christmas?" raised £8 million within twelve months of release.  The single's worldwide success in raising awareness and financial relief for the victims of the Ethiopian famine led the recording of several other charity singles in the UK and in other countries, such as "We Are the World" by USA for Africa. The song also led to various spin-off charity events, such as Comic Relief, and the Live Aid concert which would take place seven months later in July 1985

 

"Do They Know It's Christmas?" was re-recorded three times: in 1989, 2004, and 2014. All the re-recordings were also charity records; the 1989 and 2004 versions also provide money for famine relief, while the 2014 version was used to raise funds for the Ebola crisis in West Africa. All three of these versions also reached number one in the UK, and the 2004 version of the song was also a UK million seller, with 1.8 million copies sold

 

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