A ‘Band Aid’ solution
It’s Christmas time, and there’s no need for bickering. But that hasn’t stopped Bono and The Darkness’ Justin Hawkins. Both singers participated in Band Aid 20, the re-recording of Do They Know It’s Christmas, a generous and genuine act.
But while Coldplay’s Chris Martin was re-doing the song’s opening lyric and Blur’s Damon Albarn was serving tea to the likes of Joss Stone and the Sugarbabes, Bono and Justin were arguing over who would sing the line: “And tonight thank God it’s them, instead of you!”
They really shouldn’t have bothered. The line made famous by Bono’s passionate delivery in the original version — and ultimately redone by the U2 singer is a ridiculous sentiment — is a perfect example of why the tune shouldn’t have even been re-recorded at all.
It feels wrong to knock Do They Know It’s Christmas. Since its release during the horrific Ethiopian famine in 1984, the single has sold more than 50 million copies and raised millions to help “feed the world.” Who could possibly be against helping starving Africans?
Not me. But I think there are better ways to do it than with a patronizing piece of pop pap.
Bono knows it, which is why he campaigns to get First World governments to drop the debt of underprivileged nations. Chris Martin also understands that it takes more than a $5 donation and a sing-along to balance out our world of plenty: He works with Oxfam to Make Trade Fair.
Certainly, these worldly artists can see how this beloved holiday song glosses over the tragedy of global hunger like a tasty yet nutritionally void turkey glaze.
Think about some of these lyrics: “Do they know it’s Christmas time?” Uh, most Ethiopians are Muslims. I doubt they care much about Jesus’ birthday on a good day. “There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time.” Really? Is that because of the drought? And of course, that famous “thank God it’s them” line Bono and Justin both wanted to sing. What kind of prayer is that?
That kind of naivete should be left in the ’80s, like wearing satin shorts with sport socks. Today, it just seems ignorant. Like so many holiday pleas, it’s also a blatant call to care only when your God is watching.
Do They Know It’s Christmas v.2004 is as much about marketing a new crop of British pop stars as it is about changing the world. Teenage singer Joss Stone wasn’t even born when the original topped the charts — she referred to world-famous Band Aid organizer Sir Bob Geldof as “Bob Gandalf.” Sir Paul McCartney was allowed to play bass, but was considered too old to sing. Rapper Dizzie Rascal added some lines (e.g.: “Give a little help to the helpless”) that do nothing to expand the song’s meaning and are generally considered a blemish.
I bought the original Band Aid 7, but won’t be paying to download the new version. And not just because I now know it’s a bad song.
The fact there are still starving children means too many of us washed our hands once the song dropped off the charts. Some money raised from Band Aid 20 will be directed to Sudan, where they are starving not from drought but displacement caused by a civil war, one brewing since 1985, when we were all feeling smug watching Live Aid.
Buying a CD to make the unpleasant images on the news go away for a while so we can open our presents guilt-free is not the way to “feed the world.” It’s nothing more than a band-aid.
A ‘Band Aid’ solution