Bob Geldof is truly a hero. It was 30 years ago almost to the day when Bob Geldof taught Band Aid to play, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” The Irish Boomtown Rats singer Geldof wrote the song along with Scottish singer-musician James “Midge” Ure for the purpose of assembling a superband for charity. The effort was to raise money for poverty-stricken Ethiopia. It topped the Christmas charts and sold 3.7 million copies in the U.K., which raised 8 million pounds to fight famine.
Now Geldof is at it again. This time his effort is to address the Ebola crisis in West Africa. He and Ure are tweaking the lyrics and have gathered firm yeses from musical biggies Adele, U2’s Bono, Chris Martin of Coldplay, One Direction, Sinead O’Connor, Olly Murs, Ed Sheeran, Bastille, Elbow, Ellie Goulding, Emeli Sandé, Foals, Paloma Faith, Sam Smith and Underworld. The hashtag is #BandAid30.
At a London press conference on Nov. 10, Geldof said, “We know we can contain Ebola; we have the doctors, the nurses, medicines and state systems, we have money. [People are] dying again because they are extremely poor. That is radically unacceptable.”
Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe, often fatal illness. The current outbreak in West Africa is the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976. To date, EVD has killed 5,000 people in West Africa. It is highly contagious and spread by blood, sweat, saliva and semen.
For me, the most haunting lyrics from the original song were, “Tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.” It sends shudders and shivers and stays in my head. Geldof and Ure have not confirmed yet if those lyrics will be included in the re-recorded version. I have no doubt, though, that they will deliver another Christmas hit.
Geldof told BBC News, “It’s the time once again where we usually think about other people. We give each other gifts. We don’t normally sit down around a table for over a day, but we do on this day, and it gives us pause for thought. That’s what happened 30 years ago, and I don’t think we’ve changed that much as a society.
“The situation is so contemporary and immediate. The people most affected are the poorest and most vulnerable. What do you do when 820 [National Health Service] boys and girls volunteer to put themselves in such danger and young boys and girls in the army? You have to support that. You have to be disgusted by what’s happening to those people out there. It’s not right.
“What I don’t think has changed is the response of people to human misery. This filthy disease makes human beings untouchable. No mothers can comfort their dying child. No lovers can cradle each other. No wife can hold her husband’s hand as they die. That is so inhuman. That goes against everything we are supposed to be. I think [people will] understand it’s Christmas.”
Bob Geldof has high hopes, and so should we. Buy the record as soon as it goes on sale.
Sing along with the original “Do They Know It’s Christmas” (shown here with lyrics):
Dorri Olds is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.