Band Aid: Making, Impact & Legacy

We watched the 6 o’clock news.., the scenes were absolutely riveting and this from the get go did not look like television, it looked like Spartacus, something vast and it was gray, these grey waves moving in this grey moonscape.  And the camera was pitiless, it was like a cyclops, just there it would not let you off the hook. Bob Geldof.

Bob Geldof was among the millions that saw the BBC documentary on the evening of October 23, 1984.  He could not get the images out of his mind.  He knew he had to do something.  He woke the next morning, and had an idea of doing a song with other singers.  He wanted to record and release the song for the Christmas season. He called Midge Ure, a popular artist at that time, who agreed to work with him on the song. Within a week he wrote the lyrics to the song “Do they know its’ Christmas time?” and he and Midge Ure put the music together.

 Bob Geldof had access to a studio for one day and so the song was recorded by this group of 45 in a single day on November 25, 1984.  Every single person who worked on the song did so for free. 

With his feverish, almost manic, desire to do something and the looming Christmas deadline, Bob Geldof recruited the top British and Irish singers of the time, and created a mega-group from 45 of the biggest superstars of British music including George Michael, Sting, Phil Collins, Boy George, U2, Duran Duran, Culture Club to sing the song.  The superstars united under the name “Band-Aid’’ in a bold act of charity that was unprecedented at the time

The song was released on November 29, 1984 and was an incredible success right from the start – it sold 1 million copies in the first week and stayed number one on the charts for more than a month.  The song became the biggest-selling single in the UK and held that title for 13 years. 

The song provided immediate relief for Famine Victims. Bob Geldof had hoped to raise £72,000 – instead he raised £8 million ($11 million) to benefit famine victims of Ethiopia.  He started an organization called “Bad-Aid Trust” which was used to collect and disburse the funds.  Instead of using charitable organizations, he decided to use the Trust to disburse the money as he had pledged that every penny would help famine victims.  This took him to Africa where he realized he had just dipped his toe in the pool – he knew this would not be enough. 

The money raised from Band Aid helped buy, among other things, 150 tons of high-energy biscuits, 1335 tons of milk powder, 560 tons of cooking oil, 470 tons of sugar and 1000 tons of grain.

The song became the conscience of the rock and roll world. In the height of the 1980s, Band Aid reconnected rock stars with their consciences – forever linking celebrity to charity.  Bob Geldof had harnessed the power of celebrity singers and the consumer – and brought them together for the first time.

The enormous success of Band Aid and “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” paved the way for using the powerful force of celebrities for charitable causes. It inspired USA for Africa’s “We Are the World” for famine relief which was released on March 3, 1985, and went on to sell 20 million copies and raised $75 million.  Others records inspired by Band Aid for famine relief included Austria for Africa, Chanteurs Sans Frontieres, among others.  Additionally records such as Steven Van Zandt’s “Sun City” in protest of South African apartheid; and a Dionne Warwick remake of the Burt Bacharach ballad, “That’s What Friends Are For,” for Aids research were inspired by the siccess of Band Aid.

Band Aid forever connected celebrities with philanthropy.

The success changed Bob Geldof’s life, it made history.  In the middle of Thatcherism, Band Aid came along and made people aware.  It also made charities incredibly cool.  Young people were getting more and more involved in charitable causes. Something had changed. Midge Ure.

This is the way I feel I pay for my citizenship – by using my fame whenever I can to transmit an idea.” Sting.

Bono, the lead singer of U2 and one the world’s biggest philanthropists credits his philanthropic roots to Band Aid. 

George Michael gave the entire profits from his single “Last Christmas” to Band Aid. 

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