Little Bits of History

Striking Hunger

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 25, 2013
Bob Geldof

Bob Geldof

November 25, 1984: Do They Know It’s Christmas is recorded. There were 36 famous musicians who gathered together to form Band Aid. The mostly British and Irish superstars came together for Bob Geldof and Midge Ure’s project – Famine Relief in Ethiopia. A BBC report by Michael Buerk in late 1984 highlighted an ongoing famine decimating the Ethiopians. Previous famines had already hampered agricultural production. Civil wars destroyed farmland and upset basic trade. Drought exacerbated diminished crop returns. While the serious crop failures occurred in the north, 5.8 million people were affected by the combined factors by early 1984. Famine relief predates Band Aid’s song, however they were not particularly well managed.

The Ethiopian government proved either unable or unwilling to deal with the escalating problems. Food was withheld from rebel areas. The nation’s economy, based on agriculture, was in near total collapse. As the drought continued ≈ 8 million people were affected by the famine and over 1 million died. The BBC report inspired the RAF to initiate air drops of food to the starving people. Soon other nations also began bringing food in and delivering it directly to the starving millions.

Bob Geldof was given the use of Sarm West, Trevor Horn’s studio. Horn was unable to produce the song but donated the venue for 24 hours free of charge. Midge Ure produced the song he and Geldof co-wrote. They arrived at 6 AM and were able to prepare the Sarm system. The media and the artists began to arrive by 9 AM. It was decided to record the crescendo/chorus first. The media were given a photo opportunity and the group learned to work together. Next, individual lines were recorded. Boy George flew in from the US and arrived at 6 PM. Ure and Geldof worked through the night, completing the mix. They finished at 8 AM Monday morning.

The song went to the pressing plants and the press was ready by Tuesday. The record went on sale Thursday, November 29 and went immediately to the number one spot on the charts. The only record to outsell the group’s effort has been Elton John’s tribute to Princess Diana. Do They Know It’s Christmas sold 3.51 million copies and together with Live Aid, a concert put on by Geldof in July 1985, raised £110 million for famine relief. The song was recorded again in 1989 and 2004.

“I don’t think anyone sets out to malign poor people but certainly that’s what we do through organizations such as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.”

“It’s really very simple, Governor. When people are hungry they die. So spare me your politics and tell me what you need and how you’re going to get it to these people.”

“Everything that’s rock n roll is ever meant to be is happening now. I need to get over the shock that that thing is actually happening and that thousands of millions of people around the world are watching.”

“Mankind at its most desperate is often at its best.” – all from Bob Geldof

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Bob Geldof was born in 1951 in County Dublin, Ireland. He rose to fame as the lead singer for the Boomtown Rats, an Irish rock band of the 1970s and 80s. He is also a songwriter, having cowritten the above song which was one of the best selling singles of all time. He did some occasional acting as well as being a political activist. He and Midge Ure founded the charity, Band Aid, to help raise money as well as awareness for famine relief and then organized both Live Aid and the Live 8 concerts in 2005. He is currently an adviser to the ONE Campaign, another charity founded by fellow Irishman, Bono. He is a father’s rights activist having suffered the plight of single fatherhood. He has twice been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. He has also received the Man of Peace title which honors, as the name suggests, work for peace and justice in an often unjust and chaotic world.

Also on this day: Trapped – In 1952, Agatha Christie’s play, The Mousetrap, is first produced – and it continues live performances to this day.
Perfect Storm – In 1703, England was ravaged by its worst storm when a hurricane made landfall.
Thankful – In 1926, this Thanksgiving Day spawned several tornadoes.