Do We Know It's Christmas?

From Mary Valle, an editor at the Killing the Buddha, a thoughtful and hilarious look back at Bob Geldof's famous Christmas anthem:

As the story goes, the frequently-belligerent Irishman/slightly successful rock singer Bob Geldof saw a report on the BBC about ongoing famine in Africa and became so incensed that he immediately took action, rounding up a passel of British rock and pop stars, writing a song, recording the thing and having it out by Christmas, wherein it immediately became the biggest-selling single in English music history. It has since been surpassed by that dreadful Elton John recycled-Diana-tribute “Candle in the Wind.”

The song, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, has now passed into the realm of classichood, which is odd, since it was written on the fly and never really intended to enter the annals of Christmas music history. Children now know this song without knowing anything of its history due to its inclusion on Christmas music packages and being on “Glee.” It’s a part of Christmas music programs all over the country.

The song itself is an odd piece of business. How many Christmas carols contain words like bitter, doom, afraid, shame (OK, I know it’s shade but I always hear it as shame and think “That song was written by an Irishman!”) Sir Bob, or St. Bob as he’s mostly unaffectionately known in England, has been widely mocked for suggesting that people in Africa don’t know it’s Christmas or that “nothing ever grows” there—indeed, “no rain or rivers flow.” It’s a little weird, especially considering he could have, say, consulted an encyclopedia while writing the song to discover that things do grow in Africa, and in Ethiopia in particular, the majority of the population is Christian. So yeah, they did, and do, know it’s Christmas.

Advertisement

Read the rest here.

And if you're hankering to hear the song, here you go:

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

The latest from america

So what does it matter what a celibate woman thinks about contraception?
Helena BurnsJuly 20, 2018
Former US President Barack Obama gestures to the crowd, during an event in Kogelo, Kisumu, Kenya, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo Brian Inganga)
In Johannesburg, Obama gave what some commentators consider his most important speech since he vacated the Oval Office.
Anthony EganJuly 20, 2018
With his "Mass," Leonard Bernstein uses liturgy to give voice to political unease.
Kevin McCabeJuly 20, 2018
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, arrives for the Jan. 6 installation Mass of Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
Women often “bring up the voice of those who are the most vulnerable in our society,” says Hans Zollner, S.J., who heads the Centre for Child Protection in Rome.