Battle Of The Charity Supergroups: Band Aid Vs. USA For Africa

By December 24, 2012

While it’s true that a proper portrait of the 1980’s included what you saw in films like Wall Street, Less Than Zero and every John Hughes film – people living in excess, or their biggest crisis was getting the cutest guy in high school to fall in love with them.  We, as a country, didn’t really focus on any issues outside of our own front door…until an Irishman from a famous 80’s band (no, it wasn’t Bono) and the King Of Pop turned our attentions to the meaning of the term “third-world” and educated us to what the word “famine” TRULY looked like.

Let’s start with Band Aid.

In October of 1984, Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats (“I Don’t Like Mondays”) was watching a report highlighting the famine that had struck Ethiopia in 1983 and felt compelled to raise money to help.  

Phoning up Ultravox frontman Midge Ure, they quickly penned the track “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” In November, Geldof went on BBC Radio 1 to talk about said track (instead of his next album) in order to whet the world media’s curiosity once the names of the mostly Irish and British (with U.S. exceptions, Jody Watley of Shalimar and Kool And The Gang) recording artists were involved.

It worked.

At 9 am on November 25, 1984, the hum of the cameras were whirring and flashbulbs a popping as members of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Paul Young, Culture Club, George Michael, Kool and The Gang, Bono and Adam Clayton (U2), Heaven 17, Paul Weller (The Style Council, The Jam), Status Quo, Bananarama and Phil Collins (then of Genesis) all gathered at Sarm Studios (owned by Trevor Horn of The Buggles, Yes, Art Of Noise) and history, as well as a stripped-down music video of said session was made.

Do They Know It’s Christmas? (1984)

Released on December 3, 1984, it hit #1 on the UK pop charts and sold 1 million copies in the first week and stayed #1 for 5 weeks and selling more than 3 million copies (2.5 million in U.S.). Other artists like Jim Diamond urged fans NOT to buy their singles and buy “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” instead.

In the near 30 years since, the song inspired a worldwide concert (LIVE AID) and has been re-recorded SEVERAL times and even parodied by the likes of Rob Huebel (Childrens Hospital) and Weird Al Yankovic.

Inspired by what Geldof and Band Aid had achieved, Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie wrote “We Are The World” and invited 47 of their closest friends to come help them record it.

Known as USA for Africa (United Support of Artists for Africa), well known American recording artists like Bette Midler, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, Stevie Wonder, Cyndi Lauper and more “heeded the call”. Joined by two non-U.S. performers, actor Dan Aykroyd (Canada) and of course, Bob Geldof, “We Are The World” was recorded January 28, 1985 and released in March that same year.

We Are The World (1985)

USA for Africa also staged “Hands Across America” (with a very unfortunate song attached), where 7 million people paid ten dollars each to hold hands in a human chain across the continental U.S. for a total of 15 minutes, with proceeds also going toward the fight against hunger and homeless situation in Africa. These two events combined collected nearly $100 million and “We Are The World” has also gone through several updates including “We Are The World 25 for Haiti”, benefitting the severely damaged country ravaged by a 7.0 earthquake in 2010 that left 230,000 dead, over 300,000 injured and 1.2 million homeless.

So while I personally prefer the younger, more vibrant “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (as I was a child of the 80s and these were all my fave bands) over the more mature “We Are The World”, I love them both or changing my mind’s landscape of what happens outside my home and inspiring me to want to help those who can’t help themselves.

If you’re still looking for somewhere to feel charitable, I highly recommend checking out this list of worthwhile causes that our very own C.J. Arabia lovingly put together!

Feed the world.

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Cricket Lee
Star Wars fangirl. Named Best Kisser by Time Magazine. CEO/Host: Girl Gamer; host of Gecken: GeekNation; writer: Dread Central. You'll have a crush on me soon. Vote Quimby. Twitter: @crixlee