On 21st May 2015 Bob Geldof and Midge Ure were presented with The Ivors Special Anniversary Award.
To mark the 60th anniversary of the Ivor Novello Awards BASCA created a special award; an Ivor that not only acknowledges songwriting – it acknowledges the achievements of a British and an Irish songwriter, who through their songwriting have changed the lives of those in need.
Originally commissioned to appear in the award ceremony programme, music journalist Mark Sutherland, profiles the story so far:
When people talk about a pop song saving their life, they usually mean it figuratively. But Do They Know It’s Christmas?, written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, has saved literally tens of thousands of lives since its first incarnation 30 years ago – the perfect reason to honour its composers with The Ivors Special Anniversary Award.
The original Band Aid recording was put together after Geldof, then best known as singer of The Boomtown Rats, saw news of the Ethiopian famine on the BBC. He was determined to do something about it, but wasn’t sure what – until he spoke to Ultravox singer Ure, and they decided to try and write a song.
So what would become, at the time, the biggest selling single in history was put together in just a few days, with the pair attempting to cement their separate ideas into one cohesive whole. Ure has attributed the song’s unusual structure – the “Feed the world!” hook was the last thing to be added, and only appears at the end of the song – to this process but, however unconventional the song, it has captured the imagination of successive generations of musicians and the public.
Viewed purely as a pop song, the fact that it has attracted the vocal talents of Bono, Chris Martin, Sting, Paul Weller, Kylie Minogue, Robbie Williams, Ed Sheeran and One Direction and been a hit in four separate incarnations is remarkable enough. But it’s the huge amount of money raised for humanitarian relief since it first chimed out across Sarm West Studios in London in late 1984 that marks Do They Know It’s Christmas? down as one of the most incredible compositions in history.
Its original target was to raise £250,000. Yet over the years, the Band Aid Trust has in fact raised and spent around $230 million on both immediate famine relief and longer-term projects, while the latest version, last year’s Band Aid 30 – with lyrics rewritten for the occasion – raised money to fight the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
And although Geldof and Ure’s songwriting catalogues contain many other classics, not even I Don’t Like Mondays or Vienna can rival the impact of the festive tune they hammered out together in double quick time 30 years ago. Because, in both the musical and humanitarian sense, Do They Know It’s Christmas? is the gift that keeps on giving.
Mark Sutherland (c) 2015