"Do They Know It's Christmas?" is a song that was written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, and originally recorded in 1984 by the charity supergroup Band Aid for Ethiopia's famine from 1983 to 1985. In 2014, a fourth version was recorded by Band Aid 30 to raise money towards the Ebola crisis.[1][2] The track has re-tweaked lyrics to reflect the current Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa with all proceeds going towards battling what Geldof described as a "particularly pernicious illness because it renders humans untouchable and that is sickening".[1][3]

The song was recorded by some of the biggest-selling current British and Irish pop acts, including One Direction, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Emeli Sandé, Ellie Goulding and Rita Ora. Bastille and Guy Garvey of Mercury prize-winning band Elbow were also on board, along with Chris Martin (who recorded the opening lines of the 2004 version) and Bono (who sang the tenth line in both the 1984 and 2004 versions).[4]


Tracy Emin provided the artwork, and Paul Epworth produced the track.[5]

The song was recorded on 15 November 2014, with all contributions going towards battling the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa. Due to her filming commitments on The Voice UK, Rita Ora recorded her lines first thing in the morning, and was not present for the whole group chorus (although the video cuts to her singing alone along with them).[6] The song was recorded in Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London, the same studio used for the original track.[7] Organiser Bob Geldof said he addressed the participants "like the headmaster" before they sang the chorus: "I explained the situation in West Africa, I explained what the UN were saying, explained what we could do, and just geed them up."[8]

Footage of the recording of the session was streamed live on an official app, with the footage forming the basis for the music video.[9]


The official music video for Band Aid 30 was first shown on the results show of The X Factor on 16 November 2014,[10] with Geldof suggesting that the song and video shown on The X Factor may not be the finished versions. "We'll have a rough edit on The X Factor and we'll have a rough edit of the film," he said.[8] The video was introduced by Bob Geldof, who described the new recording as a "bit of pop history". He said the video—which began with shots of victims of Ebola—was "harrowing and not meant for an entertainment show" but was something The X Factor audience should see.[8]

Following this, the song was available for digital download on 17 November 2014, just 11 days short of the 30th anniversary of the release of the original version of the track. The physical version of the song was released three weeks later on 8 December, and featured cover artwork designed by artist Tracey Emin.[7] The download costs 99p, while the CD single retails for £4. The song was not made available on Spotify and other music streaming services until January 2015.[7] There was also a remix of the track by the electronic group Underworld.[11]

On 15 November 2014, it was confirmed by Geldof that the Chancellor George Osborne would waive VAT on the record, with all the money raised by the track going towards the cause.[12] He also confirmed in interviews that iTunes are not taking a cut of the 99p download cost.

On 18 November 2014, the BBC reported that the song was the fastest selling single of the year so far, with 206,000 copies sold since its release the day before. Martin Talbot, Chief Executive of the Official Charts Company, said: "Everyone expected a strong start from Bob Geldof and his team, but they have outperformed expectations with a truly exceptional first day's sales."[13] This makes it the fastest selling single since the Military Wives track "Wherever You Are" in December 2011.


The line up for Band Aid 30:[14][15]

Organisers and producersEdit

  • Bob Geldof – organiser
  • Midge Ure – organiser
  • Paul Epworth – producer


  • Roger Taylor (from Queen) – drums, keyboards
  • Milan Neil Amin-Smith (from Clean Bandit) – violin
  • Grace Chatto (from Clean Bandit) – cello


  • Bono (from U2)
  • Clean Bandit
  • Paloma Faith
  • Guy Garvey (from Elbow)
  • Ellie Goulding
  • Angélique Kidjo
  • Chris Martin (from Coldplay)
  • Sinéad O'Connor
  • One Direction
  • Rita Ora
  • Olly Murs
  • Emeli Sandé
  • Seal
  • Ed Sheeran
  • Dan Smith (from Bastille)
  • Sam Smith
  • Underworld
  • Jessie Ware


  • Underworld


The lyrics of this version are different to the previous versions, being substantially altered to address the current situation in Western Africa, with the ongoing Ebola epidemic. The changes include:[14]

  • "Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears" replaced with "Where a kiss of love can kill you and there's death in every tear"
  • "Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you" replaced with "Well tonight we're reaching out and touching you"

One Direction:
It's Christmas time, and there's no need to be afraid
Ed Sheeran:
At Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shade
Rita Ora:
And in our world of plenty, we can spread a smile of joy

Sam Smith:
Throw your arms around the world
At Christmas time

Paloma Faith:
But say a prayer and pray for the other ones
Emeli Sandé:
At Christmas time, it's hard but while you're having fun
Guy Garvey:
There's a world outside your window, and it's a world of dread and fear
Dan Smith:
Where a kiss of love can kill you
Angélique Kidjo:
And there's death in every tear
Chris Martin:
And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom

Well tonight we're reaching out and touching you

Bring peace and joy this Christmas to West Africa
Ellie Goulding:
A song of hope when there's no hope tonight (ooh)
Sinéad O'Connor:
Why is comfort to be feared?
Why is to touch to be scared?
How can they know it's Christmas time at all?

Here's to you
Olly Murs:
Raise a glass to everyone
Here's to them
Sam Smith:
And all their years to come

Rita Ora:
Can they know it's Christmas time at all?

Feed the world, let them know it's Christmas time again
Feel the world, let them know it's Christmas time again
Heal the world, let them know it's Christmas time again
Feed the world, let them know it's Christmas time again
Feel the world, let them know it's Christmas time again
Heal the world, let them know it's Christmas time again
Feed the world, let them know it's Christmas time again
Feel the world, let them know it's Christmas time again
Heal the world

Music VideoEdit

Band Aid 30 - Do They Know It’s Christmas? (2014)04:51

Band Aid 30 - Do They Know It’s Christmas? (2014)


Music Video

Chart performanceEdit

After release for download, the single went straight to number one in the UK Official Singles Chart for week ending 29 November 2014 having sold 312,000 copies. It dropped the following week.[16] On its physical release on 8 December, it reached number three. The UK version of the song reached number 25 in France, number 2 in Germany and number 1 in Spain and Ireland.[17][18][19][20]

Critical receptionEdit

Initial response to the single was mixed. The Daily Telegraph noted how "technically impressive the current generation of British pop singers are.... [with the artists putting in] a hell of a lot into every over-stretched syllable", although noted that the "jump cut from distressing Third World scenes to smiling first world celebrities will always strike an awkward note".[21] The Guardian noted that in contrast to previous versions of the track, it was "more sombre and downbeat: it features plenty of representatives from the vogueish world of pop-house but their actual sound doesn't impact on the track at all".[22] Finally, Digital Spy were heavily critical of the single stating that they wouldn't "be bullied into buying a mediocre record when there are plenty of other ways to donate and do your bit to help".[23] The Independent criticized the song for retaining what was described as perpetuating the patronizing and condescending perspective of the original, with rapper Fuse ODG citing this as the reason he dropped out of the project.[24]

On 18 November, Liberian Robtel Neajai Pailey, a researcher at the School of Oriental and African Studies argued, on BBC Radio 4's Today, that the question "Do They Know It's Christmas" was meaningless, as most of the victims were Muslim. She described the song as "unoriginal and redundant" and said that it was "reinforcing stereotypes", painting the continent "as unchanging and frozen in time" and was "incredibly patronising and problematic." Arguing against Paley, producer Harvey Goldsmith said her concerns were "ridiculous", adding "I think it's disingenuous for people to turn round and say we shouldn't do anything or sit back and watch it all happen or wait for all those countries that pledged aid and refused to give it so far."[25] For Al Jazeera, Paley wrote "It reeks of the "white saviour complex" because it negates local efforts that have come before it."[26]

On 23 November, singer Lily Allen revealed that she had refused to appear on the record because she considered it "smug" and preferred to donate "actual money".[27]

In December 2014, Ebola survivor William Pooley described the song as "cultural ignorance" and "cringeworthy".[28] Bob Geldof responded by saying "Please. It's a pop song. Relax." He also said that those critical of the lyrics could "f--- off".[29]

Track listingEdit

Digital download
No. Title Length
1. "Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014)"   3:48
2. "Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014)" (Underworld Remix)  
CD single[11]
No. Title Length
1. "Do They Know It's Christmas? Band Aid 30 (2014 version)"    
2. "Do They Know It's Christmas? Band Aid 20 (2004 version)"    
3. "Do They Know It's Christmas? Band Aid II (1989 version)"    
4. "Do They Know It's Christmas? Band Aid (1984 version)"    

Charts and certificationsEdit


Chart (2014) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[30] 3
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[31] 5
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[32] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[33] 3
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[34] 8
Denmark (Tracklisten)[35] 35
France (SNEP)[36] 25
Germany (Media Control Charts)[37] 2
Hungary (Single Top 20)[38] 1
Ireland (IRMA)[39] 1
Italy (FIMI)[40] 11
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[41] 4
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[42] 2
Norway (VG-lista)[43] 40
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[44] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[45] 5
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[46] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[47] 63


Region Certification Sales/shipments
United Kingdom (BPI)[48] Gold 400,000‡
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Release historyEdit

The release history for the tracks is as follows:[11]

Version Country Date Format Label
Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014) United Kingdom 17 November 2014 Digital download
Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014) (Underworld Remix) 8 December 2014
Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014) CD single


  1. 1.0 1.1 Li-mei, Hoang (10 November 2014). "Geldof to fire up charity hit 30 years on to fight Ebola". Retrieved 14 November 2014.
  2. "Do they know it's 2014? Geldof puts Band Aid back together 30 years after it first topped the chart". Daily Mail. 10 November 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  3. "Elbow and Ed Sheeran among Band Aid 30 artists". BBC News. 2014-11-10.
  4. "Band Aid 30: One Direction among celebrity line-up". Telegraph. 2014-11-10.
  5. "Band Aid 30 details revealed: line-up to feature Adele, One Direction, more". 10 November 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  6. "Rita Ora covers up in black hoody and yellow tracksuit as she arrives in Manchester to film The Voice... hours after recording Band Aid 30 in London". Daily Mail. 2014-11-15.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Band Aid song Do They Know It’s Christmas? re-recorded for Ebola cause". The Guardian. 2014-11-10.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Band Aid 30: X Factor unveiling for Ebola charity song". BBC News. 2014-11-16.
  9. "Stars set for Band Aid 30 session". 10 November 2014. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  10. "Band Aid 30 to premiere on X Factor". BBC News. 2014-11-13.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 "Bob Geldof tells the public to download Band Aid 30 single: 'Whether you like it or not'". NME. 2014-11-15.
  12. "Band Aid 30: Read the new lyrics for 'Do They Know It's Christmas?'". Digital Spy. 2014-11-15.
  13. "Band Aid 30: fastest selling single of 2014". 18 November 2014. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Band Aid 30: Stars unite for recording session". 15 November 2014. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  15. "Artist page". Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  16. "Band Aid 30 single storms to number one". BBC news. 23 November 2014. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  17. "Le top de la semaine". Syndicat National de l'édition Phonographique. 17 November 2014.
  18. "German top 40". 29 November 2014.
  19. "Spain top 20". 21 November 2014.
  20. "Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars claim Irish Christmas number one". 22 December 2014. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  21. "Band Aid 30 single, review: 'everyone made it count'". The Daily Telegraph. 2014-11-16.
  22. "Do They Know It's Christmas review – in tune with non-musical times". The Guardian. 2014-11-16.
  23. "Band Aid 30: 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' (2014) - First listen". Digital Spy. 2014-11-16.
  24. "Band Aid 30: Fuse ODG turned down Bob Geldof's song over 'negative' image of Africa". NME. 2014-11-18.
  25. "BBC Radio 4 - Today, 18/11/2014, Does BandAid reinforce stereotypes about Africa?". BBC. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  26. Barry Malone. "'We got this, Bob Geldof, so back off'". Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  27. Siddique, Haroon (23 November 2014). "Lily Allen: Band Aid is smug and I'd rather donate actual money". Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  28. "British Ebola survivor calls Band Aid 30 "cringeworthy"". BBC Newsbeat. 9 December 2014. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
  29. "Bob Geldof: Don't like the Band Aid lyrics? Then f--- off". The Telegraph. 9 December 2014. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
  30. " – Band Aid 30 – Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014)". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  31. "" – Band Aid 30 – Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014)" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  32. " – Band Aid 30 – Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014)" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  33. " – Band Aid 30 – Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014)" (in French). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  34. "Band Aid 30 Album & Song Chart History". Canadian Hot 100 for Band Aid 30. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  35. " – Band Aid 30 – Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014)". Tracklisten. Retrieved 29 November 2014.
  36. " – Band Aid 30 – Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014)" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  37. " – Band Aid 30 – Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014)". GfK Entertainment. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  38. "Archívum – Slágerlisták – MAHASZ" (in Hungarian). Single (track) Top 10 lista. Magyar Hanglemezkiadók Szövetsége. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  39. "Chart Track: Week 49, 2004". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  40. "Top Digital Download" (in Italian). FIMI. November 10, 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  41. " – Band Aid 30 – Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014)" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  42. " – Band Aid 30 – Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014)". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  43. " – Band Aid 30 – Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014)". VG-lista. Retrieved 29 November 2014.
  44. " – Band Aid 30 – Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014)". Canciones Top 50. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  45. " – Band Aid 30 – Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014)". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  46. "Archive Chart: 2014-11-29". UK Singles Chart. 29 November 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  47. "Band Aid 30 Album & Song Chart History". Billboard Hot 100 for Band Aid 30. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  48. "British single certifications – Band Aid 30 – Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014)". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 27 December 2014. Enter Do They Know It's Christmas? (2014) in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Gold in the field By Award. Click Search.

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