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Do They Know It's Christmas Yet?: They took a trip back to 1984 and broke it.

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The] biggest toll of the famine was psychological,” Dawit wrote. “None of the survivors would ever be the same. The famine left behind a population terrorized by the uncertainties of nature and the ruthlessness of their government.” Once [Bob] had Midge on board, all Bob’s friends who know his musical limitations would think ‘we know the record will get made now, so it’s not going to embarrass us,” one person familiar with the project observed.

Getting artists to commit to the project wasn’t as difficult as one might expect. Geldof knew a great many performers, and they could see he was passionate about the cause. Meanwhile, Ure brought needed credibility to the project. Such perceptions should not exactly surprise us. Ethiopia’s famine claimed as many as a million lives, according to official estimates (the actual total is likely closer to 400,000); so it’s not unusual that many would associate the land with starvation.A motley crew of the most popular UK performers in the world gathered, including Phil Collins, who arrived with his entire drum set, as well as Sting, George Michael, and others. Geldof and Ure had created a charity superband called Band Aid (get it?), and they had invited a host of popular British and Irish recording artists to perform the new song, which was written for a specific purpose: to raise money for Ethiopians suffering one of the worst famines in modern history.

Many westerners are oblivious to the causes that underpinned Ethiopia’s famine, but Ethiopians are not, and they appear to have learned an important lesson. Fifteen thousand children here now. Suffering. Confused. Lost,” Buerk says, as the camera pans to emaciated bodies of starving Ethiopians. “Death is all around. A child or an adult dies every twenty minutes.” A 45-year-old farmer named Ibrahim who Gill spoke to decades after the famine recalled being pressed into service digging graves as a young man because there were not enough workers.Geldof received a dose of perspective that night when he turned on the BBC and saw a news report delivered by journalist Michael Buerk depicting a severe famine in Ethiopia. By all appearances, it was a massive success. The power of art and celebrity and mass media were combined to engineer a life-saving relief effort in one of the poorest corners of the world. Do They Know It’s Christmas” was released on December 3. It opened with Paul Young on vocals, followed by Boy George, George Michael, Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran, Sting, and Bono. Numerous other artists also participated in the project.

On a chilly October night in England in 1984, Bob Geldof was alone watching TV. As the frontman of the Boomtown Rats, Geldof had tasted fame and success, but his music career was now at a crossroads. The band was in shambles, and Geldof was trying to “manage the decline” as he considered his next step. This formula—peace and expanding economic freedom—has the power to transform Ethiopia like no amount of humanitarian aid can. The song implores us, “Feed the world.” This is precisely what economic freedom has done, sparking the biggest drop in extreme poverty in history. As most readers already know, the song had nothing to do with AIDS, but with a famine in Ethiopia. Fewer, however, know that the famine was man-made.

This is not to diminish the work of Band Aid. If you visit Korem today, you can still see evidence of its works, including a hospital completed on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the famine with proceeds from Geldof and co.

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