They (Thankfully) Changed The Lyrics To “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” For Band Aid 30

My least favorite Christmas song of all is “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, the 1984 Band Aid hit to raise money to help with the famine in Ethiopia. Have you really listened to the lyrics to that song? A few choice lines:

  • There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas: First of all, no, it doesn’t snow in most of Africa most of the time, because the head of the continent lies on the equator. It doesn’t snow in Africa around Christmastime because December in Africa falls in their summer. It does snow in Africa during their winter, in some parts, sometimes. What that has to do with famine in Ethiopia, I’ll never know, not least of all because Ethiopia is hardly representative of the entire continent of Africa.

  • Where nothing ever grows, no rain or river flows: The famine in Ethiopia lasted from 1983-1985. It’s not that nothing ever grows. However, the famine had already started when the drought began. The primary cause of the famine was war, not a lack of water.

  • Tonight thank God it’s them instead of you: If people are dying, I’m not going to thank God for it, thanks, Bono.

All in all, the song painted a picture of Africa as helpless, hungry, dry, and poor, without drawing a distinction between the country of Ethiopia and the entire continent of Africa. Good intentions, terrible delivery.

The song is now being re-recorded for raise money to help Ebola patients in Africa, and the lyrics have been blessedly re-written to alleviate some of the white-saviorism of the original. Here are a few of the changes:

  • No peace and joy this Christmas in West Africa: Significantly improving upon the Africa-as-a-monolith trope, this line specifically identifies the region of Africa most heavily impacted by Ebola.

  • Where a kiss of love can kill you and there’s death in every tear: This replaces “Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears,” and is specific to Ebola, and accurate, because Ebola does spread through saliva. The line replacing “Where nothing ever grows, no rain or river flows” is “Where to comfort is to fear, where to touch is to be scared,” which similarly points out the emotional consequences of Ebola.

  • Tonight we’re reaching out and touching you: This replaces Bono’s “Tonight thank God it’s them instead of you,” and I’m thanking god that it was changed, because SERIOUSLY.

The new single will be exempt from taxes in the UK, so all the proceeds will go to charity. Hopefully the new single will help to provide resources where they’re needed most in Ebola-affected regions, although personally, I might just choose to donate directly instead of buying the song. You can watch the video here.

[Business Insider]

[Human Rights Watch]

[Image via YouTube]

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