The School Newspaper of Cherry Hill High School East


The School Newspaper of Cherry Hill High School East


The School Newspaper of Cherry Hill High School East


Decades later, two charity songs stay true to their goals

Art by Katie Sullivan (‘25)/ Eastside Art Director

In my house, there are roughly ten songs we listen to while we unwrap presents on Christmas Day. But, per my family’s routine, the first two to play are always “Do they Know it’s Christmas” and “We Are the World.”

Although “We are the World” is not typically associated with Christmas, its spirit of giving has made it an innate part of the “soundtrack of the holiday season” for my family.

But truth be told, even though both songs have gained tremendous popularity over the years, few people know the artists’ motives behind these songs: helping those struggling with famine, poverty and death in underprivileged countries.

From 1983 to 1985, Ethiopia experienced a famine that left an estimated one million people dead and at least six million more in danger of starvation. It was one of the worst famines of the decade, and citizens needed help. So in 1984, singer Bob Geldof and the frontman of the rock band Ultravox, Midge Ure, brought together some of the UK and Ireland’s biggest musicians. These stars came together to form a group they called “Band Aid” to help those suffering in the only way they knew how — through song.

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And so “Do they Know it’s Christmas” was released with the contributions of dozens of artists and the promise that all proceeds would go directly towards Ethiopia. With low expectations, contributors shared a hope that the all-star single would perhaps raise $70,000 for the cause.

But their low expectations couldn’t have been more wrong. In just one year, the song raised an estimated $8 million and entered the UK chart at No. 1, staying there for about five weeks. The artists then donated all the money to the struggling country, and it is speculated that they saved countless lives by doing so.

A few years later, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers and Bruce Springsteen — alongside numerous other artists — were inspired by the success of “Do they Know it’s Christmas” and came together under similar circumstances: they wanted to help to raise funds for Haiti after a devastating earthquake left thousands dead and injured, and they also wanted to do it through a song.

And so, “We are the World” was introduced across global radio stations. Since the day of its release in 1985, it has raised the equivalent of $168 million for its causes. Similar to “Do they Know it’s Christmas,” 90 percent of this money was pledged to African relief, both long and short term.

From the time of their releases, both songs were met with resounding success. They both brought together some of the biggest artists of their time, and they both helped — and continue to help — their causes tremendously.

As families tuned into their radios this past Christmas, they heard these songs that have become integrated into the holiday season. And while they may have thought they were just enjoying a catchy tune, they were actually supporting charitable missions worldwide.

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About the Contributor
Isabelle Berger, Eastside Global Commentary Editor
Currently a junior at East, Isabelle is a Print Global Commentary Editor for Eastside. She participates in a number of activities both inside and outside of East, and she spends much of her free time devoted to her 501(c)(3) charity through the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). In her free time, Isabelle can usually be found reading, binge watching Netflix or baking.

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