Category: charity

Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat at Warhol’s studio at 860 Broadway in New York City on April 23, 1984.

On this day in music history: November 25, 1984 – The single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid is recorded. Written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, the one off benefit single for famine relief in Africa is a huge worldwide hit. Boomtown Rats leader Bob Geldof sees a BBC news report on the plight of famine stricken people in the African nation of Ethiopia. Deeply moved by what he has seen, Geldof enlists the help of Midge Ure of Ultravox, along with over thirty British and US pop stars including Paul Young, Boy George, George Michael, Sting, Bono, Duran Duran, Bananarama, members of Kool & The Gang and Jody Watley to help produce a record with all of the earnings being donated to famine relief. Recorded at producer Trevor Horn’s SARM West Studios in Notting Hill, London, the track is recorded in one twenty four hour long marathon recording session. Phil Collins is also asked by Geldof play on the track, overdubbing his live drum track on to the song in a single take. Other artists like David Bowie, Paul McCartney and Holly Johnson who are unable to participate in the actual recording session, record spoken messages for the “Feed The World” version on the B-side of the record. The single is released in the UK on November 29, 1984 (US release date is on December 3, 1984), with Mercury Records in the UK and Columbia Records in the US donating pressing and distribution of the single for free. Famed pop artist Sir Peter Blake (“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”) designs the singles’ iconic sleeve artwork. It quickly sets a record as the best selling single in history in UK record history, selling over 3.7 million copies in only two weeks. By 1989, its worldwide sales will reach over 11.8 million copies sold, holding the sales record until 1997 when it is surpassed by Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind 1997”. “Christmas” spends five weeks at number one on the UK singles chart beginning on December 15, 1984, and peaking at number thirteen on the Billboard Top 200 on December 29, 1984, earning millions for Ethiopian famine relief. A thirty minute long documentary on the making of the landmark single titled “Do They Know It’s Christmas? – The Story Of The Official Band Aid Video” is released on home video by Polygram Music Video in the UK and Vestron Video in the US (VHS, Beta, and eight inch laserdisc). The song is re-recorded in 1989 (as Band Aid II), 2004 (as Band Aid 20), and a for a third time in 2014 (Band Aid 30) with the latest recording raising funds for the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono

donating their hair to

Michael X on the roof of Black House in Holloway Road, London on February 4, 1970 

London-based activist Michael X, reached out to John and Yoko after they made headlines for paying fines incurred by anti-apartheid activists who interrupted a rugby match between Scotland and South Africa. Inspired by the gesture, Michael asked John and Yoko to support the Black House, a home for disadvantaged youth in London. Having recently cut off their hair, they offered to exchange it for a pair of Muhammad Ali’s boxing shorts The hair was intended to be auctioned off to support the Black House and the shorts being sold to raise money for John and Yoko’s peace campaign. 

John and Yoko’s donation didn’t seem to have much impact. The Beatles Bible notes that there was never any proof that they put their own proceeds toward the peace campaign, and the Black House closed before the end of 1970, later burning down “in mysterious circumstances.”

Michael X, was later arrested for extortion following the Black House’s destruction (John Lennon paid his bail) and ultimately fleeing to his native Trinidad, where he started a commune that also burned in 1972. Investigators discovered corpses buried in shallow graves on the site, and he was hanged in 1975.

Aaliyah at the Urban Aid 4 Lifebeat event in New York on October 4, 1995.

Randy Jackson,

Jackie Jackson,

Marlon Jackson, Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson

meet with Mayor William Donald Schaefer

and visit a local hospital in Baltimore, 1975.