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Stars Redo "Christmas"

Remake of all-star single to benefit Sudanese famine victims

October 21, 2004 12:00 AM ET
Twenty years after the all-star charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" raised money to provide famine relief to Ethiopia and inspired the star-studded Live Aid benefit concert, some of today's top British acts plan to record a new version of the song to aid famine victims in the Sudan. Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Beck) is slated to produce the track, and Coldplay, the Darkness and Travis are among those on the shortlist of participants.

"This is a fantastic idea," posts Travis singer Fran Healy on the band's Web site. "I will be anywhere they want me to be at anytime, and I will cancel any engagement to take part."

The original "Do They Know It's Christmas?," written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, featured vocals by Sting, Bono, George Michael and Boy George, among dozens of others. The song became the biggest-selling song in U.K. history and inspired an American response: 1985's "We Are the World," featuring Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder, recorded under the name U.S.A. for Africa.

"It was two totally incompatible bits of music that had to be glued together with a new piece of music in the middle, and the last thing we came up with was the 'Feed The World' bit," Ure told Rolling Stone of "Do They Know Its Christmas?" "It's a song without a chorus. It shouldn't work, but it did because of what was going on, because of the people who contributed their talents to it, because of the media exposure."

The Band Aid Trust, which oversees the monies raised from the single and the Live Aid projects, have raised $144 million dollars for famine relief in struggling African nations.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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