Band Aid and the biggest charity songs of all time

As the likes of One Direction, Ellie Goulding and Ed Sheeran limber up to join Bob Geldoff and Bono on Band Aid 30 for Ebola - we take a look back at some of the other biggest singles for good causes

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Bob Geldof’s back in the recording studio this Saturday to record the fourth version of the original 1984 charity single Do They Know It’s Christmas.


The song will get its first airing on The X Factor on Sunday night, and will include performances from One Direction, Ellie Goulding, Emeli Sande, Elbow, Coldplay and many more.

As Geldof and company sing for a good cause this Saturday, take a look back at some of the biggest charity singles of the past 40 years.

Bangla Desh (1971)

George Harrison

Recognised by many as the first “charity single” of its type, George Harrison’s 1971 song formed the centrepiece of his Concert for Bangladesh held in New York designed to raise awareness of the refugees in the former East Pakistan following the 1970 Bhola Cyclone and the outbreak of the Bangladesh Liberation War. Collaborators in the project included Eric Clapton, Billy Preston and Ringo Starr.  The song charted in the top 10 in the UK and the top 25 in the USA.

Do They Know It’s Christmas (1984)

Band Aid

Written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, the single remains one of the best known and biggest selling pop songs of all time.  Featuring performances from David Bowie, Bono, Paul McCartney, Sting, Boy George, Duran Duran and Phil Collins to name but a few, the record raised money and awareness for the Ethiopian famine.  It was recorded in just one day in Notting Hill and released just four days later.

We Are The World (1985)

USA for Africa

Penned by the king of pop Michael Jackson with smooth legend Lionel Ritchie, the song was inspired by the Band Aid movement in the UK and was also in aid of the Ethiopian famine. Everyone who’s anyone in the world of US music took part on the song including Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Tina Turner, Dianna Ross, Willie Nelson and Bruce Springsteen.  One of the best selling charity singles ever, the record shifted more than 20 million units.

Living Doll (1986)

Cliff Richard and the Young Ones

The very first Comic Relief record, and probably the best.  Starring the late great Rik Mayall alongside Ade Edmondson and the rest of the anarchic Young Ones crew – these punks really know how to rattle one of Britain’s veteran rock ‘n’ rollers.

Candle in the Wind (1997)

Elton John

The song sung during the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales was also sold to raise money for the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial fund. By 2012, the song had raised £38 million for the charity established in Diana’s name.

Is This the Way to Amarillo (2005)

Tony Christie and Peter Kay

Released for Comic Relief, Peter Kay mimed the lyrics to the 1971 hit along with a pile of celebrity special guests, including Brian May, Michael Parkinson, Ronnie Corbett. The music video also inspired an amazing parody by British soldiers in Iraq, Is this the Way to Armadillo.

The video and single have since been tainted however, as it includes an appearance from disgraced presenter Jimmy Saville.

Wherever You Are (2011)

Gareth Malone and the Military Wives Choir

Choirmaster Gareth Malone is aiming for another number one hit this year with his Celebrity choir for Children in Need. But in 2012 he and the now-famous Military Wives choir made it to Christmas number one with their single Wherever You Are. The song sold over 556,000 copies in a week, making it the fastest selling charity single since Candle in the Wind.


In February 2012, the choir handed over a cheque worth £503,985 to the Royal British Legion and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA).