Wednesday, May 25, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #17


Written: December 14, 2004 [The latest version of the song that started the Live Aid phenomenon, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, by the European music stars of today, is at number one in the UK charts today]


The date was July 13th, 1985.

It was a day when the Western Civilization woke up and realized they could actually make a difference and see the human race as something worth living for.

It was a day when a load of larger than life egos got together and shared a couple of stages to give the world a powerful message.

It was a day when so much money was raised it made me wonder if it was the lack of money that was really the problem.

It was a day when I realized the irrelevence of the word “charity”, which suggests the condescending offering of crumbs from our table, when events like this should happen more out of a sense of duty to ensure that everyone can claim their rightful place at it.

It was a day I never wanted to end.

When it came to dinnertime in the Lee household, it was the culmination of what could have been up to 24 hour’s preparation on the part of my grandmother. Were there to be one, the conversation at the table was usually her arguing with me over generation-gap-fuelled topics while my grandfather sat eating, unfazed by it all.

One day, however, he chose to join in, when I broached the subject of Live Aid, which was a couple of weeks away at the time. I thought since my grandparents were religious they may have appreciated those involved for the work they were doing. To my absolute amazement, they both turned up their noses when I mentioned Bob Geldof’s name.

“What’s wrong with him?”, I asked.

Maybe he didn’t have an actual voice, but Grandpa’s facial expressions more than made up for lack of sound when he was making a point. “I don’t like him, he is way too vulgar”, he whispered, as his wife nodded vigorously across the table.

“Oh, for God’s sake, can you not see the point of what he’s doing? Who cares about the language he’s using??? Why can’t you open your eyes and see what’s going on instead of giving out about his actual words???”

And with that I stormed off and slammed the door of my room. This may be a common teenage occurrence in most households, but it was the only time I ever did it. I assumed I would be in all kinds of trouble for committing the heinous act of taking the Lord’s name in vain at the dinner table.

In reality, nothing was done, nothing was said. The three of us continued living in our own social coccoons right up to the day of the concert, when of course I was rooted to the television all day. I presume he was in his room reading and she was knee deep in whatever she got knee deep in to prepare yet another meal.

I was oblivious to them both as I took in the events of the day. Sting’s performance of Roxanne and Every Breath You Take. The shots of starving African children between acts, particularly when put to the tune of The Cars’ “Drive” which had to bring tears to the eyes of all who watched. U2’s breathtaking set which fully cemented their place on the world stage, and which was highlighted by Bono breaking down the barriers between performers and spectators by taking a few girls out of the crowd to dance with him. Phil Collins’ madcap dash across the Atlantic to be able to say he performed at both gigs in London and Philadelphia. David Bowie suggesting they do the concert every year, why not indeed.

And of course, there was Bob Geldof himself making his famous plea throughout. His words highlighted the shame we all must feel that he should even have to ask. If you had a sandwich and a starving man was put down beside you, what would you do? I could not understand with my tender sixteen years why all I heard in the news was crap about butter mountains when a concert like this had to be put on to convince people to help the starving.

At some stage while I was transfixed in the living room, my grandmother tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a cheque made out to Live Aid for IR£20. It may not have been much, but receiving that cheque made me feel so good. The concert really did manage to unite the world in a common cause; even the so-called out of touch older generation was taking notice. With that, I found an envelope, slipped the donation inside, and sent Bob our fuckin money.

It was a combination of the death of my father-in-law, the impending birth of my first child, and the tenth anniversary of the release of the original “Band Aid” hit that inspired my Christmas song “While We”. So far a few donations and the song are my only real contributions to Geldof’s cause. One day I hope to have the balls to put my actions where my pen is.

WHILE WE (written 1994)

While we fly to the sky
Do we stop to think and wonder why?
And while we fight day and night
Do we really know what’s wrong and right?
For while we argue and while we lie
A newborn baby starts to cry

Is the Band Aid dream still happening
Or was it all just an eighties thing?
For while we sing tills they ring
We have to pricetag everything!
And while we haggle and while we buy
One more decade passes by!

Food not bombs, love not money
Homes not parking lots; Do you think it’s funny
That while we argue and while we lie
A newborn baby starts to cry?

While we analyze, while we moralize,
While we theorize, do we empathize?
While we polarize, compartmentalize,
We fail to realize the need to harmonize
And while we eat our fries and plump for supersize
One more hunger victim dies.


© JL Pagano 2004



shandi said...

I've had some of those same conversations with my mother. She would never support non-christian based charities. Apparently the only thing we should be concerned with is the condition of their souls. We were more concerned with spreading the gospel than feeding the hungry. As poor as we were, she managed to tithe 10% to Benny Hinn to support his televised miracles.
Even at that tender age, I knew that her money was wasted. Ohhh and...we weren't allowed to watch "Live-Aid" because it wasn't christian music. I really missed out!

Heidi said...

Great story and excellent song. Thanks for sharing!

Goldberg Nomascus said...

Western Society is driven so much by consumerism and materialism these events serve aas a pill, a quick fix to relieve the guilt abeit short term. Better than nothing mind!