The Controversial Lyric Bono Didn’t Want to Sing

Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was a valiant effort. It brought together a host of music greats in support of famine relief efforts in Ethiopia. Despite the worthy cause, U2’s Bono took issue with his part in the song. It all came down to one controversial lyric.

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The Controversial Lyric Bono Didn’t Want to Sing

While Bono believed in the cause, he wasn’t thrilled with his lyric distribution. The songwriters, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, attempted to write a line that made listeners in the West feel grateful for their lot in life–hopefully inspiring them to give to the cause.

Bono was charged with singing the lines below. He felt, instead of inspiring the listener to feel grateful, it came across as insensitive.

Well, tonight thank God it’s them
Instead of you

And the Christmas bells that ring there
Are the clanging chimes of doom

“I had to sing the most troubling line of the whole tune, ‘Tonight thank God it’s them instead of you,'” Bono wrote in Surrender. “When Bob [Geldolf] handed me the lyric, I said, ‘I’ll sing any line but this one.’ Maybe it’s that thought that got me here.”

According to Bono, Geldof felt like the line was necessary for the emotional core of the song.

“I told him I didn’t want to sing the line,” Bono continued. “He said, ‘This is not about what you want, OK? This is about what these people need.’ I was too young to say, ‘This is about what you want.’ But it was his show and I was happy to be in it. I knew it needed some force, the line. I kind of did an impersonation of Bruce Springsteen, that was really what was in my mind.”

Revisit the song, below.

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

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