Some Christmas songs have entered the consciousness of the nation, and are played again and again at Christmas time. The songs which work best evoke memories or pictures, from Ethiopian famine to an image of Raymond Briggs’ Snowman flying through the air hand in hand with a young boy.
Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid
Do They Know It’s Christmas?, brainchild of Bob Geldof, was written in response to news reports about the Ethiopian famine in 1984. Geldof co-wrote the song with Midge Ure, and brought together some of the most famous pop stars of the time for the recording. Stars included David Bowie, Phil Collins, Boy George, Paul McCartney, George Michael, Sting and Paul Young. The charity single achieved huge sales, realising Geldof’s aim of raising both public awareness and money to support his cause. The song was recorded again by Band Aid 2 in 1989 and Band Aid 20 in 2004; both versions were Christmas number ones.
Mistletoe and Wine – Cliff Richard
Simple tune, catchy chorus, easily remembered lyrics – recipe for the 1988 Christmas number one. The song was originally written for the musical The Little Matchgirl, highlighting the contrast between the plight of the match girl and those who were well fed and warm at Christmas time. Cliff liked the song and got agreement to change some of the words for his version which focused on the joy and religious significance of Christmas.
Walking In The Air – Aled Jones
Walking In The Air is the theme tune to the animated movie version of Raymond Brigg’s picture book The Snowman, in which a young boy builds a snowman who comes to life, taking the boy on a remarkable flight over land and sea. The original soundtrack featured the chorister Paul Auty, but it was Aled Jones’ recording that made the song famous – the young Welsh singer captured the hearts of the British public. Jones has sustained his singing career in adulthood and is a regular presenter for the television programme Songs of Praise
Wherever You Are – Military Wives with Gareth Malone
A huge Christmas number one hit in 2011, the words for the song come from letters written by wives and girlfriends to servicemen in Afghanistan and letters sent in return. The single came to life under the magical touch of Gareth Malone, a man who believes passionately that anyone can sing and who has worked with many community choirs. Proceeds from sales of the song go to the Royal British Legion and SSAFA – two charities deeply involved in supporting forces personnel and their families.