The Music Tuesday series continues with bestselling author February Grace. This post really resonates with me for many reasons, including the fact that “Do They Know It’s Christmas” is one of my very favorite Christmas songs. Thanks so much, February for being my guest today.
Not that I listen to it all the time: I just find it a comforting reminder to have it there. I was seeking a specific song—or perhaps I should say the specific feelings associated with it.
I remember, it was 1984. Bob Geldof put together a huge group of the most incredible musicians to record a song to benefit those starving in Africa.
From the first time I heard the chorus of Do They Know It’s Christmas (’84) by Band Aid I was completely hooked. Bono? Simon LeBon? Paul Young? So many others, singing together for such a great cause?
I wanted so much to love that song. Only, I wasn’t allowed to love it.
It was a Christmas song, and in 1984 at the age of thirteen, I was still forbidden from having anything to do with anything that had anything to do with Christmas. Or any other holiday.
It wasn’t only holiday music and celebrating that was forbidden, however. Not long before that, the leaders of the religion I was raised in decided to crack down on the youth, especially, expressing themselves and their emotions by being able to choose what kind of music they were allowed to listen to. At a large convention, a speech was delivered specifically targeting music they said encouraged drug use, promiscuity, adult themes or rebellion, or even patriotism. We were warned of backwards messages recorded into albums that would supposedly turn us toward the service of the devil. We were told we must remove all such music from our homes, and lives, immediately.
I remember my parents taking us home that day, then getting a giant garbage bag and tossing in record after record. I will never forget my sisters’ silent tears as they watched their Queen, ELO, and Styx albums, among others, go into the trash. When they were finished, there was almost nothing left.
I remember being very careful what I listened to from that point on; I had grown up on the music of my sisters (and knew all the words— still do) but by the time I reached my own teen years, it was bands like a-ha and Duran Duran that were at the top of my favorites list. Still I knew some of the material wouldn’t be acceptable to my parents, so I used to listen to music with headphones only, or, once I was old enough to drive alone, in the car where no one else could hear.
I also remember being sixteen, and blasting Do They Know It’s Christmas in the car and singing along.
It was the first Christmas song I ever learned all the words to.
It was only years later I realized just how much choosing the music you listen to is associated with who you are, and your personal freedom to be who that is. The religious leaders were right when they said that music is powerful and can sway people’s emotions, because when the time came that I was ready to leave the restrictive life I’d been raised in and prepared to do so—knowing it would cost me everything to do it—I had songs that were ‘anthems’ to me to help me get through it all. I still do.
So listening now, as often as I want and as loud as I want to a song like Do They Know It’s Christmas brings back strong, deep feelings in me.
I wish I could go back in time and hug that sad, good little girl and tell her that it would be okay eventually. Though it would cost her everything, she would find her way to freedom.
I wish I could hug all those who travel a similar path and long for freedom the same thing.
Music is a powerful thing, and can give you strength in ways you least expect.
For me, it reminds me to always be who I am, because we only get one shot a life, we should be allowed to decide for ourselves what we believe, what we celebrate, and what we want to sing.
Sing loud, everyone. Sing loud, and be you.
You can find February Grace on Twitter @FebruaryGrace. She is the author of GODSPEED, OF STARDUST, and IN STARLIGHT, published by Booktrope. UPON A TIME is coming in Spring, 2015, and WISHING CROSS STATION is in progress.
You can also learn more about her and her writing by visiting her blog: http://www.februarywriter.blogspot.com