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Robert Frederick Zenon "Bob" Geldof, KBE (born 5 October 1951) is an Irish singer, songwriter, author, occasional actor, and political activist. He rose to prominence as the lead singer of the Irish rock band The Boomtown Rats in the late 1970s and early 1980s alongside the punk rock movement. The band had hits with his compositions "Rat Trap" and "I Don't Like Mondays". He co-wrote "Do They Know It's Christmas?", one of the best-selling singles of all time, and starred in Pink Floyd's 1982 film Pink Floyd - The Wall as "Pink".
Geldof is widely recognised for his activism, especially anti-poverty efforts concerning Africa. In 1984 he and Midge Ure founded the charity supergroup Band Aid to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. They went on to organise the charity super-concert Live Aid the following year and the Live 8 concerts in 2005. Geldof currently serves as an adviser to the ONE Campaign, founded by fellow Irishman Bono. A single father, Geldof has also been outspoken for the fathers' rights movement.
Geldof was appointed an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II, and is a recipient of the Man of Peace title which recognises individuals who have made "an outstanding contribution to international social justice and peace", among numerous other awards and nominations. In 2005 he received the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.
Geldof was born and brought up in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland, a son of Robert and Evelyn Geldof. His paternal grandfather, Zenon Geldof, was a Belgian immigrant and a hotel chef. His paternal grandmother, Amelia Falk, was an English Jew from London. When Geldof was six or seven, his mother, Evelyn, 41, died of a cerebral haemorrhage.
Bob Geldof attended Blackrock College, where he was bullied for being a poor rugby player and for his middle name, Zenon. After work as a slaughterman, a road navvy and pea canner in Wisbech, he was hired as a music journalist in Vancouver, British Columbia for The Georgia Straight. He briefly guest hosted the CBC children's program Switchback.
The Boomtown Rats:
Returning to Ireland in 1975, he became lead singer of the Boomtown Rats, a rock group closely linked with the punk movement.
In 1978, The Boomtown Rats had their first No. 1 single in the UK with "Rat Trap", the first new wave chart-topper in Britain. In 1979, they gained international attention with their second UK No. 1, "I Don't Like Mondays". This was both successful and controversial. Geldof had written it in the aftermath of Brenda Ann Spencer's attempted massacre at an elementary school in San Diego, California in 1979.
In 1980, The Boomtown Rats released the album Mondo Bongo. Its single "Up All Night" was a hit in the U.S. and its video was played frequently on MTV.
Geldof became known as a colourful interview subject. The Boomtown Rats' first appearance on Ireland's The Late Late Show saw Geldof as deliberately brusque to host Gay Byrne and during his interview he attacked Irish politicians and the Catholic Church, which he blamed for many of the country's problems. He responded to nuns in the audience who tried to shout him down by saying they had "an easy life with no material worries in return for which they gave themselves body and soul to the church". He also criticised Blackrock College. The interview caused uproar, making it impossible for The Boomtown Rats to play in Ireland again.
In January 2013, Geldof announced The Boomtown Rats would be reforming to play together for the first time since 1986 at that year's Isle of Wight Festival in June. They have subsequently announced further tour dates and released a new CD Back to Boomtown: Classic Rats Hits.
After the Boomtown Rats:
Geldof left the Boomtown Rats in 1986, to launch a solo career and publish his autobiography, Is That It?, which was a UK best-seller.
His first solo records sold reasonably well and spawned the hit singles "This Is The World Calling" (co-written with Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics) and "The Great Song of Indifference". He also occasionally performed with other artists, such as David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and Thin Lizzy. A performance of "Comfortably Numb" with David Gilmour is documented in the 2002 DVD David Gilmour in Concert. In 1992, he performed at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert with the surviving members of Queen at the old Wembley Stadium, singing a song he had co-written with Mercury, called "Too Late God".
Geldof has also worked as a DJ for XFM radio. In 1998, he erroneously announced Ian Dury's death from cancer, possibly due to hoax information from a listener who was disgruntled at the station's change of ownership. The event caused music paper NME (who had been involved in a running feud with Geldof since his Boomtown Rats days--primarily due to his disparagement of The Clash) to call Geldof "the world's worst DJ".
Along with U2's Bono, he has devoted much time since 2000 to campaigning for debt relief for developing countries. His commitments in this field, including the organisation of the Live 8 concerts, kept Geldof from producing any more musical output since 2001's Sex, Age & Death album.
In 2002, he was listed as one of the 100 Greatest Britons in a poll conducted among the general public, despite the fact that he is Irish.
After Live 8, Geldof returned to his career as a musician by releasing a box set containing all of his solo albums entitled Great Songs of Indifference - The Anthology 1986-2001 in late 2005. Following that release, Geldof toured, albeit with mixed success.
In July 2006, Geldof arrived at Milan's Arena Civica, a venue capable of holding 12,000 people, to play a scheduled concert to find that the organisers had not put the tickets on general sale and that only 45 people had shown up. Geldof refused to go on stage once he found out how small the attendance was. To offer some compensation for fans, Geldof stopped to sign autographs to those who had shown up. He then played a well-attended free "Storytellers" concert for MTV Italy in Naples in October 2006.
Geldof's first major charity involvement took place in September 1981, when he performed as a solo artist for Amnesty International's benefit show The Secret Policeman's Other Ball, at the invitation of Amnesty show producer Martin Lewis; he performed a solo version of "I Don't Like Mondays". Other rock artists had 'planted a seed' and appeared to have affected Geldof in a similar manner.
In 1984, Geldof responded to a BBC news report from Michael Buerk about the famine in Ethiopia by mobilising the pop world to do something about the images he had seen. With Midge Ure of Ultravox he wrote "Do They Know It's Christmas?" in order to raise funds. The song was recorded by various artists under the name of Band Aid.
In its first week of release, the single became the UK's fastest-seller of all time, entering the chart at number one and going on to sell over 3 million copies, making it the biggest-selling single in UK history up to that point, a title it held for almost 13 years. The single was also a major US hit, peaking at number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Do They Know It's Christmas?" returned to the UK chart a year later, reaching number three, and eventually it raised over £8 million. Following this, massive success preparations were started for the biggest rock concerts the world had ever seen, the following summer.
New versions of Do They Know It's Christmas were recorded in 1989 and 2004. In November 2014, Geldof announced that he would be forming a further incarnation of Band Aid, to be known as Band Aid 30, to record an updated version of the charity single, with the proceeds going to treat victims of the Ebola virus in West Africa.
As Geldof began to learn more about the situation, he discovered that one of the main reasons why African nations were in such dire peril was because of repayments on loans that their countries had taken from Western banks. For every pound donated in aid, ten times as much would have to leave the country in loan repayments. It became obvious that one song was not enough.
On 13 July 1985, Geldof and Ure organised Live Aid, a huge event staged simultaneously at the Wembley Stadium in London and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia. Thanks to an unprecedented decision by the BBC to clear its schedules for 16 hours of rock music, the event was also broadcast live in the UK on television and radio.
It was one of the most monumental stage shows in history, with Phil Collins flying on Concorde so that he could play at both Wembley and Philadelphia on the same day.
During the broadcast of Live Aid, Geldof shocked viewers into giving cash by not only twice mouthing profanities but also by slamming his fist on the table and ordering them not to go out to the pub but to stay in and watch the show.
Nearly seven hours into the concert in London, Geldof gave an infamous interview in which he used the word fuck. The BBC presenter David Hepworth, conducting the interview, had attempted to provide a list of addresses to which potential donations should be sent; Geldof interrupted him in mid-flow and shouted: "Fuck the address, let's get the phone numbers!" It has passed into folklore that he yelled at the audience, "Give us your fucking money!" although Geldof has stated that this phrase was never uttered. Due to his Irish accent, the profanity was stated to be misheard as "fock" and "focking" respectively. After the outburst, giving increased to £300 per second.
The harrowing video of dying, skeletal children that had been made by photo-journalists setting their films to the tune of "Drive" by the Cars, contributed to the concert's success.
In total, Live Aid raised over £150 million for famine relief. Geldof was subsequently knighted, at age 34, for his efforts. His autobiography, written soon after with Paul Vallely, was entitled Is That It?. This book achieved further fame for being featured on the General Certificate of Secondary Education examination syllabus in a following year.
Much of the money raised by Live Aid went to NGOs in Ethiopia, some of which were under the influence or control of the Derg military junta. Some journalists have suggested that the Derg was able to use Live Aid and Oxfam money to fund its enforced resettlement and "villagification" programmes, under which at least 3 million people are said to have been displaced and between 50,000 and 100,000 killed. However, in November 2010 the BBC formally apologised to Geldof for misleading implications in its stories on the subject of Band Aid, saying it had 'no evidence' that Band Aid money specifically went to buy weapons.
Commission for Africa:
In January 2004, on a visit to friends in Africa, Geldof came to believe that more people were at risk of starvation there than had died in the famine of 1984/85 which had prompted Live Aid. He telephoned the British Prime Minister Tony Blair from Addis Ababa. According to the Live 8 programme notes by Geldof's biographer and friend, Paul Vallely, the Prime Minister responded: "Calm down Bob. ... And come and see me as soon as you get back. "
The result was the Commission for Africa. Blair invited Geldof and 16 other Commissioners, the majority from Africa and many of them politicians in power, to undertake a year-long study of Africa's problems. They came up with two conclusions: that Africa needed to change, to improve its governance and combat corruption, and that the rich world needed to support that change in new ways. That meant doubling aid, delivering debt cancellation, and reforming trade rules. The Commission drew up a detailed plan of how that could be done. It reported in March 2005. To force the issue Geldof decided to create a new international lobby for Africa with eight simultaneous concerts around the world to put pressure on the G8. He called it Live 8. The Commission's recommendations later became the blueprint for the G8 Gleneagles African debt and aid package.
Africa Progress Panel:
Geldof is a member of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), a group of ten distinguished individuals who advocate at the highest levels for equitable and sustainable development in Africa. Every year, the Panel releases a report, the Africa Progress Report, that outlines an issue of immediate importance to the continent and suggests a set of associated policies. In 2012, the Africa Progress Report highlighted issues of Jobs, Justice and Equity. The 2013 report outlined issues relating to oil, gas and mining in Africa.
DATA and the ONE Campaign:
Bob Geldof worked closely with DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa), an organisation founded by U2's Bono in 2002 to promote debt-relief, third world trade and AIDS relief in Africa. It merged with the ONE Campaign in 2008, where Geldof also is very active. In June 2009, on behalf of the ONE Campaign, he co-edited a special edition of the Italian newspaper La Stampa with a view on 35th G8 summit.
Live 8 concerts:
On 31 March 2005, Geldof and Ure announced the Live 8 project, to raise awareness of issues that burden Africa, including government debt, trade barriers, hunger, and AIDS issues. Geldof organised ten concerts on 2 July 2005 in large cities throughout the industrialised world. They featured musicians from different genres and locations around the world. The cities where Live 8 concerts were played were in industrialised countries, and drew huge crowds. The locations were London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Philadelphia, Barrie, Chiba, Johannesburg, Moscow, Cornwall and Edinburgh.
The concerts were free, and were scheduled just days before world leaders gathered in Gleneagles, for the G8 economic summit, on 6 July. Ure organised the 'final push' Live 8 concert at Edinburgh. 'The boys and girls with guitars will finally get to turn the world on its axis,' Geldof said in a statement.Pink Floyd's performance in London was their first since 1981 to include original bassist, Roger Waters, and the last to include keyboardist Rick Wright before his death in 2008.
Criticism of his charity work:
Although part of the campaign "Make Poverty History" (MPH), Live 8 was accused by John Hilary, then a senior executive of the campaign, of hijacking MPH by planning its concerts on the same day as the march in Edinburgh, which was said to be the biggest social justice march in Scottish history.
Geldof was also criticised for the lack of African acts performing at Live 8. Geldof responded that only the biggest-selling artists would attract the huge audience required to capture the attention of the world in the run-up to the G8 meeting.
In the lead-up to the G8 summit, Geldof, who had been a member of Tony Blair's Commission for Africa on which the Gleneagles recommendations were largely based, labelled Kumi Naidoo's criticism of the summit "a disgrace". Some leading African campaigners have asked Geldof to stand down from the global anti-poverty movement, and the New Internationalist (between January and February 2006) said 'It would be long overdue if he did.'
There were also accusations that Live 8 gave unqualified support to the personal and political agendas of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, particularly in the lead up to an election. Though many felt that it was the British politicians who had accepted Geldof's agenda, rather than the other way round, this led to accusations that Geldof had compromised his cause.
The promises made for Africa at the Gleneagles summit, were widely praised: "the greatest summit for Africa ever" (Kofi Annan), "an important, if incomplete, boost to the development prospects of the poorest countries" economist (Jeffrey Sachs) or "a major breakthrough on debt" (Kevin Wakins, former head of research at Oxfam). But many aid agencies pronounced their disappointment with the outcome, feeling that the strict conditions imposed on African countries for accepting debt relief left them little better off than before. The New Internationalist scathingly stated, since becoming prominent in the salvation of Africa, "Geldof has re-released the entire back catalogue of the Boomtown Rats."
Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher became one of the more vocal skeptics about the impact of Live 8, citing his belief that rock stars have less influence over world leaders than popular culture may believe. His explanation was:
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but are they hoping that one of these guys from the G8 is on a quick 15-minute break at Gleneagles and sees Annie Lennox singing "Sweet Dreams" and thinks, 'Fuck me, she might have a point there, you know?' And Keane doing "Somewhere Only We Know" and some Japanese businessman going, 'Aw, look at him. ... we should really fucking drop that debt, you know.' It's not going to happen, is it?"
At one point during his charity work, Geldof swore on CD:UK, thinking he could get away with it, when he said "Fuck the tape" whilst concluding his chat with Cat Deeley. At the NME awards in 2006, when accepting an award, Geldof referred to the host Russell Brand as a "cunt". Brand responded by saying "It's no wonder Bob Geldof knows so much about famine - he's been dining out on 'I Don't Like Mondays' for 30 years". Then, in mid-July 2006, he infuriated many New Zealanders by criticising the New Zealand government's foreign aid contribution as "shameful" and "pathetic".Winston Peters, the Minister of Foreign Affairs responded that Geldof failed to recognize the "quality" of New Zealand aid as well as other New Zealand contributions.
During mid-November 2008, a local for-profit organisation, Diversity@Work, invited Geldof to Melbourne, to speak about Third World poverty and the failure of governments to combat the crisis. It was later revealed that he was paid A$100,000 for his speech, which included a luxury hotel room and first-class airfares.
AIDS 2014 Conference:
During a special session at the XX International AIDS Conference, 2014, Geldof referred to sex workers as "hookers", for which he was subsequently criticised. Christian Vega, a sex workers' rights activist and member of Victoria's peer-only Victorian Sex Industry Network (VIXEN), blamed speakers including Geldof for their use of pejorative language, which perpetuated the very stigmas that are among the key barriers to HIV prevention. Geldof responded to the criticism during the closing session of the conference: "I read today in the paper that my talk yesterday was littered with profanities - fuck them." In Geldof's view, rights-based language hampered HIV prevention, and he defended using terms such as "hookers" and "junkies": "Let's not get distracted by diversionary language. Let's call it as it is." In a radio show after the conference on Joy 94.9, Vega dismissed Geldof's view that rights-based language was a waste of time as "ridiculous", as it served as an important tool to challenge stigma and discrimination, particularly within an HIV context.
By 1992, Geldof had established himself as a businessman through co-ownership of the TV production company Planet 24, which featured early morning television with The Big Breakfast. Planet 24 was sold to Carlton TV in 1999. TV production company Ten Alps was founded the next day by Geldof and business partner Alex Connock. In April 2011 a new entertainment formats company, Pretend, was launched.
The Dictionary of Man, announced by Geldof in 2007, is a project he started with director John Maguire, and which is financed by the BBC. It was planned that the collected material would be displayed on a website, and be available for distribution through DVDs, books, magazines, CDs, and exhibitions. Geldof reportedly had been planning it since he visited Niger in the 1980s and became aware of the number of native languages becoming lost forever as native speakers died.
As of 2009, he has been patron of the Exeter Entrepreneurs Society at the University of Exeter.
In 2002, he became a founding partner of Groupcall, which specialises in providing communication software and data extraction tools to the education, public and business sectors. His initial involvement arose from concerns for his children's safety.
Bob Geldof adopted an anti-euro stance by appearing in an advertisement against the single currency, in 2002. Geldof also criticised the European Union (EU) in 2004 for what he called its 'pathetic' response to Ethiopia's food crisis, although one MEP has claimed he is "misinformed".
During a visit to Ethiopia, Geldof praised President George W. Bush's proposal to fight AIDS in Africa. This proposal has received criticism from some aid groups due to its heavy emphasis on Christian morality and sexual abstinence.
In December 2005, Geldof agreed to give advice on global poverty to the Conservative Party. He stated, however, that he was uninterested in party politics, and would continue to 'shake hands with the devil on my left and the devil on my right,' in order to achieve results.
From January 2002, until sometime in 2005, Geldof listened very closely to Father's Rights campaigners, and it was reported that he had sacks of mail arriving at his door on a daily basis from fathers who were unhappy with the British family courts. He said, "I am heartbroken. I just cannot believe what happens to people, what is done to them in the name of the law. You only have to open your eyes to see what I call the 'Sad Dads on Sundays Syndrome'". He has also called for The Children Act to be repealed and his latest statement to Father's Rights campaigners was, "It's not in my nature to shut up".
In March 2012 expressed concern about rising population and falling water levels in Arab countries. He noted that populations had risen by an average of 1.7 percent a year (compared with the global average of 1.2 percent) while water available had dropped 75 percent since 1950. "Less water means no crops - so it's a perfect storm."...
"I think the tipping point has been reached," Geldof said. "There can't be more people on the Earth than we can feed."
Geldof expressed the views of the key value of the education of women on the basis that when women are educated they have fewer children.
Geldof also predicted famine, plague and wars if the population does not stabilise. And although the (UAE) region has a lower birth rate than others, it could drop further. "We must see the possibility of life, not just to individual children, but to the human species," he said..."And I'm not that optimistic."
Awards and honours:
Geldof has received many awards for his fund-raising work, including being invested by Queen Elizabeth II as an honorary knight (of the Order of the British Empire), in 1986: Geldof is entitled to use the post-nominal letters "KBE" but, as he is not a citizen of a Commonwealth realm, not to be styled "Sir". Regardless, the nickname "Sir Bob" has stuck and media reports continue to refer to him as "Sir Bob Geldof".
In 1986 Geldof was made a Freeman of the Borough of Swale, in north Kent, England. Geldof had for some years been resident in the borough, at Davington Priory, Faversham, and is still living there as of 2014. He received his award during a special meeting of the Swale Borough Council from the mayor, Councillor Richard Moreton, and the mayoress, Rose Moreton.
In a list compiled by the magazine New Statesman, in 2006, Geldof was voted third in the list of "Heroes of our time".
Other awards: 1985: received an Hon. Master of Arts degree from the University of Kent.
2004: Geldof received an honorary doctorate from the University of East Anglia.
2005: received a Man of Peace Award.
2005: received a Beacon Fellowship Prize for his leadership role in alleviating poverty, famine and genocide, especially in the Third World, and his advocacy for the rights of fathers.
2006: awarded the Freedom of Dublin City.
2007: awarded an honorary doctorate of Civil Law from Newcastle University. The University held a special honorary degree ceremony to honour key figures in the campaign against world poverty.
2008: received the Nichols-Chancellor's Medal from Vanderbilt University for his humanitarian efforts, as well as an honorary degree in Music from the University of East London, serving on both occasions as the keynote speaker for the 2008 graduating class.
2010: awarded Hon. Master of Arts degree from the University for the Creative Arts.
2011: received an honorary doctorate of Philosophy from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, for his "decades of charity work for humanitarian causes".
2012: received a BETT Award at the BETT Show for 'ICT Company of the Year' on behalf of Groupcall as a founding partner.'
2013: awarded the Freedom of the City of London.
Geldof's longtime girlfriend and eventual wife was Paula Yates. Yates was a rock journalist, and later presenter of the music show The Tube which ran from 1982 to 1987. She is known for her in-bed interviews on the show The Big Breakfast, from 1992. Geldof met Yates when she became an obsessed fan of The Boomtown Rats during the band's early days. They got together as a couple in 1976 when Yates flew to Paris to surprise him when the band was playing there.
Before they married, the couple had a daughter, Fifi Trixibelle Geldof, born 31 March 1983 (and while Geldof was still conducting an affair with the young Claire King). She was named Fifi after Bob's aunt Fifi, and Trixibelle because Yates wanted a belle in the family. After 10 years together, Geldof and Yates married in June 1986 in Las Vegas, with Simon Le Bon (of Duran Duran) acting as Geldof's best man. The couple later had two more daughters, Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof (known as Peaches Geldof) on 13 March 1989, and Little Pixie Geldof (known as Pixie Geldof) on 17 September 1990. Pixie is said to be named after a celebrity daughter character from the cartoon Celeb in the satirical magazine Private Eye, itself a lampoon of the names the Geldofs gave to their other children. Geldof has stated that his children find his music 'crap' and him an 'embarrassment'.
In February 1995, Yates left Geldof for Michael Hutchence, the lead singer of INXS, whom she had first met in 1985 when she interviewed him on The Tube. Geldof and Yates divorced in May 1996, and Yates moved in with Hutchence. Hutchence was found hanged in a hotel room on 22 November 1997. Geldof soon after went to court and obtained full custody of his own three daughters and has since become an outspoken advocate of fathers' rights. After Paula Yates's death from a drug and alcohol overdose in 2000, Geldof became the legal guardian of Tiger Lily Hutchence. In 2007, Geldof formally adopted her.
Regarding his Jewish ancestry, in an interview with the Manchester Jewish Telegraph, Geldof said "I was a quarter Catholic, a quarter Protestant, a quarter Jewish and a quarter nothing - the nothing won."
Geldof currently resides in Battersea, south London with his second wife, French actress Jeanne Marine, and Tiger. He is also an atheist.
In 2014, Geldof hopes to become the first Irish person in space as he is set to be one of the first ever astronauts on the Space XC commercial service, a $100,000 per person flight.
On 7 April 2014, his daughter Peaches died at the age of 25. Geldof stated the family was "beyond pain" after he confirmed the news of her death. Geldof announced his engagement to Jeanne Marine, his partner of 18 years, on 1 May 2014, and they married in France on 28 April 2015.
According to The Sunday Times Rich List, Geldof was worth £32 million in 2012.
The Financial Times said in September 2012 that Geldof could face a large tax bill, after HM Revenue and Customs closed an investigation into investment vehicles used by wealthy individuals.
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