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Bob Geldof

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He’s a rockstar who seems to stand against everything conventional rock and roll was all about – sex, drugs and the ‘who gives a damn’ culture.

Instead, Bob Geldof seems to give a damn about everything others don’t.

He gives a damn about poverty. About hunger and famine and disease and lack of education. About dignity and speaking for those who can’t speak for themselves.

And he gives a damn enough to do more than just talk about it.

It’s a curious journey for a man whose music, to anyone growing up in the 70s and 80s, spelt rebellion in loud neon letters. As lead singer of The Boomtown Rats, one of the frontrunners of the punk rock movement, Bob fronted the band through the heady days of chart-toppers like Rat Trap, I Don’t Like Mondays and Up All Night, all of which went to number one on the UK charts.

But Bob wasn’t content to limit himself to making strong statements through his music alone: in his first interview on Irish TV, to the hugely popular The Late Late Show, he took on politicians, attacked the Catholic Church, criticised his old private school Blackrock College and, to top the eventful evening off, told off a group of nuns in the audience who tried to shout him down, saying ‘they had an easy life with no material worries in return for which they gave themselves body and soul to the church.’

Ireland was stunned. And, for a long while, unforgiving – The Boomtown Rats never played in the country again. But Bob – with a sharp tongue, appreciation for irony and scepticism of establishment – lived up to rock culture norms and didn’t give a damn.

It was in 1984 that Geldof, responding to a BBC news report about famine in Ethiopia, found what was to be his life’s mission; one that runs parallel to his music. Shattered by the images he had seen, he co-wrote the song Do They Know It’s Christmas with Midge Ure of Ultravox, then convinced the top British musicians of the time including Phil Collins, Bono, Duran Duran, George Michael and Culture Club to join in recording the song as a fundraiser

Do They Know It’s Christmas went on to become one of the best-selling singles of all time, an anthem against poverty and deprivation that earned over £8 million.

A year later, Geldof raised the stakes when he dreamt up Live Aid – the biggest concerts the world had ever seen – with an audacity of imagination that was unprecedented. Held simultaneously at the Wembley Stadium in London and John F Kennedy stadium in Philadelphia, the event was broadcast live by the BBC – 16 hours of rock music in which the world’s biggest rockstars performed and in which Phil Collins trans-Atlantic on the Concorde so he could play at both stadiums on the same day. In an interview that has now become folklore, Geldof went on air seven hours into the concert, yelling at the audience to “give us your fucking money” – an outburst that increased donations to £300 per second.

Live Aid raised £150 million and Geldof was knighted – aged 34 – for his incredible efforts.

But that was just the beginning for Bob. In the decades since, he’s mobilised governments – including British PM Tony Blair and 16 Commissioners of African countries – to organise Commission For Africa; organised the Live 8 concerts globally to put pressure on the G8, and laid the blueprint for the African Debt & Aid package that wrote off the debt of 18 poor African nations.

He’s cofounded the hugely influential charity ONE with fellow Irish musician and humanitarian Bono of U2, is a member of the Africa Progress Panel and a counsellor at One Young World, a non-profit that hopes to bring together 1500 young global leaders for the future from every country in the world.

Sir Bob, as he’s widely known, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize thrice, won the Man of Peace award and been recognised as one of the Heroes of Our Time in a UK poll in recent years.

In the midst of it all, he’s continued to make music, perform at concerts around the world, written a best-selling memoir titled Is That It?, addressed the United Nations, the G8 and global organisations often, and become a one-man army for the world’s poorest.

Not bad for a man who defined the words ‘who gives a damn’.

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