Bob Geldof KBE - Musician, Humanitarian and Activist
Created | Updated May 14, 2013
Bob Geldof is a rare kind of human being, he's a global superstar with no airs or graces. He looks like the kind of bloke you'd see down the pub most nights of the week, putting the world to rights over a pint or ten. Except that this bloke actually is putting the world to rights.
To some people he's a modern-day Messiah, to others he's a pain in the a**e. People listen to him who don't listen to politicians. He has what is commonly known as the gift of the gab and he uses it to bend the ears of world leaders. However you feel about him, 'Saint Bob' - as he has come to be known - is impossible to ignore as he regularly commands headline news, demanding politicians make poverty history.
Love him or hate him, agree with him or disagree, nobody can deny that Geldof is good at getting results. Whatever cause he happens to be fighting for, he is the world's most effective troublemaker.
Life started off unremarkably enough. Born in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, on 5 October, 1951, Robert Frederick Zenon Geldof 'never achieved anything at school' (his own quote) even though he attended Blackrock College, near Dublin, one of the most expensive schools in the country. His father, a travelling salesman, raised his children alone after their mother died of a brain haemorrhage in 1958. He would offer up certain scenarios and then prompt the children to debate solutions, sparking the young Bob's future interest in politics. Further tragedy struck the family when one of Bob's sisters was diagnosed with leukaemia.
Geldof's first few jobs were as a butcher, road navvy, and pea canner. He started writing reviews for the now defunct rock weekly Melody Maker, and was as a music journalist for the weekly Georgia Straight publication in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; but in his heart, he wanted to make the music.
The Boomtown Rats
Geldof became the lead singer of a punk rock group he formed in 1975 with his friend Garry Roberts, the Boomtown Rats, (initially called the Nightlife Thugs) a controversial Dublin band. The Boomtown Rats were signed by Mercury records in 1977, the year punk rock exploded in Britain, and Bob stated his ambition was to get rich, get famous, and get laid. In 1978, the Rats had their first number one single with 'Rat Trap'. Geldof wrote 'I Don't Like Mondays' in the aftermath of Brenda Ann Spencer's attempted massacre at a school in San Diego, California, in January 1979, this also reached number one. When the band appeared on Ireland's Late, Late Show, there were numerous complaints from viewers. The Rats enjoyed four years of success, with nine consecutive singles making the top twenty. Geldof left the group in the late 1980s; the remaining band members sued him for non-payment of royalties in the late 1990s.
Bob married the television presenter and Boomtown Rats fan Paula Yates in 1986. The couple had three daughters, Fifi Trixiebelle (born 1983), Peaches Honeyblossom (born 1990), and Pixie (born 1991). Paula interviewed1 the INXS singer Michael Hutchence and subsequently left her husband for him. They had a daughter, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Yates-Hutchence (born 1996). Paula and Bob were divorced earlier the same year.
When he and Paula Yates originally split, Bob lost custody of the children, and even though he fought through the courts successfully to get them back, he wrote a 30-page report entitled The Real Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name: A Sometimes Coherent Rant, passionately talking about fathers loving their children just as much as mothers. Speaking in 2004, Geldof said:
You provide what you can and you don't worry about it. There's so much crap talked about bringing up a child. A f***ing moron could do it. Morons do bring up their children. It's just endless love, endless patience, that's it.
Geldof returned to the music scene with solo effort Sex, Age & Death which reflected the emotional upheavals in his private life.
Michael Hutchence died in 1997 and was found hanged in a hotel room. To this day the circumstances that led to his death remain unclear - was it suicide or auto-asphyxia? His death left Paula Yates devastated: three years later, Yates was found dead of an apparently accidental drug overdose, making four-year-old Tiger Lily an orphan. Bob, by now with his partner, French actress Jeanne Marine, applied for and won temporary custody of the little girl2. She has lived with her sisters ever since, and was formally adopted into the Geldof family in 2000, although she retains her birth name.
Bob is well-known for his scruffy, unkempt appearance. He looks like he's been on a week-long bender, and couldn't care less what anyone thinks about him personally. He does scrub up quite nicely for the right occasion, as the occasional photo shows, such as this one of Bob and Jeanne on the red carpet at a premier.
After he encountered problems booking a family holiday over the internet, Bob co-founded online travel agent Deckchair.com with James Page, the successful creator of the Eidos software company.
His Planet 24 company, as well as making the phenomenally successful The Big Breakfast, owned the Survivor format, which was a huge success in the USA. Planet 24 was sold to Carlton for £5million.
With a partner, the radio producer Alex Connock, he established Ten Alps Broadcasting. Geldof now owns several TV stations in eastern Europe, and has ventured into the lucrative mobile phone market.
In 1984, Geldof reacted to a news report about starving children in Ethiopia by going through his phone book and mobilised the pop world to do something about the appalling images he had seen. Jointly, with Midge Ure of Ultravox, they wrote 'Do They Know It's Christmas' in order to raise funds. The artists who answered Bob's call recorded the song under the name of Band Aid. Following this massive success (the single reached number one in the charts) preparations were started for the biggest pop concert the world had ever seen, the following summer. During the broadcast of Live Aid, Geldof shocked viewers into giving cash by slamming his fist on the table and practically ordering them not to go out to the pub, but to stay in and watch the show. The harrowing video of dying, skeletal children that had been made to the tune of 'Drive' by The Cars, provoked an avalanche of giving. All of the artists performed free. The concert was a huge success, and Bob performed his hit 'I Don't Like Mondays' in front of the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Twenty years after the success of Live Aid, Bob managed to organise another global concert, Live 8 which was broadcast live by the BBC to an estimated 80% of the planet. Approximately two billion people watched, sang along, clicked their fingers and wept during the eight-hour-long concert. Other concerts were played simultaneously in other parts of the world, from Canada to China, with over 100 international music stars performing, all rallied by Geldof.
The concerts were free, and tickets were issued by lottery to texters, with the cost of the text going to the charity. When Geldof found out that some winners were trying to sell their precious tickets on the online market place website eBay, he protested and eBay management agreed to cancel the auctions.
The result of Geldof's desire to do something about world poverty is detailed in separate h2g2 entries on Band Aid, Live Aid and Live 8.
Together with Bono of U2, Bob formed a pressure group called DATA, standing for Debt, Aid and Trade for Africa. His Commission For Africa report, which was published in March, 2005, recommended debt cancellation, increased aid and fairer trade laws.
Geldof is also an active fathers' rights spokesperson in the United Kingdom. In early 2005, he told The Sun's 'Justice for Dads' campaign about his past pain at having to spend festive seasons without his children. He is demanding that Britain follows Denmark, Sweden and some states in the USA in granting fathers and mothers equal access in the event of separation or divorce.
I fully support the dads-house campaign to get equal rights for fathers.
Currently, he is heavily involved in the Make Poverty History Campaign, battling against third world poverty. The three demands of the campaign are Trade Justice, Drop the Debt, and More and 'Better' Aid.
Bob the Author: Bibliography
Is That It?: In Geldof's 1987 autobiography of his early career, co-authored with Paul Vallely, he recounts that his surname is quite rare in Ireland, being brought to the country by his grandfather, who had arrived from Belgium at the turn of the 20th Century.
Geldof in Africa: This book was written to accompany a recent BBC series. When he was first approached3 to front a programme about poverty in Africa, he refused, as he didn't want to be seen 'cashing in on dead children and dying babies'. He certainly didn't want to organise another concert. He thought people were becoming immune to the images and 'compassion fatigue' was setting in. He is a reluctant campaigner, dubbing himself 'Mr Bloody Africa' in January 2005 and insisting that being a musician is his 'real job'.
Luckily he changed his mind and filmed a series of six episodes for the BBC and wrote the book. He visited places that had benefited from the first Live Aid concert and found young adult survivors of the 1985 famine working as doctors and nurses, helping the next generation. Bob travelled through West Africa (Ghana, Benin and Mali); Central Africa (the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda); and East Africa (Ethiopia, Tanzania and Somalia). The whole series was incredibly moving, and only Bob himself could have presented it.
Within this immense continent [Africa] more peoples, more language, more cultures, more animals than anywhere else on our world. It is quite simply the most extraordinary, beautiful and luminous place on our planet. Bob Geldof
Bob was honoured with an honorary degree by Dundee University, conferred for his charity work. When he was presented with his degree, he said he wished his father could have been there to see it, as he'd never achieved anything at school.
While he was awarded a KBE4 by HM Queen Elizabeth II, because he is an Irish citizen the award is honorary. So don't call him Sir Bob, he is more correctly addressed as Robert (Bob) Geldof KBE. However in the hearts of a grateful world he will always be known as 'Saint Bob'.
In February 2005, at a special reception at the Swiss Embassy, the Rose d'Or Festival announced that Bob is to be the recipient of that year's Rose d'Or Charity Award. The same month also saw Bob receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to music at the Brit Awards.
On 7 July, 2005, Geldof was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize because of his dedication to fight poverty and AIDS in Africa.
In 2005 Bob Geldof received a European Human Rights Award in recognition of his campaign efforts against Third World poverty, which he shared with Ethiopian women's rights activist Bogaletch Gebre. Capping a fantastic year, Geldof also received the 2005 Man of Peace Award who had been chosen by Nobel Prize winners.
What they say about him
If he doesn't get you with poetry, spittle isn't far behind. Bono
He's one of the greatest people I've ever met.
- Elton John
You don't say 'No' to Bob.
He's a big bad-tempered git who swears at everyone.
Muriel Gray - The Tube co-presenter
He's a hero of our time. Chris Martin5
Thank God for Bob, there's only people like him bringing this [world poverty] to the attention of the world.
- Annie Lennox
I'm proud of my Dad.
- Peaches Geldof
He is misinformed and unhelpful.
- Spokesperson for the European Union
What he says about them
Pathetic and appalling - describing the current aid effort by the EU.
I think you're a f**king c**t - to the ruler of Ethiopia, whilst a guest in his country.About his friend and fellow rock star Bono:
Bono as we all know, is in love with the world, he's enamoured by it. I'm enraged by it. He wants to give the world a great big hug, I want to punch its lights out.Speaking up for the rights of single fathers:
What have we become? In whose name is this brutality done? Who are they who do this and why do they not account to us, the people? What unthinking fools perpetrated these unlawful laws?
Bob's all-time hero is Sir Mick Jagger.
Bob has appeared on the BBC's Grumpy Old Men.
He is 6'2" (1.88m) tall.
Bob is left-handed. He plays guitars strung for right-handed players, and so forms chords backwards.
When Bob adopted Tiger Lily, Prima Baby magazine awarded him a new title, that of 'honorary Mum'.
Bob Geldof's wealth was estimated by Broadcast magazine in 2001 to be £30million.
He's an after-dinner speaker in much demand, contact his agency Celebrity Speakers Limited for further information.
He now lives in a large Victorian house in Chelsea, London.