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Bob Geldof

Geldof, Bob (IMF 2009).jpg
Geldof in 2009
Robert Frederick Zenon Geldof

(1951-10-05) 5 October 1951 (age 72)
  • Musician
  • singer-songwriter
  • activist
Years active 1975–present
  • (m. 1986; div. 1996)
  • Jeanne Marine
    (m. 2015)
Children 4, including Peaches and Pixie
Musical career

Robert Frederick Zenon Geldof KBE (/ˈɡɛldɒf/; born 5 October 1951) is an Irish singer-songwriter, actor and political activist. He rose to prominence in the late 1970s as lead singer of the Irish rock band the Boomtown Rats, who achieved popularity as part of the punk rock movement. The band had UK number one hits with his compositions "Rat Trap" and "I Don't Like Mondays". Geldof starred as "Pink" in Pink Floyd's 1982 film Pink Floyd – The Wall. As a fundraiser, Geldof organised the charity supergroup Band Aid and the concerts Live Aid and Live 8, and co-wrote "Do They Know It's Christmas?", one of the best-selling singles of all time.

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, co-founded by fellow Irish rock singer and activist Bono, and 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. A single father, Geldof has also been outspoken for the fathers' rights movement.

Geldof was granted an honorary knighthood (KBE) by Elizabeth II in 1986 for his charity work in Africa; although it is an honorary award as Geldof is an Irish citizen, he is often referred to as 'Sir Bob'. He 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.

Early life

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 a British Jew from London of German-Jewish descent. When Geldof was six years old, his mother Evelyn died at age 41 of a cerebral haemorrhage.

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, England, he was hired as a music journalist in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, for The Georgia Straight. He briefly guest hosted the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation children's program Switchback.

Musical career

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".

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

Bob Geldof Rock am Ring 1987
Geldof performing as a solo artist in 1987

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 and Thin Lizzy; a performance of "Comfortably Numb" with Gilmour is documented in the DVD release David Gilmour in Concert (2002). 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 jokingly claimed to have co-written with Mercury, called "Too Late God". (The song was actually co-written by Karl Hyde.)

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'.

Breiti, Campino, Bob Geldof
Geldof performing with Die Toten Hosen at Your Voice Against Poverty concert in Rostock, Germany on 7 June 2007

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.

In 2002, he was listed as one of the 100 Greatest Britons in a poll conducted among the general public, despite not being British.

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.

Charity work

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, held at Drury Lane theatre in London's West End. At the invitation of Amnesty show producer Martin Lewis, Geldof 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. Monty Python alumnus John Cleese conceived (and directed) the show, and on its impact on Geldof, Sting states "he took the 'Ball' and ran with it."

Band Aid

AcropoleHotelKhartoumBobGeldofLetter RomanDeckert25042018
Letter of thanks from Geldof to the Acropole Hotel in Khartoum, Sudan, for supporting Band Aid during the 1980s drought in Darfur and Ethiopia

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 in a single day at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London on 25 November 1984 by various artists performing 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 UK Singles Chart at number one and staying there for five weeks, becoming the Christmas number one of 1984. It went 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 and selling an estimated 2.5 million copies in the US by January 1985. Worldwide the single would eventually sell 11.7 million copies. 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.

Live Aid

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 the obligation to make 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.

The harrowing video of dying, skeletal children—introduced by David Bowie following the end of his set—that had been made by CBC 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 subsequently received an honorary knighthood, at age 34, for his efforts. His autobiography, written soon after with Paul Vallely, was entitled Is That It?. The 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.

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 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 One Campaign in 2008, where Geldof also is very active. In June 2009, on behalf of One Campaign, he co-edited a special edition of the Italian newspaper La Stampa with a view on 35th G8 summit.

Live 8 concerts

Geldof at a Live 8: DVD signing in 2007

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 vocalist/bassist, Roger Waters.


By 1992, Geldof had established himself as a businessman through co-ownership of the TV production company Planet 24, which made early-morning Channel 4 show 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 served a term as patron of the Exeter Entrepreneurs' Society at the University of Exeter.

Geldof is chairman of 8 Miles, a private equity firm active in Africa.


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 urges young people to come out and be heard -BREXIT (28054729195)
Geldof outside the Houses of Parliament in London during the Brexit Protest March on 2 July 2016

In 2002, Geldof appeared in an advertisement opposing the possibility of the United Kingdom joining the single EU currency, saying it was "not anti-European to be against the euro". He also criticised the European Union in 2004 for what he called its "pathetic" response to Ethiopia's food crisis. MEP Glenys Kinnock responded that Geldof's comments were "unhelpful and misinformed".

In 2003, during a visit to Ethiopia, Geldof praised U.S. President George W. Bush's proposal to fight AIDS in Africa.

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: "I've said I'll shake hands with the devil on my left and the devil on my right to get to where we need to be."

Geldof was a vocal supporter of the unsuccessful campaign for the UK to vote "Remain" in the 2016 referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union. Shortly before the vote, in what was described as the "most surreal day in British politics ever", Geldof led a flotilla on the River Thames to attack an opposition flotilla led by Eurosceptic politician Nigel Farage. Later that year, Geldof campaigned for the Liberal Democrat candidate Sarah Olney at the Richmond Park by-election.

Fathers' rights

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 Geldof expressed concern about rising population and falling water levels in Arab countries. He also predicted famine, plague, and wars if the population did not stabilise. Geldof asked countries to lower their birthrates to lessen the burden on the environment. "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

Star Knight Commander of the British Empire
Honorary KBE insignia

Geldof has received many awards for his fund-raising work including being invested by Elizabeth II as an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1986. Geldof is entitled to use the post-nominal letters "KBE" but not to be styled "Sir", as he is not a citizen of a Commonwealth realm; nevertheless 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 was still living there as of 2013. 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 2004, Geldof was made a development chief in Ghana.

In 2006 the New Statesman magazine conducted a survey of their readers to find the Heroes of our Time, Geldof was voted third behind Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela.

Other awards

  • 2005: received a Man of Peace Award.
  • 2006: awarded the medal of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
  • 2006: awarded the Freedom of Dublin City for his humanitarian work. In 2017, Geldof returned the award in a protest at Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi holding the same honour. Dublin City Council voted to revoke both Suu Kyi's and Geldof's award.
  • 2010: awarded Hon. Master of Arts degree from the University for the Creative Arts.
  • 2013: awarded the Freedom of the City of London.
  • 2014: awarded with BASCA Gold Badge Award in recognition of his unique contribution to the field of music production.

Personal life

Bob Geldof
Geldof in 1991

Geldof's longtime girlfriend and first wife was Paula Yates. Yates was a rock journalist, and later became the presenter of the music show The Tube which ran from 1982 to 1987. Geldof and Yates became a couple in 1976 when Yates flew to Paris to surprise him when the band was playing there.

Before they were married, the couple had their first daughter, Fifi Trixibelle Geldof, born 31 March 1983.

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.

Geldof and Yates divorced in May 1996.

Geldof later went to court and obtained full custody of his three children. He has since become an outspoken advocate of fathers' rights. After Yates' death in 2000, Geldof became the legal guardian of Tiger Hutchence (whose father died in 1997) and later adopted her in 2007. As of 2019, Tiger's legal name is Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence Geldof.

In 2014, Geldof hoped 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.

According to The Sunday Times Rich List, Geldof was worth £32 million in 2012.


Solo albums

Year Title Peak chart positions
1986 Deep in the Heart of Nowhere 79 27 3 18 15 130
1990 The Vegetarians of Love
  • Released: 23 July 1990
  • Label: Mercury (UK) / Atlantic (US)
21 43 27 15 37 20 -
1992 The Happy Club
  • Released: 5 October 1992
  • Label: Mercury (UK) / Atlantic (US)
91 60 52 73 39
2001 ..., Age & Death
  • Released: 1 October 2001
  • Label: Mercury (UK) / Atlantic (US)
2010 How to Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell
  • Released: 12 October 2010
  • Label: Mercury (UK) / Atlantic (US)
89 87
"—" denotes a release that did not chart.

Compilation albums

Year Title Peak chart positions
1994 Loudmouth – The Best of Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats
  • includes solo recordings and Boomtown Rats songs
  • Released: 27 June 1994
  • Label: Vertigo
2005 Great Songs of Indifference: The Anthology 1986–2001
  • Box Set including the first 4 solo albums
  • Released: 14 November 2005
  • Label: Mercury
"—" denotes a release that did not chart.


Year Title Chart positions Album
1986 "This Is the World Calling" 25 93 28 1 29 1 10 18 82
Deep in the Heart of Nowhere
1987 "Love Like a Rocket" 61 18 21 76 11 60
"Heartless Heart"
"I Cry Too"
"In the Pouring Rain"
1990 "The Great Song of Indifference" 15 25 20 7 16 Vegetarians of Love
"Love or Something" 86 74 55
"A Gospel Song"
1992 "Room 19 (Sha La La La Lee)" 53 Happy Club
"My Hippy Angel"
1993 "The Happy Club"
"Yeah, Definitely"
1994 "Crazy" 65 72 Loudmouth – The Best of Bob Geldof & the Boomtown Rats
1996 "Rat Trap"
(Dustin & Geldof)
2002 "Pale White Girls" ... Age & Death
2011 "Silly Pretty Thing" 146 How To Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell
"Here's To You"

Film appearances

  • Pink Floyd – The Wall (1982) – Pink
  • Number One (1985) – Harry 'Flash' Gordon
  • Bernard and the Genie (1991 film) – as Himself (cameo)
  • Spiceworld (1997) – as himself (cameo)
  • Being Mick (2001) – as himself
  • 'I am Bob' (short film 2007) – in which he loses a lookalike contest (even after singing the Boomtown Rats' hit "I Don't Like Mondays".)
  • Oh My God (2009) – as himself
  • Bad Girl (2012) – as George

See also

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