Looking Out For Every One7 May, 2010 By: Thomas Haire Response
Rock star. Humanitarian. Businessman. Inspirational speaker. Marketer. Five different people? No — just one, and Sir Bob Geldof is keynoting Response Expo 2010.
"It all has to be interesting, because I get bored quickly,” says Sir Bob Geldof with a laugh during a trans-Atlantic phone call in early April. “Seriously, if someone says something that catches my interest in San Diego, I’ll likely end up doing it! My professional and personal lives are one and the same thing. I work in my house, surrounded by guitars and books. I’ve got the kids here for Easter, and this phone is the lifeline to everything I do. I think the best way for me to put it is this: I do politics for my mind, business for stomach, music for my soul, and family for my heart."
Geldof — founder of the Band Aid Charitable Trust, organizer of the renowned 1985 Live Aid and 2005 Live8 concerts and a nearly annual nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize — will welcome Response Expo 2010 attendees to the Hilton San Diego Bayfront at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 11, with what promises to be a powerful and inspirational message.
The 58-year-old Irishman first hit the public consciousness in the late 1970s as leader of The Boomtown Rats, a band that played an integral role in the punk/new wave explosion in the British Isles. The band’s timeless hit, “I Don’t Like Mondays,” (incidentally inspired by an incident in San Diego in 1979) is still a staple on rock radio today. He gained further fame after starring in the film based on the classic Pink Floyd album “The Wall.”
But it was in 1984, when Geldof turned his attention to the dreadful famine problems of Ethiopia, that he found his life’s true calling.
News Broadcast Leads to a Life’s Work
“Band Aid was my response to a BBC TV news story about the African famine in late October 1984,” Geldof recalls. “More than 30 million people on the brink of death from starvation — the photos sickened me, and I knew it just was not enough to put your dollar or pound into the OXFAM box anymore. The situation required something other — something of the self.”
But what could Geldof do to make a difference? “I could write rock-and-roll songs, so I thought let’s do it,” he says. “With Christmas and all it involves in Britain — the giving, the togetherness — it was the perfect time of year.”
Organizing Band Aid with fellow musician Midge Ure (leader of the band Ultravox), Geldof gathered a virtual who’s-who of British rock royalty to record one of the most inspiring and classic holiday songs ever, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” The song’s initial proceeds — more than 8 million British pounds — went to a new charity, which became the Band Aid Charitable Trust.
“I knew there was no guarantee that if my band did it, it would be a hit,” Geldof says. “But it would be a guaranteed smash if I could get everyone on the charts involved.”
Geldof describes a day where he ran into Simon LeBon, lead singer from the then world-conquering Duran Duran, and Tony Hadley, lead singer of the popular Spandau Ballet. Both were on board immediately. “Next, I called Sting, who is my exact contemporary — we have the same birthday and often spend the day together — and he said he was in,” Geldof adds. “My next call was to Bono, who was fronting this up-and-coming band U2, and who used to annoy me as a kid around the Dublin clubs. He was in — in fact, most of those who took part agreed within the same morning.”
Following the success of Band Aid, Geldof received a call from Harry Belafonte, the American pop singer. “He said the Yanks wanted to do it, too,” Geldof says of the genesis of the project that would become the Quincy Jones-produced “We Are The World” by a group of American music superstars dubbed USA for Africa in January 1985.
“Between the Band Aid recording and the recording of ‘We Are The World,’ I went to Africa to learn more about what needed to be done,” Geldof says. “At that point, we decided to set up a trust to fund the efforts I knew needed to be made. With the help of John Kennedy, our record company lawyer, we set up the trust and trustees, which I still chair.”
Once in Africa, Geldof was able to see the incredible hurdles his group would still have to overcome just to get their aid to the people who needed it most. “There was a cartel in Sudan that was charging whatever they wanted to bring in the goods. Without paying tribute to the cartels, grain tankers couldn’t get in to port — people were literally rowing tiny boats out to them to get just a little bit at a time,” he says.