Twenty years ago, Bob Geldof asked if starving people in Africa knew it was Christmastime at all. He organized Live Aid, a mega-multi-venue star-studded concert to raise money for famine victims in Ethiopia, and the former Boomtown Rats frontman was knighted for his efforts.
This week Geldof returns to the world stage with Live 8, a mega multi-venue star-studded concert, natch, this time to raise awareness about poverty in Africa. The concerts, a series of events in several countries featuring the biggest bands in the world, are timed to coincide with the meeting of the Group of Eight (G8) wealthiest nations in Edinburgh, Scotland. Geldof recently spoke with NEWSWEEK's Brian Braiker on his cell phone while driving to a friend's party in England. Excerpts:
Bob Geldof: My girlfriend's screaming at me.
It's just keeping everyone disciplined up to the last lap, and that's hard. There's one concert on four continents. It's a dreadful number of people. And the toilets! I was woken at four yesterday morning in Rome by the toilets officer in Tokyo. God knows what the f--- he wanted, but I wasn't the guy to talk to.
Only the recalcitrant politicians who we're trying to influence.
I think a lot of it is breathtaking if you're geeky like me on this issue. This is the year. This has to be the year otherwise it's just a disaster. The reality is that this stuff unfortunately works. I wouldn't be talking to you if we weren't doing these concerts. And that's precisely why we did it--to ignite the debate in countries where there wasn't one.
No. We've had a million people for lots of things. Philadelphia is the Live Aid city--they hosted us 20 years ago, and I'm thrilled to be back there, especially on Independence Day weekend because that's where the Declaration of Independence is. It was done in the name of people who were escaping poverty, escaping no future. What a fantastic place to have this.
I know Jim Sheridan very well--he's the Irish director. He said "It's my last day of shooting. Bob, I get it, but I can't go over budget on this." Fifty would have done it; I don't think Jim can release him.
What I am doing, so we are quite clear, is creating the biggest mass political lobby so that the president of the G8 [currently British Prime Minister Tony Blair] arrives in Scotland with the greatest mandate ever assembled. We're probably going to have 2 billion people minimum. He can't blink. That's what I am focused on, and everything else is an irrelevance to me. Be assured that they are meaningless to me.
This is cool in terms of pop culture, universal culture. In terms of actual specific cultures , we're not going to have Appalachian music in America; we're not going to have f---ing Morris dancing in Britain. The truth is that African kids are listening to 50 and Eminem and the same as everybody else listens to.
We get along just fantastically. I know that's bizarre. I love him. I've known him for many, many, many, many years, since he was a kid and used to come see my band in a pub in Dublin. It's academic to me that he's the singer in a great band. I know it sounds glib and showbiz-y, but we have a fantastic time together. I think he bought into Live Aid, and he's maintained the intellectual journey ... The cops are on my tail. Sorry, I may have to hang up.