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LEADER -- Rebel with a cause

By Staff Reporter
29 June 2010 | 1 minute read

From rock ‘n roll legend to strident humanitarian, Sir Bob Geldof has achieved a lot and as he tells Jessica Darnbrough, he's loved "every f---ing minute".  

Having raised almost $1 billion to help tackle global poverty and successfully lobbied some of the world's greatest musicians to donate their time in the name of charity, it is obvious that Sir Bob Geldof knows a thing or two about leadership.

In his 58 years, the Irish musician with a reputation for telling it like it is has been knighted, released one of the fastest-selling CD singles of all time, and organised one of the most monumental stage shows in history.

His Band Aid and Live Aid initiatives brought the problems afflicting Africa - HIV, poverty and starvation - to public attention, forcing people to listen and culminating in a huge relief effort.


As a result, tens of thousands of those facing starvation have received food and many thousands of lives have been saved.

But despite the many successes of his life, Geldof does not see himself as a success story.

"I have never thought of myself as successful," he says.

"Instead I have always seen myself as committed. And I think if you are committed you will succeed in whatever you do."


But it took Geldof time to find something he wanted to commit to.

Growing up, Geldof says he was a "tear away" and a "rebel without a cause".

"My dad was a towel salesman. He was never at home, so we had to learn to look after ourselves," he says. "I never had an authoritative figure in my life, which is part of the reason why I have always had such a problem with authority."

As soon as he was "old enough", Geldof left the family home and found work as a slaughter man before landing a job as a music journalist in Canada.

"I knew the music paper [I worked for] was great. People were interested in reading about music and the music scene. But at the end of the day, I didn't really give a toss about it. I wasn't committed to it. So that's when I knew I had to move on and find something I was passionate about and committed to."

He soon found it. Geldof returned to Ireland and formed a band that was closely aligned with the punk movement - and Boomtown Rats was born. The band came to international attention - particularly for their second UK No. 1, ‘I Don't Like Mondays', penned by Geldof in the aftermath of Brenda Ann Spencer's attempted massacre at an elementary school in California.

Following the single's release, the band - and Geldof - found themselves in high demand and Geldof quickly became known as a colourful interviewee.

In Boomtown Rat's first appearance on Ireland's The Late, Late Show, Geldof managed to be intentionally brusque to host Gay Byrne, attack Irish politicians and slam the Catholic Church. The interview caused uproar across the country and the band was subsequently banned from ever performing in Ireland.


But Geldof's legendary feistiness and passion is also arguably why he has been so successful in bringing public attention to global issues such as African poverty - and galvanising people to do something about it.

After watching the BBC's Michael Buerk's vivid on-the-spot coverage of a famine "of biblical proportions" in Tigray in northern Ethiopia, Geldof was moved to improve the world and change it for the better.

Using his connections as a musician, Geldof formed Band Aid in 1984 - a stellar line-up of some of the world's best-known singers who collaborated to bring Geldof's song ‘Do They Know It's Christmas' to life and raise funds for HIV-affected Africans living in poverty.

The single went straight to number one upon release.

"I was determined to make a difference. And the best way I could do that was to write a song and get my other musician friends to join me on the track," he says.

Among the artists who Geldof convinced to take part were Phil Collins, George Michael, Sting, David Bowie, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, Boy George, Paul McCartney and Status Quo.

But despite the overwhelming success of the single - sales of which raised over £8 million ($14.2 million) - Geldof wanted to do more. And so, preparations began for the biggest rock concert the world had ever seen.

"So many people told me it couldn't be done. Two free rock concerts taking place in two countries while being broadcast live to millions of people - everyone thought I was f---ing crazy. But you can't listen to the naysayers," he says.

"As with anything in life, you will never succeed if you listen to all the bullshit. You just have to ignore it and chase your dreams."


In fact, Geldof says the best business advice he has ever been given is "F--- off".

"The more I was told to "f--- off", the more it pushed me to succeed," he says.

Geldof says the key to success in life and work is, first and foremost, belief - as well as commitment.

"You should see obstacles just as they are: obstacles," he says.

"Everyone faces hurdles in life. We all encounter brick walls, but my advice is to look at the brick wall as a finite object. It will only reach a certain height and extend for a certain length. So, at the end of the day, it can be navigated. There are always ways to get around a brick wall. It might slow you down, but it should never stop you."

And while Geldof has faced his fair share of obstacles, he has never lost sight of the bigger picture.

"Every time someone told me no, I came back at them with one thousand reasons why it could be done and another thousand reasons why I would do it.

"The trick is to believe in yourself and don't take crap from anyone."

LEADER -- Rebel with a cause
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