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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 May, 2003, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Geldof: From singer to saint
Bob Geldof
Geldof has turned his hand to a variety of ventures
Bob Geldof, the musician and campaigner behind 1984's Band Aid charity record and the Live Aid fund-raising concert, has returned to Ethiopia to help try and prevent another humanitarian crisis.

Bob Geldof's first brush with fame did not exactly foreshadow a life as a strident humanitarian.

As the lead singer of Irish upstarts The Boomtown Rats, Geldof was a loud, demonstrative singer in a pub rock band whose ferocity and legendary live shows carried them into the punk scene.

"I think if it didn't happen, I'd probably be ok with a normal job and leading a normal life," he once told the Evening Standard.

Geldof was born Robert Frederick Zenon Geldof on 5 October 1954 in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland. The son of a travelling salesman, his mother died when he was seven years old. He described her death as the most formative experience of his life.

His autobiography, Is That It? Geldof painted a picture of a lonely childhood in Dublin, often at odds with his father.

Geldof in the Boomtown Rats
The Boomtown Rats' biggest hit was I Don't Like Mondays

He dreamed of becoming a rock star, and started out as a fledgling music writer in Canada and then the UK in the early Seventies, including work for the NME. Back in Dublin he formed a band, The Boomtown Rats, and became its frontman.

The band, playing fierce pub rock, became a live sensation and were unruly enough to become part of the punk scene. Starting with Looking After No 1, they enjoyed a string of hits.

Their 1979 song I Don't Like Mondays, inspired by the off-the-cuff excuse from a Californian serial killer, became a global hit.

Geldof's zeal

At the same time he met a 17-year-old Paula Yates. The couple married and had three children together - Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches and Pixie.

It was in the dying days of The Boomtown Rats that Geldof saw a TV report by the BBC's Michael Buerk of a humanitarian crisis developing in drought-hit Ethiopia, with millions facing a slow death from starvation.

A celebrity's despair at other people's suffering was not exactly new - Sting had written the song Driven to Tears for The Police after seeing a similar report a few years earlier - but Geldof's zeal to do something about it was.

Bob geldof in Ethiopia
Geldof visited Ehtipoia to raise awareness of the famine

Co-writing with ex-Ultravox singer Midge Ure, Geldof wrote Do They Know It's Christmas? and browbeat most of the British pop world into appearing on the single. It raised millions for the Ethiopian famine fund.

Geldof went one better in 1985, organising the Live Aid concert held in London and Philadelphia. It was televised around the world, with Geldof causing controversy by swearing at viewers to send money.

The Boomtown Rats broke up in 1985, and Geldof became a solo artist, often seemingly-annoyed with the "Saint Bob" tag that had arisen around his work for Africa.

Aside from his music and raising a family he was also turning his hand to television production and other business ventures.

Yates' death

He set up a TV production company called Planet 24 (it was behind Channel 4's The Big Breakfast), but his private life took a turn for the worse.

In 1995 Yates left him for the Australian rock star Michael Hutchence.

There were bitter custody battles over the three children that were partly blamed for Hutchence's suicide in 1997.

Geldof live
Geldof recently released a new album

Since Yates' death from an overdose in 2000, Geldof has also brought up her daughter to Hutchence, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily.

Since the mid-90s Geldof has toyed with everything from radio host (his audience-baiting became briefly legend on London station XFM), launched a travel website and become involved with advertising, as well as releasing a new album ruminating on the death of his wife.

He has united with U2 singer Bono to protest against Third World Debt - while at the same time remaining an arch critic of British plans to joint the common currency.

Now, as he approaches 50, he is returning to the cause that made him an unlikely - and sometimes unwilling - celebrant.

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25 Jul 02  |  Politics

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