Musician Bob Geldof turns 70

Where the only water flowing Is the bitter sting of tears

Bob GeldofI was making a follow-up appointment at my podiatrist’s office. It was a Monday, and the receptionist and I started riffing on songs. Monday, Monday; Stormy Monday; Manic Monday; Rainy Days and Mondays – there have been lots of rainy days around Albany.

Then I said I Don’t Like Mondays. She thought I was making a reference to scheduling my next visit. No, I was talking about a song by the Boomtown Rats, led by Bob Geldof. I explained that it was a song about a mass shooting and the explanation of the act by the 16-year-old shooter.

The truth is that, though I actually have a couple of albums by the Boomtown Rats on vinyl that I haven’t played in years, I Don’t Like Mondays is the only song that I identify with Geldof.

Band Aid

Well, that and Do They Know It’s Christmas?, one of the best-selling singles of all time, which Geldof co-wrote with Midge Ure of Ultravox. It was created in response to the famine in Ethiopia in the early 1980s.

Geldof and Ure put together the group Band Aid, comprised of a large number of British and Irish musicians. The song was especially massive in the UK and generated remakes in 19892004, and 2014.

It also inspired the Lionel Ritchie/Michael Jackson-penned We Are the World from mostly American artists as USA for Africa in 1985.

When he promoted the original single, Bob Geldof got into a run-in with the British Government, which initially refused to waive the VAT on its sales. Ultimately, yielding to public sentiment, the government donated the tax back to the charity.

But he realized the problem in Ethiopia was much larger, in no small part because of what he discovered, according to his Wikipedia page. “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.”

Live Aid

The charity super-concert Live Aid took place in 1985 in London and Philadelphia. “On how Geldof got artists to agree to play, Live Aid production manager Andy Zweck states, ‘Bob had to play some tricks to get artists involved. He had to call Elton and say Queen are in and Bowie’s in, and of course, they weren’t. Then he’d call Bowie and say Elton and Queen are in. It was a game of bluff.'”

Geldof continues to be involved with charitable work. He 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… [He] was granted an honorary knighthood (KBE) by Elizabeth II in 1986 for his charity work in Africa… In 2005, he received the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.”