Episode 39: Bob Geldof (full version)

This is the unabridged version of an interview with Bob Geldof; the shorter edited version is available separately as Development Drums number 38.

Bob Geldof and Owen Barder

Bob Geldof is a singer, songwriter, author, actor and part-time political activist. As lead singer of the Boomtown Rats, Geldof had chart success with Rat Trap and I Don’t Like Mondays. In 1984, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure brought together a group of musicians under the name Band Aid to record a single they wrote together, Do They Know Its Christmas?, which became one of the best-selling singles of all time.  They went on to organise the Live Aid charity concert in 1985, and the Live 8 concert in 2005.

I met Bob Geldof in London to talk about his work fighting poverty in Africa. He talks in this podcast about 8 Miles, a new private equity company which he helped to establish to channel investment into Africa. We also talk about Band Aid, Live Aid, Live 8 and the Gleneagles Summit.  He is characteristically robust about suggestions that Band Aid may have helped portray Africa in an negative light, and about allegations that money intended for famine relief was diverted to opposing sides in Ethiopia’s civil war.

In this longer version of the interview Bob reflects on how his own upbringing may have led to him responding as he did to news reports of famine in Ethiopia, and on the planning of Live Aid, Live 8 and Gleneagles. (Everything in the highlights is also in this longer version.)

Read the transcript of the full interview with Bob Geldof

2 thoughts on “Episode 39: Bob Geldof (full version)

  1. “and, to be frank, very undergraduate.”

    That was pretty funny I thought. And I admire his achievements, deeply dislike most of his opponents, and think he knows more about development than most of them, but the style of analysis he put on display in the interview? hhhmmmm, not so taken by that.

  2. There are basically two sides to Bob Geldof.

    The first side responds passionately and energetically to major problems like starvation, disease, and poverty, in such a way that he’s making major contributions to solving those problems. I very much admire that side of Bob.

    The other side of Bob Geldof likes to blather on about those same major problems in a way that is so vapid, under-thought, and imprecise, that it almost verges on incoherence. Like I understand what he’s saying half the time, but the other half the time I’m almost translating something out of Bob-speak and into English. And no, I don’t think it has anything to do with his being Irish. It’s just the way he thinks.

    So I admire him, and at the same time I’m frustrated by what looks to me like underutilized potential. On the whole I suppose I rather like him, though I just wish he would just be a little more systematic in the way he thinks about development and beyond. Maybe some people would argue that systematic thinking comes at the expense of passion or energy or empathy, but I think that that’s nonsense; just look at Owen.

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