Irish singer and songwriter who organized massive fundraising events for famine relief in the 1980s; in 1986 he was awarded an honorary KBE and nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Born to middle-class parents in Dublin, Geldof was educated by Jesuits at Blackrock College. After a rebellious adolescence he led an unsettled life in Britain and Canada, working through a succession of jobs, including spells as a journalist. In 1975 he helped to found the Boomtown Rats, a Dublin-based rock band, becoming their lead singer. Owing partly to Geldof's flair for publicity, the band became one of the most successful to emerge from the punk scene, enjoying number one hits with ‘Rat Trap’ (1978) and ‘I don't like Mondays’ (1979). By the 1980s, however, their popularity was declining.
In 1984, deeply affected by television images of the famine in Ethiopia, Geldof organized the recording of a charity single by an all-star rock group calling themselves Band Aid. ‘Do They Know It's Christmas?’, written by Geldof and the singer Midge Ure, became the biggest-selling UK single to that date, raising some £8 million for famine relief. This success led to the ambitious Live Aid project, two marathon rock concerts held simultaneously in London and Philadelphia on 13 July 1985. Broadcast worldwide to an estimated one and a half billion viewers, the concerts raised upwards of £50 million, a triumph owing much to Geldof's determination, organizational ability, and skill in handling the media. Sports Aid, organized in 1986, raised a further £50 million.
As chairman of the Band Aid trust, Geldof remained closely involved with the administration of the funds, visiting many relief projects in the field. His sincerity and abrasive outspoken style made him a popular hero and his autobiography Is That It?, became a bestseller in 1986. However, attempts to resume his musical career as a solo artist met with little success. In the 1990s Geldof became prominent once more as the head of his own highly successful TV production company.