By Tim Saunders on
Sir Bob Geldof has revealed some of the turning points in his life that led to his charity work.
In a new book – Turning Points by Julia Ogilvy – Geldof talks candidly about losing his mother to a brain haemorrhage when he was just seven years old.
“It was so out of the blue, you know – there was no warning or lingering illness. Just bang… It’s unbearable to be that small and to have to take care of yourself. At the time, you just get on with it and it becomes routine to shop, to cook and to get the coal from the basement to light the fire. It was c**p coming home alone.
“When I think [about] TV reports of starving children, I realize I may have been more alert than another person simply because of my background.”
Geldof is referring to watching Michael Buerk’s shocking report on the famine in Ethiopia on the BBC in 1984, an event that led to writing Do They Know It’s Christmas with Midge Ure and organizing Live Aid. In recent years he was also behind the Live 8 concerts and persuading world leaders to double aid for Africa’s poor to $50 billion.
“Michael Buerk was shocked by what he saw and you could clearly see that. The brevity of the words hung in the silence and his outrage reverberated around.
“It may as well have had “For the attention of Bob Geldof” on it. It was right for the mood I was in, the time of day, the condition of my life – new family, no future, best part of my life over, evening, October. Here I was with a nine-month-old baby; and here I was seeing all these mothers and fathers and children, absolutely no different to us.’
“It’s important to remember the times we were in, too. In 1984, people were getting outraged by the Common Agricultural Policy – the fact that they were paying tax to grow surplus food. They then paid tax to store it and paid tax to destroy it – while not that many miles south of Europe, 30 million people were dying of starvation.
“The next day, I decided that to die of want in a world of surplus is not only intellectually absurd, it’s morally repulsive.
“Paula [Yates] had cried watching the film and had to leave halfway through as she was too distressed. The next morning, she had to do filming for The Tube. She left a note on the fridge saying that anyone who visited the house had to put five quid in a shoebox on the kitchen table.
“When I saw that, it really alerted my outrage, and that’s what made me decide to write a song. I knew that putting a few quid in the box just wasn’t enough.
“I thought at first I’d write a song and make around 70 grand. And because The Boomtown Rats weren’t having hits, the logic was to use my mates from the ten years I’d spent in rock ‘n’ roll, and rising young bands like U2, to perform it.
“So I called Paula to ask who was on the show that night, and she said Midge Ure. I was a bit shamefaced at suggesting “hip” bands should play my song when I wasn’t doing well, so when I called Midge, I suggested we cover some old standard to raise money. But he said I should write a song."
Turning Points, by Julia Ogilvy, will be published by Lion Books on June 19. For information about Turning Points see www.turning-pointsonline.com. Ogilvy has donated her fee and proceeds from the sale of the book to the charity Project Scotland, which helps young people realise their potential through volunteering.
Copyright © 2009 Look to the Stars