In 1985 Bob Geldof gave birth to Live Aid, the groundbreaking rock-concert series that raised $200 million for African famine relief. Bono of U2 and Richard Curtis (screenwriter of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill) were there. That day inspired them to learn more about Africa and ultimately form their own antipoverty campaigns. Now the three friends are organizing Live 8, a series of free international concerts to be held on July 2 with unprecedented star power (Will Smith is host of a hip-hop-heavy show in Philadelphia; Pink Floyd will reunite in London on the same bill as U2, Coldplay, Madonna and Paul McCartney), all to pressure G-8 leaders to make debt forgiveness, fair trade and increased aid part of their Africa policies.
BOB, FOR YEARS YOU INSISTED YOU WOULD NEVER REVIVE LIVE AID. WHY?
BOB GELDOF Not to be immodest, but the first one was perfect in almost every sense. Artistically, people seemed to up the ante, and the performances were pretty great across the board. Huge amounts of money were raised, not a penny lost, and politically it elevated the issue onto the global table. The whole thing just worked, unbelievably. So you f___ with that legacy at your peril. Then there's the personal thing. David Bowie was on a high afterward, and he said, "Let's do this every year." I said, "Go on, you f_______ do it then." It's so exhausting, and you get into terrible trouble at home because you're not there at all.
RICHARD CURTIS I've already forgotten the name of my fourth child. [Laughter.]
GELDOF The thing that ultimately did it for me was their [Bono's and Curtis'] insistence. In retrospect I think maybe I was ambushed.
[TO BONO AND CURTIS] DID YOU COORDINATE YOUR ATTACKS ON HIM?
BONO Had there been real coordination, we would have been announcing this six months ago, not six weeks ago. It was all a bit haphazard actually. Bob didn't want to repeat himself, and he has a word he uses better than anyone else in the English language, and he just kept repeating that word followed by "off." [Much laughter.] I remember saying, "Look, Bob, if you don't want to do it, please, just don't tell anyone," because the mere threat of staging it at some point actually keeps a fair bit of pressure on certain politicians.
YOU ULTIMATELY DECIDED TO TIME LIVE 8 AROUND THE G-8 SUMMIT. ISN'T IT A BIT ODD TO STAGE A ROCK CONCERT AROUND WHAT'S ESSENTIALLY A POLICY MEETING?
BONO It's proof of how far we've come. The difference between this era and the original manifests itself in the Drop the Debt campaign. It's the journey from charity to justice. From the tin cupping of Live Aidbig cups, sure, $200 million cupsto now, when $25 billion is on the table, and we're not begging for it. Over the years, with the Make Poverty History campaign in Europe and the One campaign in the U.S., we have moved into real politics and real activism. We've cultivated a constituency so that now, when those eight men meet on a golf course, we can apply real pressure to them.
CURTIS We are living in a world where 50,000 people die every single day of simple poverty, and it's not treated like a crisis. There's got to be a moment, an explosive moment of concentration on this issue. The point of Live 8 is to provide the colossal, dramatic moment where everybody gets to grips with it.