Biggest Philanthropists in Rock

Baby, You’re a Rich Man… So Help Out Already!

Live Aid; July 13, 1985

Hey, any of you heard of that guy from Dublin? The one who always wears the shades? Fights AIDS? That’s right, long time Joshua Tree enthusiast and immunodeficiency fighter Bono has just become the richest rock star in the world. Take that Paul McCartney! The U2 frontman isn’t technically the richest rock star just yet, but by tomorrow, May 18, he will be. Tomorrow, a social networking site that you might have heard of will go public, meaning you can buy and trade stocks for those of you who don’t watch enough Mad Money. That’s right, back in 2009, Bono’s equity firm, Elevation Partners, bought 2.3 percent of the shares in Facebook for a cool $90 million. How much has Facebook grown since then you ask? Can’t be that much, right? I mean, is it that popular? Alright, enough sarcasm. As it turns out, it is VERY popular, making Bono’s $90 million investment worth $1.5 billion when Facebook hits the public stock exchange tomorrow, with a total estimated value of the company at over $100 billion. All in all, can’t say it could have happened to a better rocker as the man seems to be making more headlines for his humanitarian efforts than for his music (which is honestly better than most rockers who seem to get more attention for their private life shenanigans instead of their music). In honor of Mr. Bono’s achievement, we will be looking at some of rock’s most friendly philanthropists, those that chose to use their fame and fortune for the good of humanity instead of just the for the good of their lawyers. Read on and find out more about some of the most egalitarian musicians in rock (and pop, if you want to get technical)!


David Gilmour of Pink Floyd

Long time rich man and Pink Floyd guitarist/co-songwriter, David Gilmour may not be as famous for his charitable work as he is for his music, but it’s kind of hard to top Dark Side of the Moon. In May of 2003, David and wife Polly Samson sold their Little Venice home to another fellow rich guy, Charles Edward Maurice Spencer, better known as 9th Earl Charles and the brother of the late Princess Diana. Rather than taking that cool $7.5 million and lavishly spending it on themselves or even another home, the Gilmours instead chose to donate the entire amount to Crisis, a British charity that helps the homeless. Not only is he a helper of downtrodden fellow Brits, Gilmour has given back to our friends in the animal kingdom as well. Before the release of the Pink Floyd’s triple-platinum album, The Division Bell, the band members where stuck on what to title the album. Author Douglas Adams offered to give Gilmour the title he was looking for if only he would donate about $40,000 (or £25,000) to the Save the Rhino foundation, which Gilmour gladly did.


Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats

Although some of you out there might not have heard much of him as of late, Bob Geldof is a giant when it comes to rockers that give back. Made famous by his band The Boomtown Rats, Geldof’s first major charitable involvement took place way back in September of ’81 where he performed as a solo act for the Amnesty International benefit concert The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball, which would eventually lead to a life of helping others. Soon after in 1984 after watching a BBC report about the famine in Ethiopia, Geldof teamed up with Midge Ure of Ultravox to write “Do They Know it’s Christmas.” The song would go on to be recorded by various artists under the name Band Aid and became the fastest selling single in UK history at the time and raising over $12.5 million towards the cause, but that was only the beginning. As Geldof learned more about the plight of African nations, he soon learned that the root cause of their hardships was the staggering amount of debt these nations owed to western banks, so much so that for every pound raised for them, they would have to pay back ten towards their loans. A single song wasn’t about to do the trick so on July 13, 1985, Geldof and Ure organized what would become at the time the single largest benefit concert ever, Live Aid. The huge event took place at both London’s Wimbley Stadium and Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy stadium, bringing together an unprecedented 16 hours of rock which was further bolstered by the BBC’s unprecedented decision to clear out its regularly scheduled programming to broadcast the entire concert live on UK television. The Live Aid benefit concert rose over $237 million dollars which earned Geldof the honor of knighthood at the young age of 34.


Bono of U2

FL: Bill Gates, Bono and Micheal Dell

Not to be outdone by his fellow Irishman, Bono is undoubtedly the king of rock philanthropists. What makes Bono universally recognized as the most important humanitarian in rock isn’t the amount of money he gives, it’s about the time and effort. The U2 frontman was first inspired to take a more direct stance on humanitarianism after seeing one of the Amnesty International Secret Policeman’s Ball benefit shows, stating in a 1986 interview with Rolling Stone "I saw 'The Secret Policeman’s Ball' and it became a part of me. It sowed a seed.”  In that same year, Bono and U2 performed at Amnesty International’s Conspiracy of Hope tour along with Sting as well as performing for Bob Geldof’s Live Aid projects, including the single “Do They Know its Christmas?” More recently, Bono has focused his efforts on fighting the global AIDS epidemic through a variety of projects, most notably Project Red, which partners with various companies such as American Express, Apple, Dell, Microsoft, Converse, Motorola, The Gap and Giorgio Armani. As part of Project Red, each company creates a product that features a Product Red logo and a percentage of the profits from the sales go towards the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. He is also a co-founder of DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa), EDUN and the ONE Campaign. Among his several endeavors, Bono has also received numerous awards and honors for his philanthropic efforts including a Nobel Prize nomination, an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II as well as being named Time’s “Person of the Year” in 2005.


Other Notable Philanthropists


Justin Timberlake

Shakira on behalf of her foundation

JT is the head of his appropriately named Justin Timberlake Foundation which was initially created to fund music education programs but has since grown to include several other causes. One of the foundation’s most notable deeds came in the form of a charity golf tournament which helped raise millions for children’s hospitals.


Michael Jackson

All personal feelings aside, Michael Jackson was always ready to help the children. He donated millions of dollars to countries around the world to help fight hunger, disease, war and poverty and successfully used his status as a famous musician towards his Heal the World foundation which would take dozens of underprivileged kids from around the world to his private amusement park in Never Land Ranch.



Many know the Colombian songstress as much for her gyrating hips as they do for her songs, but what many probably don’t know is her proficiency in five different languages and her IQ of 140, meaning she’s technically a genius. Using her combination of fame, intellect and superior looks, Shakira formed the Pies Descalzos Foundation which helps raise money for schools in her native Colombia.


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