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A fine, fabulous madness, 20 years ago and now
- Yesterday returns for the Beatle who feels there is nothing wrong with being emotional

I will be opening Live8 in Hyde Park with a little Irish band you may have heard of called U2, singing Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was suggested to me by Bob (Geldof) and Bono, the mad Irish boys (God bless ’em), that it would be a good kick-off for the whole occasion.

It was 20 years ago today'” And it will be 20 years, almost to the day, that we all gathered together for Live Aid, and closed the show with Wembley Stadium singing another Beatles song, Let It Be. It was a day that had huge impact, a landmark in our history, and I was very proud to be involved.

I seem to recall that at Live Aid I was being referred to as an “elder statesman”, so what does that make me now'

I feel like an ex-president of rock and roll. I will be playing a set with my band and closing the show with another old favourite, The Long and Winding Road, with a film by Richard Curtis about Africa’s long walk to justice.

And, of course, I’m honoured that they would want my songs for such a noble cause, but that is the power of the Beatles.

Every day I get people of all ages, from all walks of life, coming up to say, “Thank you for the music, it’s made a difference in my life”. What we did in the Beatles really overtook us and our intentions.

Something mighty has happened, way beyond anything we set out to do. I think the same thing is happening with Live8 now. The idea is overtaking us.

In some ways Live8 is carrying on the idealism that became part of music in the Sixties. When we started, we all thought that we were just doing it to earn a bob and pull the birds, and it turned out to be much more than that. Music and politics began to fuse because, on an idealistic level, we are talking about the same things, peace, love and fairness.

In the Beatles, we would speak out because that was our nature. We were thinking people, we had opinions, and we started to realise we weren’t the only people who held these opinions. We always used to say: “These are not our ideas, these are our generation’s ideas.”

We had the platform. We could give voice to them. And that is a very interesting phenomenon.

I look at G8 and I see world leaders but I can also look at the bill of Live8 and see world leaders, in a completely different sense. Political leaders talk about “hearts and minds” but that is also what music deals with. We Shall Overcome during the civil rights struggle. Give Peace a Chance during the Vietnam war. These anthems become very important.

Music can carry simple, powerful ideas but it also allows emotion into the idea. And it helps sometimes to get a bit emotional about things. Politicians may try to remain detached and objective, perhaps they have to be, but the rest of us can look at this and say: “Imagine a kid being born today into debt that it cannot get out of.” Imagine that. Now what are we going to do about it'

I called Bob a few weeks ago because I heard he wanted to speak to me, and I had an idea what it might be about. And I talked to him, as I had the first time, about my worries. In 1985, my big worry had been corruption, aid arriving on the dock side and immediately being trundled off into government Land Rovers and never seen again.

But Bob said: “We’re going down there and we are going to give it out”. And he did his utmost to make sure it got there, which was a great thing.

So this time I said: “What’s the story, Bob' Your own words were ‘Charity fatigue’.” And he explained it very articulately, very forcefully, as he does anyway, even if he’s just asking you out to dinner.

I said: “Bob, you’re mad. But if anyone can pull it off, you can.” That’s the way I feel. I mean mad in a great way, a fine and fabulous madness.

This is not a fund-raiser. It is not about the money.

It’s a consciousness-raiser. It’s about speaking out on behalf of African people being born this very moment into eternal debt. There is no way they can get out of it on their own. All we are trying to do is get that debt excused. It’s a little amount to us, but everything to them. So the musicians are just being spokespeople once again.

This is something people have been lobbying for for a long time and we want governments to get behind the idea, moved hopefully by the will of the people. And it does seem to be catching fire.

I am really excited to be doing Live8. It’s a moment that could change the world and here we are, taking a breath, before it happens. This is a great point to be at, just about to walk through the door. This could be the greatest gig of all our lives.

The Daily Telegraph

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