By Steve Morse
Boston Globe

When it comes to rock 'n' roll philanthropy, there may be no greater believer than Tom Scholz of the band Boston. His group headlines an AIDS benefit tonight at Boston Garden -- the second part of the "AID & Comfort" series which began last night with a performance by Joan Rivers. Scholz has already given $1.5 million to help various social programs in the last two years, from supporting hospices to fighting for animal rights.

"I had a manager whose father died of AIDS," Scholz said recently from his home in Boston's western suburbs. "Right now, AIDS is the most obvious tragedy that needs our attention."

Scholz is upset that most other rock bands have avoided the AIDS issue. ''There are a lot of people who don't have the guts to get involved with it," he said. "It will probably stir up some adverse reaction in some circles of the public, but I can only guess why. Whatever it is, it's a poor excuse."

Other rock philanthropists like Sting and Bruce Springsteen keep high profiles, but Scholz is very quiet about his donations. Yet he has given six- figure sums to such groups as Greenpeace and the San Francisco-based Humane Farming Association, which is pushing for better treament of farm animals. He's also given money to food banks, children's programs, dolphin-saving organizations and has set up his own tax-exempt charitable fund to support all of these projects.

"I consider myself an activist," he said. "I don't have talent as an activist, but maybe I can make money to help things that way."

The group Boston has sold 15 million albums -- and Scholz is not the only socially concerned band member. "Although I'm definitely the activist for this stuff, the other guys are very cooperative and some have donated large sums of their own."

Concerning tonight's concert (for which tickets are still available), Scholz promised a different set from the one Boston played during its record nine-night stay at the Worcester Centrum last year. "We've added our old song, 'Television Politician,' " he laughed. "We felt we had to because it's an election year."