BONO: The Missionary ; the Saturday Profile

By Vallely, Paul | The Independent (London, England), May 13, 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

BONO: The Missionary ; the Saturday Profile

Vallely, Paul, The Independent (London, England)

There were no fewer than four US presidents sat on the platform, in the rain, looking faintly ridiculous under a hastily assembled selection of umbrellas. This was Little Rock, Arkansas, at the opening of Bill Clinton's presidential library last year. There had been speeches from George Bush Snr, Jimmy Carter, Clinton himself, and the incumbent George Bush Jnr. But there was no doubt from the reaction of the crowd who the star was. Enter the Irish rock singer Bono, and the U2 guitarist Edge.

It was a consummate performance: not just the impromptu rendition of Lennon and McCartney's "Rain", gently mocking the fact that the world's most powerful nation had not reckoned on bad weather, but also Bono's own speech, addressing each of the presidents individually and singling out something good each had done for Africa. And then he sang: "These are the hands that built America." To a British audience it might sound a little cheesy. But in the United States it was brilliantly judged.

The next time the rock star met the President privately, six months later, on the eve of the G8 summit at Gleneagles, it was to ask him to stump up $2bn extra to bring the pledged aid in-creases to the level the Commission for Africa had said was needed - and on which diplomatic negotiations had stalled. Bush paid up.

Bono's approach reveals something of the singer's personal style. "Bono's in love with the world," said his fellow campaigner Bob Geldof. "He wants to embrace it. I want to punch its lights out." The technique has made the front man of the biggest rock band in the world one of its most successful political lobbyists for change.

That is a lot of superlatives -but superlatives are the environment which Bono is used to inhabiting. U2 has sold some 170 million albums worldwide, making them one of the most successful groups of all time. The band has won 22 Grammy awards, second only to Stevie Wonder. They won no fewer than five this year for their latest albumHowto Dismantlean Atomic Bomb. U2 has been called by Rolling Stone "the band that matters most, maybe even the only band that matters".

As for the lead singer, Bono is the only person to have been nominated for an Oscar, a Grammy, a Golden Globe and the Nobel Peace Prize. This month he was named by Time magazine as one of the "100 People Who Shape Our World". Even those who don't normally respond to hyperbole have succumbed to his charm. The last pope was keen to swap a rosary for a pair of Bono's ubiquitous shades -which he wears constantly because of a light sensitivity in his eyes, as well as out of pop-star cool.

It is all an unimaginably long way from the 16-year-old school- boy Paul David Hewson, who spotted a card on the noticeboard at Mount Temple Comprehensive in Dublin seeking musicians for The Larry Mullen Band. Those who assembled in Mullen's kitchen not long after included Mullen, a drummer, Adam Clayton (bass guitar), Dave Evans (guitar) and Hewson (vocals). There were three others too, who eventually dropped out, leaving the four men who were to become U2. It was a world of recherch adolescent nicknames and the powerfully voiced Hewson acquired the moniker Bono after a Bono Vox hearing aid ad while Evans acquired the tag The Edge.

In the depressed Dublin of the 1970s, music was like an alarm call, Bono later said. "At 17 when I first heard The Clash they sounded like revolution to me." Within four years, U2 had a record contract and began the long haul to universal stardom. Bob Geldof remembers the first time he heard them in the States. "It was in a small club in San Francisco early on. To me, there was something recognisably Irish about them -the huge drum, the pounding bass, the enormousgorgeous voice and the powerful rhythm of Edge's guitar, very similar to that of the Irish fiddle. But there was a deep emotional core in it that people respond to, in any language.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

BONO: The Missionary ; the Saturday Profile


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?