U2: Three Chords and the Truth

Bono's biography

Bono was born Paul David Hewson in Ballymun, Dublin on May 10th 1960, a second son to Bobby and Iris, and a younger brother to Norman. The family lived at number 10 Cedarwood Road in Ballymun which is in North Dublin. With a Protestant mother and Catholic father, Bono grew up with a strong religious faith but avoided becoming attached to one particular denomination. His mother died in 1974 (within days of the death of her own father) when Bono was just 14 years old, an event that was to have a strong influence on his later songwriting. Losing his mother at such a young age was something that he had in common with Larry, which led to a particularly close bond between the two, especially in the early days of the band.

He joined a group of kids who called themselves Lypton Village, and it was there that he acquired the name Bono Vox. The members of the group would give each other names that they felt reflected who they were better than their given names. The origin of Bono's name has been variously attributed to a dog food, a brand of hearing aid, and the Latin phrase for 'good voice'. The hearing-aid explanation seems to be the most widely accepted. There was a shop in the O'Connell Street area of Dublin which sold 'Bonavox' hearing aids, and this seems to have been adapted to Bono Vox.

In the early days of the band, Bono was the dominant force, playing guitar, singing, and writing the songs. As Edge became a better guitarist however, Bono was restricted to vocals only. Even then, there was a time when the others considered removing him from the band altogether, as it was felt that his voice wasn't up to scratch. Fortunately for all concerned, he remained.

Bono has always had a great stage presence. Even at school, where he was the first person to embrace punk, he had a flare for grabbing people's attention. From the beginning, he was a natural at working an audience and getting the best from them by interacting with them. This has been a constant feature of U2's live shows right up to the present day, perhaps most notably during the ZooTV tour, when he took on the guise of characters such as 'The Fly' and Mr. Macphisto.

Bono was awarded the 1999 MTV Free Your Mind award for his charitable work, particularly with the Jubilee 2000 campaign. He has also been heavily involved with NetAid and Warchild, to whom the profits of the 'Miss Sarajevo' single go. These are the latest in a series of worthy causes that have been championed by Bono. U2 have always been serious about their politics, Bono especially. There has been disagreement at times within the band about Bono's use of the stage to preach politics to the audience at a live show. Edge in particular is uncomfortable with the idea of lecturing fans, taking the view that there is a time and a place for political debate, but onstage during a show is not it.

In June 2001 however, Bono literally did deliver a lecture when he gave the Class Day Address at Harvard. Bono already had connections with the prestigious university through Professor Jeffrey Sachs, the chief economist for the Jubilee 2000 campaign. The Elevation tour happened to be in Boston during Harvard graduation week so Sachs arranged for Bono to be invited to speak at Class Day. I was fortunate enough to attend the speech in person thanks to my good friends Perry and Win. You can see photos of the occasion here and here.

Since the end of the Elevation tour in December 2001, Bono has continued to be actively involved in campaigning for debt relief in Africa. He visited Ghana, South Africa, Uganda and Ethiopia with US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill in May 2002 and has continued to work with Debtweek (formerly DATA) with the support of several world leaders and financial backing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He was made a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) in March 2007, an honour which he said would help open doors to political leaders around the world.

Bono co-founded an investment capital business named Elevation Partners with Fred Thompson, formerly an executive with Apple. After some initially poor investments in the likes of Palm Inc, the company reportedly made over $750 million dollars in 2011 from a highly lucrative investment in Facebook.

In May 2010, Bono injured his back during tour rehearsals in Germany. He underwent emergency surgery which was successful, but on medical advice the band had to pull out of 16 planned North American shows as well as their much anticipated first appearance at the Glastonbury festival at the end of June that year. Fortunately he made a full recovery and all the cancelled shows were rescheduled for the following year. U2's Glastonbury set made headlines for the wrong reasons when Bono was the focus of a protest by Artists Uncut, who were unhappy at U2's tax arrangements. Security quashed the protest but some fans were left feeling that their treatment had been heavy-handed.

Bono married childhood sweetheart, Alison Stewart, in 1982, and they have 4 children, daughters Jordan (born May 1989) and Memphis Eve (born July 1991) and son Elijah Patricius Q Guggi (born August 1999) and John Abraham (born May 2001). The latest one was famously described by Bono as "looking like a thug" when he was born. On 21st August 2001 Bono lost his father after a long battle against cancer. The last few concerts on the European leg of the Elevation tour were very emotional for Bono as he paid tribute to his father at each one.

Like the rest of the band Bono still lives in Dublin, in the exclusive suburb of Killiney anthough he also has homes in New York and Eze sur Mer in the south of France.

Random U2 lyric:

"Take this soul, stranded in some skin and bones. Take this soul - and make it sing" - Yahweh

My U2 ramblings:

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