Tripping through Bono’s wires

With just a few days to go for the U2 concert, many people are busy WhatsApping how they will make their way to and from D.Y. Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai, on Sunday. Others have got forwards of the band's set list at their recent Melbourne and Singapore shows, and pretty much know what songs to expect, with the speculation that A.R. Rahman may make a guest appearance to perform Ahimsa’.

After the Michael Jackson and Roger Waters shows, this is perhaps the most anticipated concert in India. What a lot of people aren't really talking about is the role that Paul David Hewson aka Bono has played not only as a rock star, but as a humanitarian and activist too.

In terms of overall personality and contribution, the Irishman has probably achieved more than any other musician, living or dead. He's been much more than a musical icon. Rather than writing on common subjects like love, money, drugs, sex and rock 'n' roll, Bono and his band mates have chosen deep political, environmental and social issues to spread messages.

Dissent, activism and philanthropy have been part of music for years, whether through lyrics or fundraisers. Bob Dylan, John Lennon, George Harrison, Leonard Cohen, Bob Marley, Bob Geldof, Paul Simon, Hugh Masakela and Miriam Makeba come first to mind.

What makes Bono stand apart is his personal contribution to help Ethiopian famine victims, African AIDS patients or the plight of debt-ridden countries. He has had personal connections with top global leaders, helped spread the message of peace, and through his Product Red campaign, tied up with leading corporates to donate to the poor.

Larger than life

Whether one is a U2 fan or not, Bono's life deserves to be explored. A good beginning would be Dave Fanning's documentary with the singer which is available on YouTube. It delves into Bono’s upbringing, music and the causes he has stood for. "Bono is a rock star. He does not have to get up in the morning to save somebody's life, but he does," says Fanning.

While the documentary aptly sums up Bono's contribution, a more in-depth account can be found in Michka Assayas' 2005 book Bono On Bono. Written entirely in question-answer format, it provides various nuggets and anecdotes that helped build the Bono persona and thinking. The now 59-year-old Irishman talks of singer James Brown as a performer he admired, and how producers Brian Eno and Quincy Jones were his biggest mentors. He talks of how both artistes and fans have lost out in the music business. Back in 2005, he predicted that the iPod will turn into a phone.

On meeting global leaders, Bono admits that his favourite is Soviet supremo Mikhail Gorbachev, without whom "the twentieth century might have had a very different end". He's also in awe of South African legend Nelson Mandela for his "ability to see, taste and almost touch a future that wasn't yet there".

Bono's humour is apparent when he describes Fidel Castro of Cuba and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua as the Grateful Dead of political speech-making. "They go on and on, and they don't even take acid," he quips.

Bono is of the belief that the "things that really communicate universally are humour, grace and strength of character". That's one quote that shows how special he is.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 8:43:56 AM |

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