Bono on music, activism and faith

In more than four decades as the frontman of U2, Bono has guided one of the world’s biggest rock bands to the world’s biggest stages. but This Stage (if you can call it that) in the schoolyard at Mount Temple Comprehensive in North Dublin would be her first.

Bono took the stage with CBS Evening News host Norah O’Donnell and recalled, “Yeah, I mean, most people looked the other way when they had ears. But wow, did it feel good to be here!”

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U2 frontman Bono with CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell at the Schools Stage in North Dublin where he and his band mates made their first appearance.

CBS News


It was 1978. The guys who weren’t quite on the road to superstardom yet – Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton – were called The Hype. The name didn’t stick, but Bono already had a vague feeling they could do it justice.

O’Donnell asked, “Remember that feeling of being here on stage?”

“I remember that feeling of ‘I can do this,'” he said. “It’s the thing. It’s when you find the thing.”

Born Paul David Hewson, he was nicknamed Bono by his childhood best friend, and he found “the thing” early on.

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Early days for The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr., Bono and Adam Clayton.

Patrick Brocklebank/U2


It wasn’t even obvious to his high school music teacher. “I remember a moment where he said, ‘I’ll get you people who can play an instrument to write a piece of music,'” Bono said.

“But you couldn’t play an instrument?”

“No, so I was in a different part of the class. But I remember that feeling, you know, because I knew I could do this. I know I can’t play an instrument, sir! But I’ve got these tunes in my head and I’ve got words and I’ve got things I want to say.

U2 was formed after 14-year-old Larry Mullen Jr. posted an ad on a school bulletin board: “Drummer seeks musician to start band.”

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“How accidentally our destiny comes,” writes Bono in his new memoir Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story, out this Tuesday on Knopf.

The idea of ​​how the band started was “absurd,” he said, “but there was magic, you know, that’s all we had. And of course there was desperation to make something of our lives.”

“Did any of you have an idea of ​​how to be a superstar in those early days of the band?”

“That would be me!” he laughed. “It’s so embarrassing! I try to break it down sometimes when I consider the absurdity of my life… We have a kind of feeling. We have our own tone. So there’s something.”

With that tone – that unique sound – U2 rose to the pinnacle of success – the only band in history with #1 albums on the Billboard 200 for four consecutive decades, beginning in the 1980s with The Joshua Tree.

U2 perform “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” from The Joshua Tree:


U2 – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (Official Music Video) through
U2VEVO on Youtube

They have sold an estimated 170 million albums and won 22 Grammys – more than any other band.

It was a long way from Cedarwood Road, where Bono grew up. While we were visiting the family who live at his childhood home (“It’s never our place, it’s always, ‘Was that Bono’s house?'” laughed Mrs. Ryan), a crowd gathered outside to greet the local boy to see who did well.

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Bono pays a visit to his old neighborhood on Cedarwood Road in Dublin.

CBS News


As part of our tour of Bono’s Dublin, we stopped for a pint at Finnegan’s of Dalkey for a rare interview with Bono’s wife, Ali Hewson, of 40 years.

O’Donnell asked, “So you call him Bono? Not Paul?”

“Pretty much – I call him a lot of things!” Ali laughed.

“And Paul isn’t one of them!” Bono added.

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Bono and his wife Ali Hewson.

CBS News


They started dating the same week U2 became a band and she has inspired some of their biggest hits.

Blue-eyed boy meets brown-eyed girl
Oh oh oh, the cutest thing
You can sew it up, but you’ll still see the tear
Oh oh oh, the cutest thing
Baby has blue sky ahead
And in it I am a rain cloud
Oh, that’s a stormy kind of love
Oh oh oh, the cutest thing

When asked what she was thinking while reading Surrender, Ali replied, “I was very nervous about what was going to happen in this book. But I think he’s an incredible writer. It just seems to be all he can do, which is very annoying most of the time!”

O’Donnell asked, “Which one of you saw first what could become of U2?”

“I don’t think any of us really saw it,” Ali said. “I mean, as a teenager, there was a lot of confidence, I suppose.”

“Front is another word for it,” Bono said. “Frontman. Yes. Probably more front than substance… and confidence.”

Don’t just believe in yourself and don’t just believe in his band.

“You talk a lot about faith; are you religious?” asked O’Donnell.

“I don’t know. I’m like a stray dog. I go to a Catholic church. I would be in a synagogue. If someone said here right now, ‘Would you give your life to Jesus?’ I would be ‘me!’ And I’m not one of those people who turns the Pope’s picture over before doing anything out of the ordinary. I take God with me wherever I go. And so God saw me in a bit of a bad shape, I’m sure.”

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Singer and activist Bono.

CBS News


U2’s involvement in a Christian group led to the question of whether they could be a band early on and be believers. Bono said: “What purpose can music – what is the purpose? The world is, you know, on fire. What are we doing here? At that moment Edge started working on a song called ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’. And that unlocked it for him. And that kind of unlocked it for us, because we realized that our songs could speak into a situation and maybe be useful.”

And the fight has only just begun
There are many lost but tell me who won?
The trenches that have dug into our hearts
And mothers, children, brothers, sisters are torn apart
Sunday bloody Sunday
Sunday bloody Sunday
How long, how long do we have to sing this song?
How long? How long?


Sunday bloody Sunday through
U2 – theme on Youtube

“Sunday Bloody Sunday” was a condemnation of the bloodshed in Ireland at the time. And, Bono said, although it’s been tested, they haven’t lost their faith. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, we grew up with it, it was a little crazy.’ It was a little crazy. But actually the scriptures, the holy texts are still very important to me and very important to the band.”

That could explain his decades-long fight against poverty, his meetings with popes and presidents, his lobbying of heads of state around the world, much of it through the work of his organization One. “Our motivation is very much justice,” he said. “We have forgiven $130 billion worth of debt. An additional 54 million children went to school. It’s a big thing in my life. For me, especially in the fight against AIDS, outside of my family, our music is what I’m most proud of in my life, even as a tiny part, a catalyst.”

Whether it’s music, politics, or activism, it boils down to the same thing for frontman Bono: “I’ve always looked for the top tune in everything.”

“Describe what you mean when you say first class tunes?” asked O’Donnell.

“It’s the thing in the room that rises above the noise and chatter,” he said. “Thats my job. i am a songwriter I look for clarity in most things I do. But the best stories win that?’ Top line tune.”

O’Donnell said, “I mean, we have to end there, I mean that -“

“For heaven’s sake.”

“Bloody hell. That is fine.

“Bring that woman a drink!” Bono laughed.

READ AN EXCERPT: Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story by Bono


For more information:


Story produced by Mikaela Bufano. Publisher: Steven Tyler.

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