Bono And The Christian Right

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(CBS) The members of the Irish rock band U2 have always believed that their group was about something more than making records and playing concerts.

The themes of their music, often about social injustice, ranging from the American civil rights movement to genocide in Bosnia, have helped them sell more than 130 million albums around the world and gross nearly a billion dollars on the concert trail. And offstage, their lead singer, known by his teenage nickname "Bono," is equally impressive. His political activism, working to help erase third world debt and supplying Africa with AIDS drugs, has made him a political force.

Correspondent Ed Bradley takes a look at U2 and the double life of their lead singer.


After 25 years of touring, most critics say U2 is as good today as they've ever been, still selling out some of the world's largest stadiums and arenas when touring around the globe.

"It's only rock and roll where people are burned out at 40. I want to see what can happen with a band if they keep their integrity, keep their commitment to each other, and can we create extraordinary music," says Bono, speaking to 60 Minutes while on tour in Milan, Italy this past summer.

"You know what would have happened - and I'm not making a comparison, because I don't feel worthy to touch their hem - but what would have happened if the Beatles lived, and didn't, you know, disappear up their own arses but actually stayed in contact with the world, were awake. Didn't let their money buy them off. You know I'm still hungry. I still want a lot out of music," Bono says.

Bono has said when fans are screaming, it's not about the band, it's about them. "It's unexplainable what a song means to you. Because, remember, songs, it's not like a movie you see once or twice. A song, it gets under your skin and that's why [we] abandon ourselves to it," says Bono. "It has a sense of kind of uplift, of getting airborne."

"Everything feels possible. And maybe more things are possible than we think," he adds.

And at every concert, the band tries to make that happen. Before the show, fans are asked to join a campaign to help end world poverty. And during the performance, Bono sings of social justice and argues for religious harmony.

Bono's passions are shared and supported by the band, drummer Larry Mullen, Jr., bassist Adam Clayton and the guitarist who calls himself "The Edge."

"I think early on the heroes that we had were people like Bob Marley, John Lennon, The Clash," says The Edge. "And those bands all had the same combination of rock 'n roll, the rage, railing against injustice. And the politics. We connected with that in a major way."

The four of them formed their bond and their politics as teenagers in Dublin, Ireland. Larry Mullen wanted to start a band to play in pubs. Instead, he got one intent to take on the world.

Mullen says being Irish helped shape the bands' political and social concerns. "I mean we lived all our lives with the terrorist situation in northern Ireland. And with the British army and seeing that on the news night after night, atrocity after atrocity," says Mullen. "But more than anything else, for the British folks Irish people were all terrorists. So when we went to Britain, it was always a lot of resistance to U2. And that's why we came to America."

In 1980, American music fans embraced them. By 1987, following their masterwork album "The Joshua Tree," critics began to call them the biggest rock band in the world. Tours and CDs since then, including their latest, have added to their popularity.

But along the way, they found another calling: getting help to the starving, troubled continent of Africa. The band did their part at the 1985 Live Aid concert.

Bono continued on, behind the scenes and in front of news cameras, to lobby world leaders to action.

Bono once said, "I'm available to be used, but I'm not a cheap date." And he stands by that quote. "No, I'm not a cheap date. I'm in the checks business. You know, and not just people signing the checks, but people cashing them. And I'm ready to spend my, whatever you want to call it, the currency of my celebrity, if that's what it takes to get there."

He gets a lot of credit for lobbying President Bush, who he has met several times. Today, the Bush administration contributes to one of his biggest causes, AIDS medication for Africa.

"People openly laughed in my face when I suggested that this administration would distribute antiretroviral drugs to Africa," Bono remembers. "They said, 'You are out of your tiny mind.' There's 200,000 Africans now who owe their lives to America."

How does he get support for his projects? "It was probably that it would be really wrong beating a sort of left-wing drum, taking the usual bleeding-heart-liberal line," says Bono.

Instead, he enlisted the ruling right of American politics.

"Particularly conservative Christians, I was very angry that they were not involved more in the AIDS emergency. I was saying, 'this is the leprosy that we read about in the New Testament, you know. Christ hung out with the lepers. But you're ignoring the AIDS emergency," says Bono. "How can you? And, you know, they said, 'Well, you're right, actually. We have been. And we're sorry. We'll get involved.' And they did."

His proudest achievement may have been helping convince the G8 industrial nations to sign an agreement that will forgive more than $40 billion in loans to Third World countries, 18 of them so far.

"And these countries, instead of paying that money servicing old debts, can spend it on health, education and infrastructure in the countries. It's an amazing achievement," says Bono.

But for all his success as an activist, Bono remains a rock star at the core.

He and the rest of the band members have vacation homes in the South of France, the epicenter of celebrity lifestyle.

How did he end up in the South of Frances, as opposed to Italy or Spain?

"There's been, always been, an Irish/French thing going back to what's called the Flight of Earls. And in the 19th century. So, they're very tolerant of loud Irish people here, as you can see," says Bono laughing. "As you can see I like to keep a low profile," he adds.

Fact is, Bono's celebrity profile could hardly be bigger. Rock star sunglasses aside, he dispenses with the trappings of celebrity as much as possible.

Bono doesn't travel with security and doesn't have a posse. "I've always, you know, our thing, and being in U2, is like, how do you be, but not have to have all that bulls*it that goes with being famous and so, answer number one, live in Ireland. Ok? That helped," says Bono.

Bono also jokes about keeping his low profile in the South of France. "Why live in France? Because the French are so snobbish... The French are so into themselves that they don't even notice you."

Truth is, Bono and the band are treated like royalty on the French Riviera and spend as much time there as possible.

On tour this summer, they commuted to many of their European concerts from the South of France in a private jet.

Poking fun at themselves is something they do well, and often. At the height of their early fame almost 20 years ago, Frank Sinatra joined in at one of his Las Vegas concerts.

"During the show, he stood up, he stopped us and made us kind of stand up and do the wave thing. And we were dressed in, you know, rags, just in comparison," remembers Bono. "And he just stopped. He said, 'You're number one all around the world.' He said, 'Look at you. You haven't spent a dime on your clothes.'"

Today, they do spend millions on their concert production. Every detail of their sets is state-of-the-art, even a cappuccino machine under the stage.

And the attention to detail goes for the music, too. The band gets a lot out of their instruments. Part of their secret is guitar technology.

"It's like a programmable switching system. So I can go through any combination of effects," explains The Edge.

But Larry Mullen makes his job as simple as possible. He doesn't do big drum solos. "It's fairly simple and straightforward. But because of my...I'm not that good. And I concentrate quite hard," he says laughing.

Mullen and Clayton focus on creating the engine that drives the music. Bono and Edge are the navigators, trying to take each song and each concert to new heights.

This is where the band's two worlds collide. Their global fame has given Bono a political voice. U2's politics give their music a little something extra.

And Bono is confident U2 will be remembered in the future.

"Actually oddly enough, I think my work, the activism, will be forgotten. And I hope it will. Because I hope those problems will have gone away," says Bono. "But our music will be here in 50 years and 100 years' time. Fact that our songs occupy a sort of an emotional terrain that didn't exist before our group did."

By John Hamlin © 2005, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved.

7 Comments


Bono...like to see the making of vertigo
but
enough is enough

Why don't you concentrate your goood energy in your own country and let Canada be...

WHy don't yourself give money to your poor people who will freeze their fucking butt this winter in a humid place...like Ireland where most of the kid under 40 years old only saw war
war in their own country
it is pitiful to
see a guy like you doing nothing at all
so instead of telling people what to do keep your ass in Ireland.

WOW... Louise is obviously off her medication again. Its amazing how misinformed people tend to jump on issues they know little about. How many meetings about Third World Debt with the Prime Minister have you had ...Louise? Why is that...because nobody knows or cares about what you have to say when you put the glue down and remain coherant for more than a few seconds. Its nice to see People of Power being people other than some old corrupt politicians, generally voted to power by our parents. Keep up the good work Bono maybe eventually people will stumble across a clue.

Nice site ..btw..very well done.

Bono,

As I am simply walking through the back of the resteraunt at my second job the Lyrics of your music ring over the speaker system... am I the only one that hears what you are saying? I have to stop and hear the entirety of the words you are speaking. All at once the words you are saying give witness as not only my mind takes hold of them but as they roll over my soul. KEEP doing what you are doing, don't stay in just Ireland, KEEP writing and using the airwaves that have been opened up for you to speak the truth....

MJ

I think Louise needs to open her eyes and see the complete picture. There has been efforts made in his country, why not move beyond those borders???? The coffee smells great, can you smell it Louise?


MJ

Bono,

God bless you bother! You've become who you are because of what you do! God bless

With much love and respect,
Jesus

Music can change lives. It has changed mine.

I come from a country ( Brazil) where chances are dim and money is scarce. Crooked politicians are like a plague and ignorance and poverty are not a choice. Before I spoke English, when I was 12 in '83 I heard a song on the radio called "40. With that song in my heart and the will to escape my poor neighborhood, I fiercely fought and grew. I learned English from U2's lirics and I drew energy not from the scarce food I got, but from the courage I captured on songs like Gloria. Here I am a 35 year old guy, I was the captain of my destiny. I still am. I grew up with Larry as my best friend when food was scarce, I got warmer at night when Adam played something over the cheap readio just for me and I studied and worked myself to death ever since with The Edge's company always telling me to go forward with a braver riff. Bono was sometimes bothersome, and sometimes fun. What a nice voice, dude! What a courage. I would understand his Irish background American's won't, I also come from a f-up country. Anyway, Music changed my life. It helped me go through the darkest hours of a poor childhood and a difficult teenage hood of a broken and poor family.

I owe to U2, though they will never know, a part of my small victories. I hope that many more have . It is good to hear something good, in a time of so much cinisism and lack of faith.

As the planet gets crowded with more people and things it sadly seams to give way to more empty spaces, and not many of us have the wittyness(or the furtune) to grasp the momentum that helps fill these voids. But what makes the difference is that, for whatever reason or personal drive, some are catching on to that momentum and going with it.

Thank you man...

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on November 21, 2005 5:11 AM.

Achtung, baby! U2 aiming to crash Games finale was the previous entry in this blog.

Bono says Martin mystifies him, urges PM to give more to Third World is the next entry in this blog.

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