Paul David Hewson (born 10 May 1960 in Glasnevin, Dublin, Ireland), also known by his stage name Bono, is the main vocalist of the Irish rock band U2. Bono was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, and attended Mount Temple Comprehensive School where he met his future wife, Ali Hewson, and the future members of U2. Since that time he has been referred to as Bono, his stage and nickname, by his family and fellow band members. Bono writes almost all U2 lyrics, often using political, social and religious themes. During their early years, Bono's lyrics contributed to U2's rebellious tone. As the band matured, his lyrics became inspired more by personal experiences with members of U2.
Among his non-U2 endeavors, he has collaborated and recorded with numerous artists, sits on the board of Elevation Partners and has refurbished and now owns a hotel with fellow band member, The Edge. Bono is also widely known for his activism concerning Africa, for which he co-founded DATA. He has organized and played in several benefit concerts and has met with influential politicians. He is the co-founder of EDUN, the ONE Campaign and Product Red. Bono has been praised and criticized for his activism and involvement with U2. Bono has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, was granted an honorary knighthood by the United Kingdom, and was named as a Person of the Year by Time, among many other awards and nominations.
Bono grew up in the Northside suburb of Glasnevin which was what could be called a lower-middle class neighbourhood. His home was a typical three-room house. The smallest room was Bono's. Bono was 14 when his mother died on 10 September 1974 after suffering a cerebral aneurysm at her father's funeral. Many songs from U2's albums, including "I Will Follow", "Mofo", "Out of Control", "Lemon" and "Tomorrow", focus on the loss of his mother. Many other songs focus on the theme of childhood vs. maturity such as "Into the Heart," "Twilight" and "Stories for Boys."
Bono attended Mount Temple Comprehensive School, a multi denominational school in Clontarf. During his childhood and adolescence, Bono and his friends were part of a surrealist street gang called "Lypton Village". This group of friends began performing in public places, such as buses, to provoke people. Bono met one of his closest friends Guggi in Lypton Village. The gang had a ritual of nickname-giving. Bono had several names: first, he was "Steinvic von Huyseman", then just "Huyseman", then "Houseman", then "Bon Murray", "Bono Vox of O'Connell Street", and finally just "Bono".
"Bono Vox" is an alteration of Bonavox, a Latin phrase which translates to "good voice." It is said he was nicknamed "Bono Vox" by his friend Gavin Friday, after a hearing aid shop they regularly passed in Dublin's Talbot Street because he sang so loudly he seemed to be singing for the deaf. Initially, Bono disliked the name. However, when he learned it loosely translated to "good voice", he accepted it. Hewson has been known as "Bono" since the late seventies. Although he uses Bono as his stage name, close family and friends also refer to him as Bono, including his wife and fellow band members.
Bono is married to Alison Hewson (née Stewart). Their relationship began in 1975 and the couple were married on 21 August 1982 in a Church of Ireland (Anglican) ceremony at All Saints Church, Raheny (built by the Guinness family), with Adam Clayton acting as Bono's best man. The couple have four children, daughters Jordan and Memphis Eve, and sons Elijah Bob Patricus Guggi Q and John Abraham. Bono lives in Killiney in south County Dublin, Ireland, with his family and shares a villa in Èze in the Alpes-Maritimes in the south of France with U2 bandmate The Edge, as well as an apartment at The San Remo in Manhattan and a small house in the quiet village of Middleton Cheney, England.
[I have] very sensitive eyes to light. If somebody takes my photograph, I will see the flash for the rest of the day. My right eye swells up. I've a blockage there, so that my eyes go red a lot. So it's part vanity, it's part privacy and part sensitivity.
His use of sunglasses on stage has progressed through his career with U2. During the 1980s, he was rarely seen wearing sunglasses. During the 1992-93 Zoo TV Tour, he wore sunglasses for parts of the show, though usually in character as The Fly (with large, dark wraparound shades) or Mirrorball Man (with more typical, round sunglasses). In the 1997-98 Popmart Tour, he wore larger, tinted wraparound shades with thick frames. By the early 2000s, his sunglasses were commonly blue, and more goggle shaped. He would, however, remove them for most of the actual shows on the Elevation Tour. Starting around the time of U2's 2004 How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, Bono began wearing his signature Armani sunglasses. These were usually red or green tinted, and had no frames around the lenses. He wore these for most of every show on the Vertigo Tour, with the rare exceptions being songs like "Sometimes You Can't Make it on Your Own", "Running to Stand Still", and "Miss Sarajevo". He has been wearing sunglasses in most interviews and public appearances since the late '90s. They've also become something of a enduring piece of pop culture in one instance, when he was photographed giving a pair of his sunglasses to Pope John Paul II to wear at the Pope's request.
Bono also suffers from tinnitus, attributed to loud music. References to his condition can be heard in "Staring at the Sun".
On 25 September 1976, Bono, David Evans ("The Edge"), his brother Dik, and Adam Clayton responded to an advertisement on a bulletin board at Mount Temple posted by fellow student Larry Mullen Jr. to form a rock band. The band had occasional sessions in which they did covers. Bono wanted to play Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys songs; he was tired of long guitar solos and hard rock. Unfortunately, the band couldn't play covers very well, so they started writing their own songs. In 1977, they started listening to The Ramones, The Clash, David Bowie, Patti Smith and Tom Verlaine and incorporating influences from those bands into their music.
Their band went by the name "Feedback" for a few months, changing to "The Hype" later on. After Dik Evans left the group to join another local band, the Virgin Prunes, the remaining four officially changed the name from "The Hype" to "U2". Initially, Bono sang, played guitar, and wrote the band's songs. He said of his early guitar playing in a 1982 interview, "When we started out I was the guitar player, along with the Edge - except I couldn't play guitar. I still can't. I was such a lousy guitar player that one day they broke it to me that maybe I should sing instead. I had tried before, but I had no voice at all. I remember the day I found I could sing. I said, 'Oh, that's how you do it.' When The Edge's guitar playing improved, Bono was relegated mostly to the microphone, although he occasionally still plays rhythm guitar and harmonica. Bono has recently taken piano lessons from his children's piano teacher.
Bono writes the lyrics for almost all U2 songs, often rich in social and political themes. His lyrics frequently allude to a religious connection or meaning, evident in songs such as "Gloria" from the band's album October and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", from The Joshua Tree album. During the band's early years, Bono was known for his rebellious tone which turned to political anger and rage during the band's War, The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum eras. Following the Enniskillen bombing that left 11 dead and 63 injured on 8 November 1987, the Provisional IRA paramilitaries threatened to kidnap Bono. IRA supporters also attacked a vehicle carrying the band members. These acts were in response to his speech condemning the Remembrance Day Bombing during a live performance of "Sunday Bloody Sunday". The singer had been advised to cut his on-stage outburst from the Rattle and Hum film, but it was left in.
U2's sound and focus dramatically changed with their next album, Achtung Baby. Bono's lyrics became more personal, inspired by experiences related to the private lives of the members of the band. During the band's Zoo TV Tour several of his stage personas were showcased; these included "The Fly", a stereotypical rock star, the "Mirror Ball Man", a parody of American televangelists, and "Mr. MacPhisto", a combination of a corrupted rock star and the Devil.
During performances he attempts to interact with the crowd as often as possible and is known for pulling audience members onto the stage or moving himself down to the physical level of the audience. This has happened on several occasions including at the Live Aid concert in 1985 where he leapt off the stage, over a security barricade to the floor of the arena, and pulled a woman from the crowd to dance with her as the band played "Bad", and in 2005 during U2's Vertigo Tour stop in Chicago, where he pulled a boy onto the stage during the song "An Cat Dubh / Into the Heart".
Bono has won numerous awards with U2, including 22 Grammy awards and the 2003 Golden Globe award for best original song, "The Hands That Built America" for the film Gangs of New York. During the live broadcast of the ceremony, Bono called the award "really, really fucking brilliant! In response, the Parents Television Council condemned Bono for his profanity and started a campaign for its members to file complaints with the FCC. Although Bono's use of "fuck" violated FCC indecency standards, the FCC refused to fine NBC because the network did not receive advance notice of the consequences of broadcasting such profanity and the profanity in question was not used in its literal sexual meaning.
In 2005, the U2 band members were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in their first year of eligibility.
Bono and his bandmates were criticized in 2007 for moving part of their multi-million euro song catalogue from Ireland to Amsterdam six months before Ireland ended a tax exemption on musicians' royalties. Under Dutch tax law, bands are subject to low to non-existent tax rates. U2's manager, Paul McGuinness, stated that the arrangement is legal and customary and businesses often seek to minimize their tax burdens. The move prompted criticisms in the Oireachtas (Irish parliament).
In 1992, together with The Edge, Bono bought and refurbished Dublin's two-star 70-bedroom Clarence Hotel and converted it into a five-star 49-bedroom hotel. The Edge and Bono have also recorded several songs together, exclusive of the band. They have also been working on penning the score for the upcoming Spider-Man Musical. Bono is on the board of the Elevation Partners private-equity firm, which attempted to purchase Eidos Interactive in 2005 and has since gone on to invest in other entertainment businesses. Bono is a known Celtic F.C. fan, and in 1998 it was rumoured that Bono was going to buy shares in the Scottish club. However, it was reported on 28 April 1998 that this was not the case with Bono saying "it's rubbish. I've been to a couple of games and I'm a fan, but I've got no financial connections.
In May 2007, MTV reported that Bono is working on a collection of poetry entitled "Third Rail". Bono said the poetry is inspired by rock music. The book's foreword gives detail of the meanings of the poetry, saying "The poets who fill the pews here have come to testify, to bear witness to the mysterious power of rock and roll...Rock and roll is truly a broad church, but each lights a candle to their vision of what it is." The collection, which is edited by poet Jonathan Wells, contains titles such as "Punk rock You're My Big Crybaby," "Variation on a Theme by Whitesnake" and "Vince Neil Meets Josh in a Chinese Restaurant in Malibu (After Ezra Pound)."
Bono has invested in the Forbes Media group in the US through his private equity investment firm Elevation Partners. Elevation Partners became the first outsider to invest in the company, taking a minority stake in Forbes Media LLC, a new company encompassing the 89-year-old business which includes Forbes magazine, the Forbes.com website and other assets. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but reports said the stake was worth about €194 million ($250m).
In film, Bono has played the character of "Dr. Robert", an anti-war shaman, in the musical, Across the Universe.. Also in this movie, he sang the Beatles songs "I am the Walrus" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". Bono's other acting credits include cameos in 1999's Entropy and 2000's Million Dollar Hotel, the latter of which was based on a story conceived by Bono. In 2000 he acted as himself in the short film Sightings of Bono, adapted from a short story by Irish writer Gerard Beirne.
In a 1986 interview with Rolling Stone magazine Bono explained that he was motivated to become involved in social and political causes by seeing one of the Secret Policeman's Ball benefit shows staged by John Cleese and producer Martin Lewis for the human-rights organization Amnesty International in 1979. "I saw 'The Secret Policeman’s Ball' and it became a part of me. It sowed a seed..." In 2001 Bono arranged for U2 to videotape a special live performance for that year's Amnesty benefit show. Introducing the performance, Bono referred to The Secret Policeman's Ball as "a mysterious and extraordinary event that certainly changed my life..."
Bono and U2 performed on Amnesty's Conspiracy Of Hope tour of the United States in 1986 alongside Sting. U2 also performed in the Band Aid and Live Aid projects, organized by Bob Geldof. In 1984, Bono sang on the Band Aid single "Do They Know it's Christmas?/Feed the World" (a role that was reprised on the 2004 Band Aid 20 single of the same name). Geldof and Bono later collaborated to organize the 2005 Live 8 project, where U2 also performed.
Since 1999, Bono has become increasingly involved in campaigning for third-world debt relief and raising awareness of the plight of Africa, including the AIDS pandemic. In the past decade Bono has met with several influential politicians, including United States President George W. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin. During a March 2002 visit to the White House, after President Bush unveiled a $5 billion aid package, he accompanied the President for a speech on the White House lawn. He stated, "This is an important first step, and a serious and impressive new level of commitment. ... This must happen urgently, because this is a crisis." In May of that year, Bono took US Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill on a four-country tour of Africa. In contrast, in 2005 Bono spoke on CBC Radio, alleging Prime Minister Martin was being slow about increasing Canada's foreign aid.
Bono spoke in advance of President Bush at the 54th Annual National Prayer Breakfast, held at the Hilton Washington Hotel on 2 February 2006. In a speech peppered with biblical references, Bono encouraged the care of the socially and economically depressed. His comments included a call for an extra 1 percent tithe of the United States' national budget. He brought his Christian views into harmony with other faiths by noting that Christian, Jewish, and Muslim writings all call for the care of the widow, orphan, and stranger. President Bush received praise from the singer-activist for the United States' increase in aid for the African continent. Bono continued by saying much work is left to be done to be a part of God's ongoing purposes.
The organization DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) was established in 2002 by Bono and Bobby Shriver, along with activists from the Jubilee 2000 Drop the Debt Campaign. It is DATA's mission to eradicate poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa. DATA encourages Americans to contact senators and other legislators and elected officials to voice their opinions.
In early 2005, Bono, his wife Ali Hewson, and New York-based Irish fashion designer Rogan Gregory launched the socially-conscious line EDUN in an attempt to shift the focus in Africa from aid to trade. EDUN's goal is to use factories in Africa, South America, and India that provide fair wages to workers and practice good business ethics to create a business model that will encourage investment in developing nations.
This work has not been without criticism. On 15 December 2005 Paul Theroux published an op-ed in the New York Times called The Rock Star's Burden (cf. Kipling's The White Man's Burden) criticizing such stars as Bono, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie as "mythomaniacs, people who wish to convince the world of their worth." Theroux, who lived in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer, added that "the impression that Africa is fatally troubled and can be saved only by outside help — not to mention celebrities and charity concerts — is a destructive and misleading conceit. Bono responded to his critics in Times Online on February 19, 2006, calling them "cranks carping from the sidelines. A lot of them wouldn’t know what to do if they were on the field. They’re the party who will always be in opposition so they’ll never have to take responsibility for decisions because they know they’ll never be able to implement them.
Bono was a special guest editor of the July 2007 issue of Vanity Fair magazine. The issue was named "The Africa Issue: Politics & Power" and featured an assortment of 20 different covers, with photographs by Annie Leibovitz, taken of a number of prominent celebrities, political leaders, and philanthropists, each one showcased in the issue for their contributions to the humanitarian relief in Africa.
Further criticism came in November 2007, when Bono's various charity campaigns were targeted by Jobs Selasie, head of African Aid Action. Selasie claimed that these charities had increased corruption and dependency in Africa because they failed to work with African entrepreneurs and grassroots organizations, and as a result, Africa has become more dependent on international handouts. That same month, however, Bono was honoured by NBC Nightly News as someone "making a difference" in the world. He and anchor Brian Williams had traveled to Africa in May 2007 to showcase the humanitarian crisis on the continent.
Product Red is another initiative begun by Bono and Bobby Shriver to raise money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Bobby Shriver has been announced as the CEO of Product Red, whilst Bono is currently an active public spokesperson for the brand. Product Red is a brand that is licensed to partner companies, such as American Express, Apple, Converse, Motorola, Microsoft, Dell, The Gap, and Giorgio Armani. Each company creates a product with the Product Red logo and a percentage of the profits from the sale of these labelled products will go to the Global Fund.
Bono is the only person to have been nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe, Grammy, and Nobel Peace Prize. Bono was a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, 2005, and 2006.
In 2002, he was listed as one of the 100 Greatest Britons in a poll conducted among the general public., despite the fact that he is Irish.
In 2004, Bono was awarded the Pablo Neruda International Presidential Medal of Honour from the Government of Chile.
Time Magazine named Bono one of the "100 Most Influential People" in its May 2004 special issue, and again in the 2006 Time 100 special issue. In 2005, Time named Bono a Person of the Year along with Bill and Melinda Gates.
Also in 2005, he received the Portuguese Order of Liberty for his humanitarian work. That year Bono was also among the first three recipients of the TED Prize, which grants each winner "A wish to change the world. Bono made three wishes, the first two related to the ONE campaign and the third that every hospital, health clinic and school in Ethiopia should be connected to the Internet. TED rejected the third wish as being a sub-optimal way for TED to help Africa and instead organized a TED conference in Arusha, Tanzania. Bono attended the conference, which was held in June 2007, and attracted headlines with his foul-mouthed heckling of a speech by Andrew Mwenda.
In 2007, Bono was named in the United Kingdom's New Years Honours List as an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He was formally granted knighthood on 29 March 2007 in a ceremony at the residence of British Ambassador David Reddaway in Dublin, Ireland.
Bono also received the NAACP Image Award's Chairman's Award in 2007. On 24 May 2007, the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia announced that Bono would receive the Philadelphia Liberty Medal on September 27, 2007 for his work to end world poverty and hunger. On 28 September 2007, in accepting the Liberty Medal, Bono said, "When you are trapped by poverty, you are not free. When trade laws prevent you from selling the food you grew, you are not free, ... When you are a monk in Burma this very week, barred from entering a temple because of your gospel of peace ... well, then none of us are truly free." Bono donated the $100,000 prize to the organization. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala accepted the award for the Washington-based Debt AIDS Trade Africa.