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Bono Leads U2, Humanitarian Causes

Aired May 5, 2001 - 11:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: This week on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, he's a rock-'n'- roller, out to shake up the world.

BONO, U2: It's an unhappy juxtaposition, I think, hearing rock stars talk about people starving to death. But here I am.

ANNOUNCER: His white-hot charisma draws legions of followers, and a few leaders.

BONO: You need a picture of a pop star and a pope together.

ANNOUNCER: One of the four boys Dublin, belting out songs and inspiring millions. From cocky schoolboy to rock star activist, Bono. His story now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

DARYN KAGAN, HOST: Welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Daryn Kagan.

One of the toughest tickets to find this spring and summer is to a concert by U2. The group is one of the most popular rock bands of the past two decades. Why the long-time fascination? Well, i part, it's the constant reinvention of the band's music. But U2's popularity and image also hinges on its lead singer, Bono, an unpredictable combination of intensity, honesty, and attitude.


(voice-over): It's not what you would generally see from most 40-year-old men. But then Bono has never been what you might call an ordinary kind of guy. He's the charismatic and often controversial lead singer of U2. In whatever he does, Bono demands your attention. He certainly demands it at his concerts, and his fans seem happy to comply.

U2's current North American tour of 32 cities is a sellout. Career record sales have topped 75 million. And world leaders listen too. They give him VIP access to voice his message, reducing the debt of third world countries.

BONO: We want the rich countries to drop the debts that they're owed to them by the poorest countries.

KAGAN (on camera): This is not the kind of issue that most rock stars are drawn to. BONO: Right.

KAGAN: Why are you drawn to it?

BONO: The relationship between the so-called first and third world is just so screwed up. We give the tiniest percentage of our GDP every year toward the problem. I mean, it's a shocking statistic when you tell Americans or Europeans that the richer they get, the less they give.


KAGAN (voice-over): For Bono, his life's work is all about the possibility, a theme that can be heard in the songs he sings.


BONO: Music is more about soul and spirit than it is about, you know, anything concrete like politics. In order to be able to perform the way I perform, I have to kind of step inside the songs, you know.


KAGAN: Yet to truly step into Bono's world, you have to know where and how it began, in the Irish neighborhood of Ballymun (ph), wedged between countryside and city.

BOB GELDOF, MUSICIAN: He was brought up in an area of Dublin that's a fairly normal area. It's beside a pretty crap area, but Dublin's quite like that.

KAGAN: Number 10 Cedarwood Road. As a child, he wasn't Bono but Paul David Hewson, the youngest of two boys. His father was a postal worker delivering the daily mail, while his mother took care of the home.

From very early on, the youngest Hewson was a dreamer, emulating his distant heroes -- King, Dylan, and Ali, cultural icons who fought for social change.

BONO: And, you know, when I was younger, used to kind of throw rocks and stones at, you know, the bad guys, as I saw them, you know, in the political establishment, the people who were -- you know, they were -- you know, they were, it turns out, quite easy targets.

KAGAN: But that all changed in 1972, when Paul Hewson entered the very progressive Mount Temple High School, a place where your religion, the color of your skin, and what your father did for a living had no consequence.

COLIN MACKENZIE, FORMER HIGH SCHOOL MUSIC TEACHER: I think only in a school like Mount Temple could they -- these four fellows have met, because they were from four totally different backgrounds. And I feel only here they would have jelled, they would have met. They couldn't have met in -- probably in any other school. KAGAN: Yet Paul's happy teen years would be tempered by tragedy. On September 10, 1974, Paul's mother died. He adored her, and according to a friend, Bob Geldof, his mother's death tore Paul apart.

GELDOF: His mum died, I think, when he was 13 or 14, and I think that had a very profound effect on him, as it does on us all.

KAGAN: His senior year was pivotal. He fell in love with a girl, Allison Stewart, and he signed up for an audition to join a rock band.

BARRY DEVLIN, FRIEND: You know the story of how they started. Larry Mullen put a notice up on the notice board in their school, and they were all school mates. So Bono always refers to Larry as the man who gave us all a job.

BONO: Yes, Larry started it all, you know, and he hasn't really let us forget it.

ANTHONY DECURTIS, AUTHOR, "ROCKING MY LIFE AWAY": The idea of being in a band was a bigger thing than whether or not you could play your guitar or you could sing or you would -- had any reason to think you could be in a band. Just the very idea of creating music was something that gripped people.

KAGAN: And that's all these four Irish boys had, the idea of creating music. Paul couldn't sing or play the guitar, but he was given a stage name, Bono, likened after this Dublin hearing-aid store.

Early names for the band included The Hype and Feedback, for their distinctive sound of music.

(on camera): If you go back to the early days of the group, even before you were U2, names like Feedback...

BONO: Ooh. I hate when people do those searches. Yes, I would disappoint you. Kids, really, you know, at school, I mean, Larry was 14, Edge was 15, Adam was 16. I was 16, just kind of hanging around with each other. We formed a band before we could play our instruments. It was really like a street gang, you know, people who are joined by the sense of humor and their sense of, you know, what they're against more than what they're for.

And, yes, we were a pretty crap wedding band, actually.

KAGAN: When the story of Bono continues, the band dreams of getting discovered.

PAUL MCGUINNESS, MANAGER, U2: It was very hard to get a record deal, because, quite honestly, there wasn't -- it wasn't like everyone wanted to have them. No one did.


KAGAN: Just ahead, Bono and the band hope to strike a chord. But first, this week's newsmakers in "Passages." (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why, you said it hit the telephone pole?


ANNOUNCER: Super serious, supermodel Nikki Taylor is seriously injured in a car accident in Atlanta. A doctor says Taylor suffered severe injuries to her liver, and it could be weeks before he knows whether she'll recover.

Guitar god comes clean. After a year of rumors, Eddie Van Halen finally confirms that he is fighting cancer. The rock guitar legend apologized to fans for his early silence and said he was beating his disease.

Got himself a microphone. Uncle Junior sings. Dominic Chianese, the Soprano crew's crusty patriarch...


DOMINIC CHIANESE, ACTOR: Even the coffee's old in here.


ANNOUNCER: ... shows a softer side with the release of a debut CD, a collection of traditional, popular, and original tunes. Chianese croons everything from "Santa Lucia" to "Amazing Grace."

For more entertainment news, pick up a copy of this week's special issue of "People" magazine featuring the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World.

We'll be right back.



KAGAN (voice-over): By 1978, the band had a new name, U2, recalling an American spy plane shot down over Soviet air space during the cold war.

Dublin band manager Paul McGuinness went to review the newly named band. What he heard was a blend of spiritual rock and a call for political healing.

McGuinness understood stage performance and talent, and he saw great potential in its lead singer, Bono.

MCGUINNESS: It's the primary colors of rock and roll, guitar and bass and drums and vocal. And four guys on a stage making an enormous noise and producing something very exciting. KAGAN (on camera): Just found a little photo album for you. Take us through these, OK? Who's that?

BONO: Nothing's changed, really. Wow. That's a photograph taken just before we caught the ferry to go to the U.K., coming out of Dublin. We're all kind of 16, 17. We're going off to try and get a record deal.

KAGAN: Could those kids have any idea what was in store for them?

BONO: Oh, yes. No, megalomania did start at a very early age with us. You know, it's -- your head is filled with songs and dreams and big ideas. And you're young enough and wet behind the ears enough to believe that everything's possible.


KAGAN (voice-over): Two years later, in 1980, U2's dream had come true. After much practice and polish, the band had a record deal.


KURT LODER, HOST, MTV: I think it's his voice which is just this soaring instrument, and the band really has a lot of punch and wallop to it, and it was just their punk background. And The Edge's guitar playing is very full, and it doesn't sound like anything else, and it's just -- it's rousing, you know, it's inspiring to hear it. It's a great sound.

PAUL SHAFFER, ENTERTAINER: Bono is like a motivational speaker of rock and roll, isn't he?

KAGAN: But by 1982, the dynamic of the band was changing. There was dissension over U2's direction. Bass player Adam Clayton threatened to leave the group, indicating the band's religious overtones as the reason.

THE EDGE, GUITARIST, U2: I think we value what we have pretty highly, and we realize how fragile it is, you know, a band is a very difficult thing to keep going. And when you're in a good one, you try and kind of make it work whatever way you can.

KAGAN: But the band's strong commitment to one another turned out to be greater than their spiritual divide. U2 remained intact.

THE EDGE: You know, I don't think any of us would have imagined we'd still be together after so many years when we first put the band together. But it's great that we are.

BONO: You're going to make me cry.


KAGAN: Meanwhile, on a personal note, Bono settled down with his long-time love, Allison Stewart.

DEVLIN: I just remember that the wedding was tremendous fun. There was a lot of dancing, there was a lot of people bumping into each other. There was a lot of high spirits. And it was a kid's wedding, you know. But it was a great day.

KAGAN (on camera): You're married to your high school sweetheart.

BONO: That's true, that's true. I'm lucky. I have an extraordinary friend that I've been married to for a long time, seems like since we were kids.

KAGAN (voice-over): Back on the road, back in the studio. By 1985, U2 had released three more albums, but failed to increase its following.

DECURTIS: The group had become kind of frozen in some way. You know, after the first three records. Particularly after "War," I think, you know, the group felt that they had become just this big guitar band.

KAGAN: Later that year, an event at Wembley Arena in London took U2 to another level.

GELDOF: Every band could do what they liked, but I basically said, Look, lads, it's the global jukebox. You do your hits.

KAGAN: The band, and especially Bono, gave an electrifying performance at Live Aid. The humanitarian concert played to audiences around the world.

GELDOF: Then I remember them going into the audience and start hugging the girl. And of course it was a great theatrical thing. And so what everyone was feeling on that day, she articulated visibly by going and just taking one person out of this sea and just cuddling her.

BONO: It's hard to describe for me what U2 is all about, and when it becomes U2. But I think it is probably when the band is playing "Liar." I think we've always -- that's the moment when they discover what it is that makes us special.

UNIDENTIFIED PHOTOGRAPHER: And can you move just out a little there?

KAGAN: A fortune teller reportedly once told Bono's mother that she would have a famous son. In 1987, U2 released its seventh album, "The Joshua Tree." The record went platinum in just two days. As foretold years before, Bono had arrived.

DEVLIN: People have asked me, When you met them, you know, what was it like? Did you -- you know, they were kittens. How can you say that you could see something there? I didn't know how big they would be, but I could see that they had this (inaudible) or belief in themselves and a belief in what music could be that was different from anyone I'd met.


KAGAN: When we return, fatherhood ignites Bono's political pursuits in a big way.


BONO: It's made me more militant. You think about the world that your children are about to inherit, and you want it to be different from them. So it's made me more angry.


KAGAN: Coming up, Bono gets angry, all for a cause.

But now, a Grammy sensation who doesn't worry, he's happy, in this week's "Where Are They Now?"

ANNOUNCER: In 1988, singer Bobby McFerrin won three Grammys with one infectious piece of advice.

BOBBY MCFERRIN (singing): Don't worry, be happy.

ANNOUNCER: So where is Bobby McFerrin today? When he's not entertaining audiences with his voice, the 51-year-old musician serves as the creative chair for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. He also guest conducts symphony orchestras more than 40 so far, usually clad in blue jeans and running shoes.

PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues after this.



KAGAN (voice-over): In the 1990s, the idea was, bigger is better. Concert tours like Zoo TV took U2 to stratospheric heights. Gross revenues topped $1.5 billion.

Still, Bono fought to stay grounded, always mindful of his beginnings and of the musical influences along the way. One of those influences, Frank Sinatra.


GARRY SHANDLING, ACTOR: Please welcome Bono.


KAGAN: Days before the 1994 Grammy Awards, Bono was asked to write a speech introducing the legendary entertainer. He felt his choice of words had to be just right.

MICHAEL GREENE, PRESIDENT, RECORDING ACADEMY: For a day and a half, he was sitting in the back of the hall just writing, writing, writing, in the dark, you know, back there, you know, and everybody's, like, Just leave him alone, just leave him alone. I mean, what do you say about Frank Sinatra that's never been said before? Bono was the only cat that pull that off.


BONO: Are you ready to welcome a man heavier than the Empire State, more connected than the Twin Towers, as recognizable as the Statue of Liberty, and living proof that God is a Catholic? Will you welcome the king of New York City, Francis Albert Sinatra.


KAGAN: As a rock and roll star on the road, Bono has been able to hang out with his heroes. But he sheds that rock star image when he comes home to Dublin. There, he's dad to three kids. P.S., another one's on the way.

DEVLIN: He's a good dad. You might come into the house, discover him wearing a conductor's uniform, bus conductor's uniform, giving out tickets for outside. He's a mad dad. They get in cars and go strange places, and -- but he just loves to spend time with his family.


WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... to lift the burden of debt around the world for years to come.


KAGAN: He also spends much of his time away from music concentrating on issues that are close to his heart.

BONO: It's a tricky, tricky story to sell on your station, and to any station, and that...

KAGAN (on camera): It's not visual. It's hard to put a picture on it.

BONO: It's not visual. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what's he all about? What kind of -- sorry, I lost you there. And people have a short attention span, so, you know, you need a picture of a pop star and a pope together. That usually, you know, gets people's attention.

KAGAN: Does the contrast ever strike you, these lives of the people you're trying to represent and this life that you're leading, this rock and roll life, with the millions and all the people around you just to serve you?

BONO: It's really -- it's an unhappy juxtaposition, I think, hearing rock stars talking about people starving to death. I object to it myself. If I saw it on the TV, I'd be -- you know, I think I'd wince. But here I am.

(MUSIC) KAGAN (voice-over): These days, U2 and Bono are reversing course, heading back to their roots.


KAGAN: To that intimate raw sound they started more than two decades ago.


KAGAN: And at the most recent Grammy Awards, an approving nod from the Recording Academy. U2 grabbed three Grammys for its latest release, "Beautiful Day."


GREENE: The thing that I think is the most compelling about being alive right now while they are in their prime, being a fan, is that you are not reluctant to stay hitched up to their wagon, because you know they're going to take you somewhere good.

DECURTIS: When you think of U2, you think of rising up. Man, you really think of music that lifts you and asks something better from you.


SHAFFER: That's why I wanted to do this interview, though, because I think that U2 really does -- you know, as contemporary as they are, and as United Kingdom-esque as they are, they've got the essence of rhythm and blues and rock and roll. This is what I love.

BONO: It's when we're playing together, the four of us, and there's a kind of chemistry, kind of spark. We sort of built our band around that spark. Because I'm not sure on our own, we've anything particular to offer. But it's with the four of us together have a kind of blessing on us, or something. And when we play, stuff goes off in the room, you know, the molecules start vibrating at a different temperature. And I even feel like that.


KAGAN: There is no slowing down for Bono. Once U2's North American leg is over, the European tour begins, and it culminates in a homecoming concert in Ireland this August.

Next week, an in-depth look at the mastermind of the Oklahoma City bombing, Timothy McVeigh. To many, he's a monster, but to some he's a martyr. McVeigh is set to die on May 16.

That's all for this week. For all of us here at PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, I'm Daryn Kagan. Thanks for watching.



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