13 April 2015


Bono is the stage name of Irish singer-songwriter and musician Paul David Hewson (1960), front man of the Dublin-based rock band U2. With or without U2, he also appeared in several feature films and documentaries.

British postcard by New Line, no. 46. Photo: Transworld B.V. Entertainment.

A surrealist street gang

Bono was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1960. He was also raised there. Bono was 14 when his mother died in 1974 after suffering a cerebral aneurysm at her father's funeral. Many U2 songs, including I Will Follow, focus on the loss of his mother.

Bono and his friends were part of a surrealist street gang called ‘Lypton Village’. The gang had a ritual of nickname-giving and Bono had several names, including ‘Bono Vox of O'Connell Street’. ‘Bono Vox’ is an alteration of Bonavox, Latin for ‘good voice’. It is said he was nicknamed ‘Bono Vox’ by his friend Gavin Friday.

He attended Mount Temple Comprehensive School, where he met his future wife, Alison Stewart, and the future members of U2. In 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 jam sessions in which they did covers of other bands. Unfortunately the band could not play covers very well, so they started writing their own songs. The band went by the name Feedback for a few months, before 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. When The Edge's guitar playing improved, Bono was relegated mostly to the microphone, although he occasionally still plays rhythm guitar and harmonica. 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. Bono writes almost all U2 lyrics, frequently using religious, social, and political themes.

U2's sound and focus dramatically changed with their 1991 album, Achtung Baby. Bono's lyrics became more personal, inspired by experiences related to the private lives of the members of the band. Outside U2, Bono has collaborated and recorded with numerous artists, including Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash and Zucchero. Bono and The Edge also wrote the music and lyrics for the ill-fated Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (2011), directed by Julie Taymor.

Bono, U2
French postcard, Ref 537.

Bono, U2
French postcard by Editions RRV, no. C 45.


Besides his videos for U2, Bono also appeared in several films. In 1988, U2 made the Rockumentary Rattle and Hum (Phil Joanou, 1988), about their North American tour of the year before. Fresh with their success of their best selling album, The Joshua Tree, U2 plays monster gigs. Along the way, the band takes the opportunity in indulge in some special musical activities like playing with BB King and performing ‘I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For’ with a church choir.

Director Phil Joanou made Entropy (1999), starring Stephen Dorff and featuring U2. The film is largely autobiographical, covering Joanou’s early film career, his relationships and his pet cat.

Bono worked regularly with German director Wim Wenders. He contributed songs to the soundtracks of the futurist road movie Until the End of the World (Wim Wenders, 1991), and the Wings of Desire (1987) sequel Faraway, So Close! (Wim Wenders, 1993). Bono wrote the concept story for The Million Dollar Hotel (Wim Wenders, 2000), starring Jeremy Davies, Milla Jovovich, and Mel Gibson. The film, which Bono also co-produced, features music by U2 and Bono did a cameo appearance. The Million Dollar Hotel won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2000, but was a box office flop.

Bono also had a cameo appearance in Across the Universe (Julie Taymor, 2007), centred on songs by The Beatles. In 2011 followed the documentary From the Sky Down (David Guggenheim, 2011) about the production of U2’s 1991 album Achtung Baby.

Bono is also managing director and a managing partner of Elevation Partners, and has refurbished and owns the Clarence Hotel in Dublin with The Edge. Bono is also widely known for his activism concerning Africa. He has organized and played in several benefit concerts and has met with influential politicians. Bono took part in Bob Geldof's Do They Know It's Christmas (1984) project to combat famine in Africa, and the anti-South African apartheid documentary Sun City - Artists United Against Apartheid (1985).

Bono has been praised and criticized for his activism and involvement with U2. He was granted a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, and, with Bill and Melinda Gates, was named Time Person of the Year in 2005, among other awards and nominations. In 2013, Bono was made a Commandeur of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters). U2 has won 22 Grammy Awards to date and Bono is the only person, who has been nominated for an Oscar, Grammy, Golden Globe, and for the Nobel Prize.

Since 1982, Bono is married to Alison (Ali) Stewart and they have four children, including actress Eve Hewson.

Bono, U2
French postcard by Editions Damilla, Paris, no. 94983. Photo: Tom Sheehan.

Bono, U2
British postcard by Holmes McDougall Ltd, Edinburgh, no. PC 226. Photo: Minerva, 1988.

Trailer Rattle and Hum (1988). Source: Paramount Movies (YouTube).

Trailer The Million Dollar Hotel (2000). Source: Exclusive Media (YouTube).

Sources: Lucia Bozzola (AllMovie), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

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