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Famous Irish Names: Bono

March 17, 2009
by findingDulcinea Staff
Bono, born Paul Hewson, got his nickname from a friend who borrowed the idea from a hearing aid store. “Bono Vox” means “good voice” and although Bono didn’t have any musical experience when he helped form the band U2, his voice is now quite famous. A legendary rock-and-roller, Bono is also prominent in the movement to end poverty in Africa. He’s as comfortable pulling fans onto the stage with him as he is in meetings with world leaders.

Background: Bono and U2

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Bono’s music career began when he saw an ad seeking band members on a bulletin board at school. Then an unskilled musician, Bono’s charm and songwriting talents helped morph the group into the now-famous U2. As the band became increasingly successful, Bono increased his commitment to social and political activism. Always a dynamic presence, Bono has a healthy relationship with his own ego: When Mick Jagger presented him with the MTV Free Your Mind Award for his work on Jubilee 2000, he said in his acceptance speech, “This is only going to make me worse.”

Bono may be U2’s front man and the band’s most visible member, but the sounds and songs of U2 are the product of a distinct and evolving collaboration. The All Music Guide biography of U2 chronicles the band from 1976 to the present.

Activist, Philanthropist and Charming Man

In “The Constant Charmer,” Time magazine extolled Bono’s virtues and highlighted his involvement in the 2005 G-8 Summit. Although another Time article from 2002 called Bono an “egomaniac,” Paul Wolfowitz, who sat backstage at a U2 concert before the summit, insists, "Pomposity and arrogance are the enemies of getting things done. And Bono knows how to get things done." In all his endeavors, Bono has sought to avoid behaving like a typical rock star; rather, his political and social efforts are marked by somber determination.

Fighting for Africa

In 2000, Bono joined religious groups from all over the U.K. to campaign for debt cancellation as a method to end world poverty. A history of the 2000 movement is available on the Jubilee Debt Campaign site, and the organization is still active. Bono’s advocacy for Africa continued in other ways after the deadline passed.

Bono founded DATA (Debt AIDS Trade Africa) to continue tackling the crisis of world poverty caused by debt. It is now part of the One Campaign, which, along with Product (Red), employs a variety of methods to aid Africa and put pressure on politicians to change policy.

Nobel Peace Prize Nominee

Bono the Businessman

Not all of Bono’s endeavors are exclusively philanthropic. He is the managing director and cofounder of Elevation Partners, a private equity firm focused on media and entertainment. In April 2006, Elevation purchased a large minority share of Forbes Media, the umbrella company for Forbes magazine and Forbes.com.

U2 In 3D

U2 is acclaimed for being one of the best live bands in history. Unfortunately, its reputation for extraordinary performances makes tickets nearly impossible to acquire. “U2 3D,” a 3-D concert movie, allows more people to get a taste of what it’s like to be at a U2 concert, offering numerous live songs in 3-D. View the trailer and song excerpts on the official site of the film.

Beyond the "Horizon"

In 2009, Bono and the band released "No Line On The Horizon," their 12th studio album, which debuted at number one in multiple countries. In a BBC radio interview promoting the album, Bono got the band into the press for a less positive reason: Prompted by his interviewer, he insulted Chris Martin, the lead singer of alleged rival band Coldplay. The insult was so over the top that Bono thought it would be clear it was a joke; he later apologized.

Next up, U2 prepares for their 360° Tour, which kicks off on June 30 in Barcelona.
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