A charismatic entertainer, prolific songwriter, and esteemed humanitarian, Bono embodied the ubiquitous rock star role. As the front man for U2, one of the most successful and loved bands of all time, Bono helped lay the groundwork for modern rock music with seminal albums such as The Joshua Tree (1987) and Achtung Baby (1991) that delivered masterful instrumentation, powerful hooks, and introspective lyrics. The Grammy Award-winning Irish quartet, led by Bono, influenced generations of listeners to recognize music as a tool to deliver messages of hope and change. Bono's global appeal also aided in his philanthropic efforts, from raising AIDS awareness to campaigning for socio-economic reform, earning him much recognition for his charitable work and influence. A rare breed of celebrity cut from the same revolutionary cloth as one of his personal heroes, John Lennon, Bono left an indelible mark in the cultural zeitgeist and a legacy as a music icon for the ages.
Bono was born Paul David Hewson on May 10, 1960 in Dublin Ireland. The future rock star was 14 when his mother died after suffering a brain aneurysm at her father's funeral. The tragedy haunted Bono throughout his formative years, and even inspired several songs he would write as an adult. He received the nickname Bono Vox, a name loosely derived from the Latin phrase meaning "good voice," from his childhood friend and musician, Gavin Friday. Bono attended Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin, where, in 1978, he answered a "musicians wanted" ad posted by fellow student, Larry Mullen, Jr. Calling itself Feedback, the band was comprised of Bono on vocals, The Edge on guitar, Adam Clayton on bass and Mullen on drums. Using Mullen's kitchen as their rehearsal space, Feedback soon changed its name to The Hype, and then U2. They built a solid following in Dublin before releasing U23 EP in 1979. The following year, U2 signed with Island Records and released their debut album, Boy. The band gained moderate success with the singles "11 O'Clock Tick-Tock" and "I Will Follow." They finally reached the top of the UK charts with their third album, War (1983), that also yielded a live album that same year titled Under a Blood Red Sky. Featuring one of U2's signature songs "Sunday Bloody Sunday," both War and Under a Blood Red Sky catapulted the band into international stardom, cracking the U.S. charts and receiving heavy airplay on radio and MTV. As the charming and expressive front man, Bono exuded post-punk rebellion while delivering lyrics with socio-political and religious themes.
U2 began their longtime collaboration with producers Brian Eno (the father of ambient music) and Daniel Lanois with The Unforgettable Fire (1984). Even though the album experienced a minor backlash, especially from stateside fans, due to its somewhat experimental nature, it produced another one of the band's biggest hits, "Pride (In The Name of Love)." U2's appearance in the star-studded benefit concert "Live Aid" (1985) exposed their music to an international audience and established their reputation as one of the industry's most dynamic and entertaining live acts. Two years later, the band was at the top of their game, releasing their fifth studio album, The Joshua Tree. Having toured extensively throughout the U.S., the band was inspired to produce an album based on their love-hate relationship with the country. Fueled by the hard-hitting singles "With or Without You," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and "Where the Streets Have No Name," the album sold millions worldwide and won Album of the Year at the 1988 Grammy Awards. Years following its release, The Joshua Tree was still considered by critics and music industry bibles like Rolling Stone as one of the greatest albums of all time.
Bono and company graced the cove of TIME magazine in April 1987, along with the headline "Rock's Hottest Ticket." This was only the fourth time a band made the cover, following The Beatles, The Band, and The Who. U2 finished the decade with the live concert film "Rattle & Hum" (1988) before dramatically changing their musical style, fusing rock with electronic and dance pop influences with the 1991 album, Achtung Baby. Bono's songwriting also transitioned to reflect deeply personal themes concerning him, his band mates, and a looming conflict of where their music direction was headed. Achtung Baby spawned multiple hits, including "Mysterious Ways" and "One," a haunting ballad improvised during tense moments between the band members during the album's recording sessions. U2 released "One" as a charity single, with proceeds going to benefit AIDS research, and it was later recognized as one of the greatest songs in rock history. To promote the album, U2 produced an elaborate concert tour that circumnavigated the world twice in less than two years. Dubbed The Zoo TV tour, the stage featured a 130-foot video wall and guest appearances from Lou Reed, controversial author Salman Rushdie, and members of the pop group ABBA. Around this time, away went the mullet when Bono adopted the leather-clad, sunglasses-wearing look of "The Fly," a dark and egotistical alter-ego inspired by the song of the same name off Achtung Baby.
U2's electronic-based music and larger scale tour productions generated two more albums in the 1990s - the less than revered Zooropa in 1993 and Pop in 1997 - before switching gears with All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000). The album featured a more conventional rock sound and evoked the power of U2's classic, The Joshua Tree. Critics hailed their latest offering as the band's long-awaited return to form, while the hit singles "Beautiful Day" and "Walk On" consecutively won Record of the Year at the 2001 and 2002 Grammy Awards. The album also gained additional significance following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States. U2 appeared at the benefit concert and telethon "America: A Tribute to Heroes," which aired on all the major networks 10 days after 9/11, and performed two tracks from All That You Can't Leave Behind, "Peace on Earth" and "Walk on." The band also performed an emotional set at the "Super Bowl XXXVI" halftime show, held on Feb. 3, 2002 in New Orleans, LA. Thousands of names scrolled up a towering screen behind the band as a tribute to the victims of the 9/11 tragedy.
Bono dedicated a major part of his career to humanitarian efforts, often collaborating with international organizations and other artists to address issues concerning human rights, poverty, disease, and environmental preservation. Aside from participating in numerous benefit concerts and events with U2, Bono has raised awareness to end social injustice during the Bosnian War and violence in Northern Ireland. In 2006, he co-founded the non-profit brand Product Red to support The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Since 1999, Bono campaigned for raising awareness and seeking help for the people of Africa, especially those struck with AIDS. Inspired by U2's hit "One," The ONE Campaign was formed in 2004 to promote government funding for international aid programs such as Oxfam America, Save the Children, and World Vision. Bono also met with various world leaders including U.S. President George W. Bush, attended global economic forums, and launched the socially conscious retail brand EDUN along with his wife, Ali Hewson. His philanthropic work earned the rocker a Man of Peace award in 2008, an honor given to him by Nobel Peace Prize laureates.
Given his increasingly in-demand schedule as an activist, Bono still found time to make music. He returned to the studio with U2 to release How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb in 2004, which Bono described as the band's "first rock album." The Grammy Awards honored U2 with more trophies that year, including one for Album of the Year. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. Surprisingly, Bono's Hollywood career was made up mostly of live performances or guest appearances, including cameos on the animated hit "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ) and the comedy series "Entourage" (HBO, 2004-11). The rocker eventually flexed his acting muscles in the 2007 feature film "Across the Universe," where he played a drug-dealing shaman named Dr. Robert. In the Julie Taymor-directed musical drama, Bono's character performs the Beatles songs "I Am the Walrus" (1967) and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (1967). Bono and U2 released their twelfth studio album, No Line on the Horizon in March 2009.
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Responded to an advertisement by fellow student Larry Mullen, Jr. to form a band with Dave Evans (aka The Edge), Dick Evans, and Adam Clayton
Won a talent contest and were approached by a manager
Signed with Island Records and released U2's debut album Boy
Group released its most successful album of the 1980¿s War; included hits such as "New Years Day," "Sunday Bloody Sunday," and "Two Hearts Beat As One"
U2 landed first major pop hit with their Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute "Pride (In the Name of Love)"
Performed at the humanitarian concert Live Aid organized by Bob Geldof
Achieved super stardom with the release of The Joshua Tree with hits such as "With Or Without You" and "Where The Streets Have No Name"; followed the album with successful tour
Featured in Phil Joanou¿s documentary "U2: Rattle and Hum," which cronicled the band's 1987 North American tour
Entered the new decade with the more electronic sound of Achtung Baby
Released the hit "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" from the Batman Forever soundtrack
Held the first major concert event in Sarajevo after the war ended; previously promised on New Years Eve 1995 to return to Sarajevo and perform
Featured in the 200th episode of "The Simpsons" (Fox)
Signed a deal with Polygram Records worth $50 million to release three U2 compilation albums
With Wyclef Jean, teamed up to record "New Day" with profits going to charity (NetAid)
U2 returned to form with the critically acclaimed All That You Can't Leave Behind
Performed "Peace On Earth / Walk On" for a landmark fundraiser America: A Tribute To Heroes aired by all the major networks to raise money for families of the victims of 9/11 terrorist attacks
Nominated for an Academy Award for Original Song for "The Hands That Built America" from the film "Gangs Of New York"
Nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Original Song for "Time Enough For Tears" from the film "In America"
With wife, Ali Hewson and New York fashion designer Rogan Gregory launched the socially conscious line EDUN
Along with Bob Geldof, helped organize and publicize Live 8, a series of 10 concerts around the globe aimed at encouraging the representatives of the world's industrialized countries at the Group of Eight Summit to write off Africa's enormous debt, reform trade policy, and grant a great deal more aid for crises such as the AIDS epidemic
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Named by Time magazine as one of the Persons of the Year, along with Bill and Melinda Gates
Named among the 191 nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize
U2 swept the Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, for How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004)
Made feature acting debut as an anti-war shaman in the Beatles' tribute film "Across the Universe"
Wrote the music and lyrics for the song "Winter" from the film "Brothers"; earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song
Released U2's twelfth studio album No Line on the Horizon