Who Is Bono?
On March 2, 2007, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—an American organization that fights for civil rights and justice—presented a special award to a rock star. His name was Paul Hewson, but everyone called him Bono. He was being honored for the work he had done to raise money for the poor and sick, especially in Africa.
When Bono took the stage, he wore a dark suit and the oversize sunglasses he was famous for. His band, U2, was one of the most successful groups in music history. They played all over the world to sold-out stadium crowds. They’d won twenty-two Grammy Awards. Their records had sold millions of copies. They had fans everywhere they went.
But it didn’t start out that way. Bono was born an ordinary boy in the Irish city of Dublin, where people who went to Catholic churches did not always get along with people who went to Protestant churches. Bono asked himself what God meant in a world where people suffered and wars were fought. He had taken all his questions and doubts and put them into song lyrics. When Bono took the stage, he didn’t talk about rock and roll. He talked about people who had nothing. People who were suffering. People who needed help. And he talked about one of the most important forces in his life: God. After all his years of questioning, Bono had learned one thing for sure: God wanted people to help one another.
“The poor are where God lives,” Bono said. “God . . . is with the poor. And God is with us, if we are with them.” Bono lived the kind of glamorous life he could only dream about as a boy. He had become a star. But once he had that life, he discovered there were more important things he needed to do. Not for himself, but for the world. Chapter 1: Dublin
Paul David Hewson was born in Dublin, the capital city of Ireland, on May 10, 1960. His parents were Bob and Iris Hewson. He had one brother, Norman, who was seven years older. His father, Bob, worked for the post office.
Bob and Iris were both Christian, but they were different kinds of Christians. Bob was Catholic, and Iris was Protestant. In Dublin, it was very unusual for Catholics and Protestants to marry. The two groups did not get along. In Northern Ireland, fighting between Catholics and Protestants often became violent. Even as a young boy, Paul wondered why Christianity, which taught that people should love one another, made people hate one another.
Paul did believe in fighting for some
things. On his first day of school, a boy bit one of Paul’s friends. Paul shoved the bully into a nearby railing!
When Paul got a Batman costume, he walked around his neighborhood telling everyone he was going to fight crime. Some older boys laughed at him. They pulled his Batman mask down over his eyes so he couldn’t see anything.
The school that Paul went to was for Protestant children. He and his brother went to a Protestant church on Sundays with their mother while their Catholic father waited outside.
As Paul got older he started to think school was boring. Sometimes he didn’t go at all. He just walked around the city of Dublin. His parents started to worry about his grades. When Paul was twelve, a new school opened near his house. It was called Mount Temple Comprehensive School.
It was different from other Dublin schools because it accepted all kids—Protestant and Catholic, boys and girls. The students at Mount Temple didn’t wear uniforms, which was very unusual in Ireland. Paul’s parents thought this new school might be a good place for him.
Paul liked Mount Temple. He got to wear different styles of clothes and became more confident. He made friends with other students, both boys and girls.
When he was twelve, Paul started playing chess with Norman and his father. He fell in love with the game. He wanted to play it all the time. When he heard about an international chess competition in Dublin, he entered even though he was only twelve. He was the youngest person in the whole tournament, so he stood out among all the other players. He liked the attention, even though he didn’t win.
When he wasn’t playing chess, Paul was often borrowing his brother’s records. He liked a lot of popular performers, including David Bowie, the Beatles, and Led Zeppelin. He also liked Rory Gallagher, who happened to be Irish. There weren’t many rock stars who were Irish. When Bono finally shopped for his very first record, he bought John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s song “Happy Xmas (War is Over).” It was a Christmas song asking the world to end all wars.
Even though he didn’t live in Northern Ireland, Paul was still very aware of the Troubles there. That
war was very close to home.
On September 10, 1974, when Paul was fourteen years old, his mother died. She hadn’t been sick, so it was a complete shock to everyone. Iris had collapsed at her own father’s—Paul’s grandfather’s—funeral. Suddenly she was gone. Paul, his father, and his brother were left alone.
Copyright © 2018 by Pam Pollack and Meg Belviso. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.