The driving music of It’s A Beautiful Day gave Bono and U2 fame that crossed generations. His commitment to alleviating Third World poverty and hunger has continued to grow, earning the respect of world political leaders, and even the late Pope John Paul II.

“Bono knows as much about Africa as anyone I know”, states former Prime Minister of Canada Paul Martin in his book Hell or High Water, when commenting about his rock star friend Bono. At first glance it may seem to be an unusual friendship; a world-renown rock star and a businessman/politician. However, like Paul Martin, Bono has a genuine concern for the plight of the world’s poor and politically disenfranchised peoples. (Paul Martin is now serving as a senior advisor for two United Nations organizations to help in Africa.)

They have forged a friendship and an alliance because of their mutual commitment to act on their concerns and to use their personal resources (financial and political) to make a positive difference, especially in Africa. A closer examination reveals that Bono – like Paul Martin – is also an astute businessman and investor; which gives him the financial resources to be a philanthropist of world-class proportions.

How does an Irish rock ‘n’ roller evolve from a modest background to becoming a major influence the international scene in the fight against poverty, hunger and promoting Third World debt relief. He’s been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, 2005 and 2006 for his philanthropy. It’s along way from a 3 room house in Dublin and a father who told his children that “to dream is to be disappointed”.

Bono and his band mates in U2 have sold out every one of their concert appearances in the last 10 years, grossing an incredible $844 million from their live shows, second only to The Rolling Stones. The first part of their current 360 Tour has already grossed $123 million, with a projection of $312 million for the entire tour. However, Bono is quite possibly more famous for his humanitarian work and philanthropy than for his music. It is certain that his incredible musical success has given him the star status platform and personal wealth to fund his philanthropic activities.

Bono was born Paul David Hewson and his Irish parents were an unusual couple in a country deeply and violently divided along religious lines. His mother, Iris, was Anglican and his father Robert a Roman Catholic. Bono was just 14 when in a tragic co-incidence; his mother suffered a fatal cerebral aneurysm while attending her own father’s funeral. The Hewson household of two boys and a father was never the same.

Bono writes most of the lyrics for U2’s songs, and many of his songs reflect the untimely loss of his mother. Bono and his younger brother Norman had to grow up fast; and again the theme of childhood versus maturity is evident in Bono’s song lyrics.

As a teenager, Bono and his friends gave each other nicknames, and at one time his was Bono Vox, a name he didn’t care for until he learned that the translation from Latin meant “good voice”. By his mid-teens he was playing and singing in a band, and decided that he like the nickname after all. By the late ‘70s it was shortened to Bono, and that’s what it’s been ever since.

Bono first met his wife Alison Stewart while the two were Mount Temple Comprehensive School. They were married in 1982, and have two sons and two daughters. Their principal residence remains in Dublin, although the couple also have homes in southern France (shared with long-time band mate and business partner David Evans “The Edge”), an apartment in New York City and a small house in a rural English village. Bono and The Edge are also business partners in several ventures, including the transformation of The Clarence Hotel in Dublin from a tourist-class to a five star luxury property.

A young Hewson and some friends answered a bulletin board notice at Mount Temple from a fellow student Larry Mullen; asking for anyone interested in starting a band. Bono, brothers David and Dik Evans and Adam Clayton replied; and with the exception of Dik Evans, the band has been together ever since 1976 – albeit with a few names before settling on U2. They wrote many of their own songs because in the early days they weren’t good enough to play other artists’ material partiularly well. Bono originally was one of the guitarists, but the other fellows suggested that the band would have a better sound if he concentrated on singing. Thirty years and millions of record sales later (including 22 Grammy Awards), U2 was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll hall of fame in 2005, their first year of eligibility. It’s a testament to the strength of the original friendships that the four musicians have stayed together – given the vagaries of a life in show business.

Bono’s signature wraparound sunglasses are not a rapper-style affectation. Rather, he wears them to alleviate sensitivity to light. They’ve become both a trademark and a fashion statement. Even Pope John Paul II asked for a pair when he met Bono! Summing up, he states; “It’s part vanity, part privacy and part sensitivity.”

A charismatic stage performer, Bono has channelled his forceful personality to help him in his philanthropic endeavours. He and the rest of U2 have accumulated tremendous personal wealth, a pre-requisite to philanthropy. You have to have money in order to give it away in enough quantity to make a large scale difference. In fact, TIME Magazine paired Bono with Bill and Linda Gates as Person of the Year in 2005.

As early as 1984, Bono and U2 played at the Band Aid and Live Aid projects organized by Bob Geldof to raise funds and awareness for the plight of the world’s hungry. Bono and Geldof subsequently worked together to produce the Live 8 concert project in 2005, with U2 again one of the anchor performing groups.

Highly intelligent, he has studied the history and background of the issues and causes he champions. This has enabled him to win the confidence of world leaders when they realize that he knows as much or more than they do about the issues surrounding Third World poverty and debt relief. Bono is an active participant at international aid conferences. It was at the G7 Conference in Prague that Bono met Paul Martin, who as Prime Minister announced that Canada would begin forgiving Third World debt. Bono issued his famous quote; “Paul Martin is a f–king great guy!” In a tongue-in-cheek comment in his memoir, Martin suggested to his publishers that this would make a fine book title.

Bono was named Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2007, and was granted a knighthood in Dublin in March of the same year. He was also recognized by the NAACP in the United States, receiving the Chairman’s Award, and he was awarded the Philadelphia Liberty Award in September 2007 for his efforts to end poverty and hunger. Consistent with his commitment to match his words with action, Bono donated the accompanying $100,000 to the Washington-based DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa); an organization he co-founded with Bobby Shriver (of the Kennedy family) in 2002. (Robert Sargent Shriver is a member of the extended Kennedy family and a respected attorney, investor and social activist.)

In 2005 Bono, his wife Ali Hewson and New York-based fashion designer (and fellow Irishman) Rogan Gregory established a clothing line EDUN, and to promote the use of factories in Africa, South America and India and to pay workers fair wages, utilize ethical business practices and to create a business model that would attract other international investment in developing nations. The line is still active, specializing in online marketing of their clothing and continues to pay Third World workers a fair wage.

Vanity Fair magazine invited Bono to be guest editor of their July 2007 issue titled “The Africa Issue: Politics and Power”. His reputation attracted political leaders, philanthropists and prominent celebrities to participate. With different covers photographed by Annie Leibovitz, that issue raised awareness and sensitized millions to the serious issues facing African people and their governments.

Bona has been criticized as a dilettante, making huge sums of money from his high profile as a musician. He has also been criticized for failing to work with local African entrepreneurs and grassroots organizations. Not shy to respond, Bono addressed his critics in a Times Online article; “…they are cranks carping from the sidelines. A lot of them wouldn’t know what to do if they were on the field. They’re the party who will always be in opposition so they’ll never have the responsibility for decisions because they know they’ll never be able to implement them.”

In May 2007 Bono travelled to Africa with NBC Nightly News anchorman Brian Williams; to present that continent’s humanitarian crisis. Williams and the Nightly News editors saluted Bono in November 2007 as a person “making a difference”.

In another initiative to generate funding for the battle against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Bono and Bobby Shriver established Product Red, and galvanized the participation of corporate heavyweights American Express, Apple, Converse, Motorola, Microsoft, Dell, The Gap, and Giorgio Armani to create a product with the Product Red logo. A percentage of the profits from the sales of each product is given to the Global Fund. Since its inception, the list of participating companies has increased dramatically, including the addition of Nike.

Star status and name recognition certainly help to open doors. However, world political leaders, including high-level directors at The United Nations have come to appreciate Bono’s depth of knowledge, intellect and desire for action. His vision, influence and hands-on commitment have helped advance the cause of millions of poor, hungry and people afflicted with AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Bono and U2 will bring their 360 Tour to Montreal on July 16 & 17; with the group funding the $3 million construction of a temporary stadium at Hippodrome Montreal (Blue Bonnets).

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