Little-Known Facts About Bono

October 10, 2023 | Stephanie Kelsey

Little-Known Facts About Bono

“As a rock star, I have two instincts. I want to have fun and I want to change the world. I have a chance to do both".—Bono

Singer, songwriter, actor, father, son, husband, activist, humanitarian—just name it, Bono likely has done it. He’s a man of all trades who uses his celebrity power and status to help make positive changes all over the world. He speaks to world leaders and politicians to help him with those efforts and encourages his fans to take a stand and donate in any way they can. Twice he’s been named as part of Time Magazine’s most influential people, with very good reason. Keep reading to find out more about the incredible life Bono leads.

1. Where The Streets Do Have Names

We may know the singer as Bono, but his parents knew him as Paul Hewson. When he was a teenager, he was part of a street gang known as Lypton Village, and his fellow members started calling him Bono Vox. Why? There was a local store that sold hearing aids called Bonavox, which translates to “Good Voice". Eventually it got shortened down to just Bono.


2. Check And Mate

He was big into playing chess when he was a kid. “Like so many kids at the beginning of the 70s, I fell head over heels for this dizzy strategic game,” he said of it. He also said that he enjoyed trying to predict his opponent’s next move and learning about the big names in chess, like Bobby Fischer, Boris Spassky and Anatoly Karpov. The latter was his favorite player until he discovered Garry Kasparov. “I admired his nagging intellect,” Bono said of him. He even got to meet his idol once, about which Kasparov said “I could see from the fire in his eyes when he spoke about chess that perhaps it might not be too hard to convince him to return to the board, even if just for a charity exhibition".


3. The Family Man

This is a bit of an anomaly in the celebrity world, but Bono and his wife have been together for a really long time. More than three decades! They have four children together, who are now in their teens to mid-20s.


4. The Life-Changer

The singer once had a close brush with mortality, but he won't disclose the exact details of the event. Whatever it was, though, helped—if you can call it that—in the writing process for U2’s album “Songs of Experience,” which was released in December 2017. "It's just a reality that... people have these life-altering occurrences, either psychological or physical," he informed Rolling Stone. “And, yes, it was physical for me, but I think I have spared myself all that soap opera". What’s even weirder is that this album specifically was going to have a mortality theme about it. How odd is that timing?


5. One Stop Relationship Shop

Bono actually met his wife and his fellow U2 bandmates while in high school at Mount Temple Comprehensive School. Mullen Jr. had posted a sign on the school’s bulletin board in 1976 saying he was starting a rock band. The rest, as they say, is history! He had actually been transferred to Mount Temple by his parents after he was declared to be problematic at his previous school. So, without strict parents—no U2!


6. (Not) Losing His Religion

In Ireland, especially when Bono was young, religion was a very big deal. Not in his household though. His mother was Protestant while his father was Catholic—pretty rare for Ireland at that time. It took Bono himself until his 20s to fully embrace religion, but he still holds a different view. “I learned [as a child] that religion is often the enemy of God,” he once said in an interview with Larry King. “Religion is [actually] the artifice—you know, the building—after God has left it.… You hold onto religion, you know, rules, regulations, traditions. I think what God is interested in is people's heart".


7. Right Place, Wrong Time

On July 14, 2016, there was an attack in Nice, France during Bastille Day celebrations. 84 people lost their lives, while another 202 were injured. Bono, a homeowner in a neighboring town, was indeed in the city during the attack. He was enjoying a meal at La Petite Maison restaurant when authorities necessitated an evacuation. “Like everybody else, Bono had to put his hands on his head, and was told to remain calm,” one person who was also at the restaurant said. That wasn't the first time he found himself in a city amidst a violent incident—the previous year, he was in Paris alongside the rest of U2 for a series of performances when a horrifying act of terror claimed the lives of 130 individuals. Needless to say, those shows were postponed.


8. Clothing With A Conscience

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you may have noticed that Bono is very socially conscious, dabbling in a lot of different causes. He, his wife Ali, and fashion designer Rogan established a clothing line called Edun, an inversion of the term commonly used to describe bare skin, and this initiative aids developing countries. He also created a children’s book in 2003 with two of his children called “Peter and the Wolf,” with proceeds going to the Irish Hospice Foundation.


9. The Big Apple

When Bono and his wife were looking for somewhere to live in New York City around the late 1980s/early 1990s, they found one spot they liked, and paid a cool $15 million for it. Who did they buy it from? None other than Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple.


10. Speaking For Those Who Don’t Have A Voice

In 2016, Bono appeared before the US Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. He was there to talk about the refugee crisis all over the world and the aid needed to help manage it. During his speech, he told the Senate, “aid in 2016 is not charity—it is national security".


11. Putting His Face Where His Words Are

He isn’t just all talk, either. He actually goes to the countries he’s fighting to help. in 1985, Bono and his wife spent almost two months in Ethiopia along with many other humanitarians in an effort to make the housing and sanitary situations better in an over-populated camp of refugees. He also spent some time in El Salvador where he actually witnessed an assault on a village by armed forces.


12. The Nine Lives Of Bono

He’s had his fair share of scary health moments in his life. In 2000, he had a throat cancer scare, which proved to be negative. 10 years later, he suffered a herniated disc, and in 2014, he suffered a serious crash while riding his bicycle in New York City which led to extensive surgery to fix his injuries.


13. Life-Changing Collision

In November 2014, Bono was involved in a very scary accident in New York City, just a day after he had been recording a single with the modern-day Band Aid. In a letter to fans that was posted on U2’s website, the singer called it “a high-energy bicycle accident when he attempted to avoid another rider". He suffered some pretty nasty injuries—fractured hand, shoulder blade, and eye socket; not to mention that he had broken his arm in six different places. As a result, he now has a titanium elbow. As a result, he also believed that he would never play guitar again, but here we are years later, knowing that he very much can.


14. Spiritual Guidance

If you’re a fan of U2’s music, you’ll likely note the number of religious motifs that pop up in the lyrics. But did you know that Pope John Paul II once gave Bono a rosary? The singer is still seen wearing it.


15. He Wears His Sunglasses At Night

Something else you won’t see him without? His sunglasses. No really, Google his name and see if you can find a photo of him not wearing sunglasses. Go ahead, we’ll wait. “Without them, I'm an amorphous mass,” he has said about his trademark. It’s not a pompous rockstar move, though, he actually needs to wear them, as he suffers from glaucoma, resulting in a sensitivity to light. “If somebody takes my photograph, I will see the flash for the rest of the day,” he told Rolling Stone. “My right eye swells up. I've a blockage there, so that my eyes go red a lot. So it's part vanity, it's part privacy and part sensitivity".


16. Not Just A Great Singer

Believe it or not, he’s also appeared on the big screen. In the film Across the Universe, he played Dr. Robert and got to sing The Beatles’ hit song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds".

BonoAcross the Universe, 2007, Columbia Pictures

17. Everyone Gets The Album!

When U2 released their album Songs of Innocence in 2014, there were a lot of mixed feelings. You see, the band had a collaboration with Apple that had the entire album available for free through iTunes. The problem? It was an automatic download that didn’t require consent from users. Other musicians were also uneasy since the album was available for free and may have sent the wrong message about musicians getting paid for their craft. Disregarding all that, Rolling Stone declared it to be the best album that year.


18. Let’s Get Political, Political

During the 1980s, U2’s music got political, and let’s just say it wasn’t well-received by all. Especially in Ireland, where the IRA was involved. In 1987, following an explosion that Bono publicly denounced during a live show, militants from the Provisional IRA even threatened to abduct the band's lead singer. Moreover, the vehicle with the band members was once targeted by IRA supporters.


19. Just Hit ‘Like’

Elevation Partners is Bono’s investment company, and you’ll be interested to know that one of their stakes includes Facebook. Yup, that’s right: Bono has been a part owner of one of the most popular social media sites out there since 2010! Granted, it’s only a 1.5 percent stake, but still. Before this deal, 24/7 Wall Street declared Bono to be the “worst investor in America” because of previous failed ventures.


20. Hey Now, I’m A Rock Star

It’s pretty cool when colleges and universities ask celebrities to speak at graduation ceremonies, and even cooler when they actually appear. Bono was asked by Harvard to address their graduating class in 2001, to which he obliged. In his speech, he said, “My name is Bono and I’m a rock star. Now, I tell you this not as a boast but as a kind of confession. Because in my view the only thing worse than a rock star is a rock star with a conscience".


21. Spreading His Talent

Not just a singer, Bono also writes music for U2 and others. Among the artists he’s written for are Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra, Keith Richards, Luciano Pavarotti, and Sinéad O'Connor. Pavarotti was so interested in Bono writing for him that he called Bono’s father persistently to help get him on board.

BonoGetty Images

22. He Does Whatever A Bono Can

Along with fellow U2 bandmate The Edge, Bono helped with the music and lyrics for the Broadway production of Spider-Man. Bono also just happened to be one of the show’s producers. His time with the show was a bit of a rocky one, though. He and the original director eventually clashed over copyright and contractual issues.


23. Just Stick To The Singing, Man

When U2 first got together, Bono sang, wrote songs, and played the guitar. He fully admits that he had no idea how to play the guitar, once saying “I was such a lousy guitar player that one day they broke it to me that maybe I should sing instead". Later in life, he’d take piano lessons from his own kids’ teacher to help with his songwriting.


24. The Honor Is All His

There’s only one person who can say they’ve not only been nominated for two Nobel Peace Prizes, but who has also won the Nobel Man of Peace prize in 2008, in addition to nominations and wins at the Golden Globes, Grammies, and Oscars, and his name is Bono. The first Nobel Peace Prize nomination was for his work in trying to remove third world debts and talking about the issues regarding AIDS in Africa.

BonoGetty Images

25. Spreading The Word, Any Way He Can

Bono’s work in eradicating AIDS is far-reaching. He’s a co-founder of the charitable organizations One, (Red) and DATA and has met with numerous politicians and world leaders including former US President George W. Bush to discuss what can be done. He also once guest-edited The Independent, a UK-based newspaper, for a day and helped promote the problem of HIV and AIDS in Africa in doing so.


26. Yeah, So, About That Name

The U2 frontman once confessed to Larry King during an interview that he isn’t a fan of the band’s name. Originally, the band was known as Feedback, then Hype. U2 was suggested by the man who designs the album sleeves for the band, Steve Averill. Unfortunately, I think it might be a little too late now to change the name.


27. A Knight Of Knights

He’s done a lot of humanitarian work over his career and the Queen herself took notice. In 2007, he was named Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. I know what you’re thinking: why isn’t he Sir Bono then? Well, he isn’t British. That’s not his only knightly honor: in 2003, then French President Jacques Chirac gave Bono the rank of Knight in the Order of the Legion of Honor.

BonoGetty Images

28. Faked It Until He Made It

Bono was just 24 years old when he interviewed Bob Dylan for the magazine Hot Press. Dylan was set to perform at Slane Castle in Dublin after the interview and decided to bring Bono up on stage during “Blowin’ in the Wind". The only problem was that he didn’t know the lyrics to the song, and just made them up as he went along.


29. Try Saying That Five Times Fast

Bonavox wasn’t his first nickname, he actually had quite a few before Bono was the one stuck. He’s also gone by “Huyseman,” “Houseman,” “Bon Murray,” and “Bono Vox of O’Connell Street". But my personal favorite? “Steinhegvanhuysenolegbangbangbang".


30. The Heavy Burden Of Loss

Bono knew loss at an early age. While at the funeral for his maternal grandfather, his mother suffered a cerebral aneurysm, succumbing just a few days later. Some of U2’s songs were inspired by his mother, including “I Will Follow” and “Out of Control". U2’s drummer, Larry Mullen Jr., also lost his mother when he was young and the pair grew close because of their shared tragedies.


31. The Gift Of Song

Bono once missed his wife’s birthday, so, naturally, he wrote her a song. When “The Sweetest Thing” was re-recorded, his wife received all of the profits of its sales. She didn’t keep that money for herself, though. She donated all of it to a charity for Chernobyl victims.


Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

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