Give Up: 40 Songs, A Story by Bono Critics – From Boy to Mandela | Autobiography and memory

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Ssurrender begins with the singer and U2 activist on the verge of death and ends with his birth. The two episodes are in flowery writing, a kind of poetic grandiloquence that tempers a default blasphemy throughout these 40 chapters (the “songs” of the title).

But you don’t come to the 500-plus-page memoir of a loudmouth singer of a stadium act that sells billions of dollars for brevity. While Paul Hewson was born with “an eccentric heart” (a medical condition, rather than a metaphysical condition), he also has 130% of a civilian’s lung capacity and a self-proclaimed tendency to “talk.” The infamous “Bono talk,” after all, welcomes fledgling rock stars to fame with an avuncular investigation into the pitfalls to come.

So: not a book for anyone allergic to words. Lyrics – those of Bono and others – quotes from Irish poets and excerpts from the Bible add to the prose that recounts, analyzes, self-flagellates and pays homage here.

If he continues a little, well, there is a lot to do. Like many stars, from Lennon/McCartney to Madonna via John Lydon, Bono lost his mother very young. His rages, stubbornness and stadium-sized need for validation are all closely examined, as is his complicated relationship with his late father, who Bono would discover later in life also fathered the cousin of Good.

‘More than an epic Celtic rock’n’roll story’: U2 (lr: Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr, The Edge and Bono) in 1979. Photography: Paul Slattery

Even before U2’s first album, the 1980s Boy, there’s a lot to grapple with, including the loss of a close friend of The Troubles, the discovery of their shrewd (now ex) manager, Paul McGuinness, and serious dilemmas about whether rock ‘n’ roll could be the place to be. work of God. If McGuinness was the fifth member of U2, then “the invisible immortal” is the sixth. (Bassist Adam Clayton is more agnostic.)

As annoyed as many were back when U2 gave every iTunes owner a copy of their songs of innocence album in 2014 (he’s so sorry about that), Hewson clearly remains a pop star like no other, even if Coldplay’s Chris Martin shares a twist of his modus operandi.

Many give to charity, many campaign. But armed with statistical records, Hewson played a leading role in the Jubilee 2000 anti-poverty movement. Led by British economist Ann Pettifor, this coalition of conscience groups and celebrities – the Dalai Lama, Muhammad Ali – persuaded the United States and others to write off billions of dollars of developing country debt.

Bono knows he can be boring. Luckily, he can also be the right kind of annoyance when, say, persistence and a silver tongue are needed to get big guns on his side.

For the many encounters with great musicians here – he passes out on Frank Sinatra’s white sofa, worried he’s lost control of his bladder – the most gripping passages come when Dublin’s stubborn religious punk draws what must , it must be admitted, to be a very silver tongue when it counts. If the content “behind the music” is strong in Abandonment, real-world giants are next level: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela, arch-conservative Congressman Jesse Helms, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, various Kennedys, George Soros, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush, Warren Buffett, Diana, Princess of Wales, Rupert Murdoch, Oprah Winfrey, Dr Anthony Fauci, Gerry Adams, Bill and Melinda Gates and the previous Pope. As interesting as U2 fans might find recording stories Achtung Babyglobal things mean Abandonment is so much more than an epic Celtic rock’n’roll tale, quite light on sex’n’drugs.

It’s all about antiretrovirals. At the height of HIV/AIDS, the infamous American Helms evangelicals railed against the victims. There are few better defenses of Bono’s peculiar combination of talkativeness and courage than the fact that he knocked Helms down on international aid for people living with HIV by quoting a chapter and a verse of scripture to him. . Cue $500 million to be spent on preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Africa – if not exactly a heart-to-heart embrace of same-sex relationships closer to home.

“An episode that reads like a thriller”: Bono with President George W Bush in 2002. Photography: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Another episode reads like a thriller. The ongoing campaign to fight HIV in the developing world is dogged by the approval of a watered down aid announcement by the Bush Jr administration, morally compromised by the war in Iraq. Bono receives a promise from Rice that in exchange for approving this interim package, the HIV money will come later. He reluctantly accepts. Appalled, Soros berates him for selling the campaign “for a plate of lentils”. In the end, however, Rice and Bush honor the handshake and invest $100 billion in an AIDS plan known as Pepfar. As Bono expires reasonably, it’s “a lot of lentils”.

Much of this is the work of the “white saviour”. He is aware of the accusation: in hindsight, Band Aid had tin ears; the lack of African representatives in the room from Jubilee and other organizations Hewson has been involved with, such as (RED), which also fights HIV in Africa, was prideful (African partners are now on board).

He acknowledges that he leaves Ali, the woman he credits with keeping him up and sane, at home with the children while galloping to save other people’s children. If Bono tends to become eloquent, Abandonment is also a comprehensive study of his character flaws, his emphasis and his mistakes. One thing he doesn’t really clarify satisfactorily, however, is U2’s tax position, repeating that U2 is a business that should be run on commercial principles, including tax efficiency (the company is based in the United States). -Down).

The real revelation is the depth, breadth and idiosyncrasy of his faith, a non-sectarian Catholicism that is not strictly religious. At a tender age, three members of U2 participated in a back-to-basics religious group known as Shalom that sought to live like first-century Christians.

He writes compellingly about the learning of American civil rights activists to find “doors to walk through” to advance a cause. In the United States, this means a dialogue with the right accelerated by faith.

He is in “the compromised middle”, a pragmatist who gets things done by breaking bread with the enemy. He acknowledges that even some members of his own group find this difficult to live with. Most pop star memoirs are confessionals of one sort or another. This one finds Bono examining his conscience more knowingly than most.

Abandon yourself: 40 songs, one story by Bono is published by Hutchinson Heinemann (£25). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply


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