Monday, November 21, 2005

U2's Bono Uses Fame to Create Change

CBS's 60 Minutes did a profile of U2 last night, with a focus on Bono and his political activities. U2 has always been a socially outspoken band, whether they are singing about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the genocide in Bosnia, or the religious warfare in their Irish homeland. Offstage, however, Bono in particular walks the talk in his songs.

Bono has worked to provide AIDS drugs for dying people in Africa. He has lobbied the richest countries on the planet to forgive the crushing debt owed by the poorest nations.
Bono’s passions are shared and supported by the band, drummer Larry Mullen, Jr., bassist Adam Clayton and the guitarist who calls himself “The Edge.”

“I think early on the heroes that we had were people like Bob Marley, John Lennon, The Clash,” says The Edge. “And those bands all had the same combination of rock 'n roll, the rage, railing against injustice. And the politics. We connected with that in a major way.”

With albums such as Boy, October, War, and A Blood Red Sky, U2 established itself in America as a socially conscious band that makes incredible music. With 1987's The Joshua Tree (perhaps one of the greatest albums ever recorded), U2 established themselves as the biggest band on the planet. The band has held that title ever since, continuing year after year to produce infectious music that carries deep meaning.

As much attention as Bono gets for his social activism, he still feels himself to be a musician first and foremost. Here are some of the lyrics from "I Still Haven't Found What I Am Looking For."

I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her fingertips
It burned like fire
This burning desire

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
Well yes I'm still running

You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Of my shame
You know I believed it

There is a definite Christian flavor to Bono's vision, but it is not traditional Christianity. Rather, Bono seeks a vision in which the spirit of Jesus Christ--the rebel who spent his time with the outcast and poor, not with the wealthy--is manifest in the lives and actions of people. It is a vision that acknowledges differences and suffering, but it also seeks the freedom, both physical and spiritual, of all people.

Beautiful Day:
Touch me, take me to that other place
Teach me love, I know I'm not a hopeless case

See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by a cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light
And, see the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colours came out
(Day) Down
(Day) Day

It was a beautiful day / (Day) Down
Don't let it get away / (Day) Day
Beautiful day / (Day) Down, (Day) Down

Still, it is in the political realm where Bono's understanding of human nature--what Spiral Dynamics might see as a second-tier knowledge--becomes so apparent. Bono was angry that the Christian right in America had done so little to address the AIDS crisis in Africa, so this liberal rock star approached them, and rather than giving them some bleeding heart speech, he spoke to them in their language, in terms they could understand and respond to.
How does he get support for his projects? “It was probably that it would be really wrong beating a sort of left-wing drum, taking the usual bleeding-heart-liberal line,” says Bono.

Instead, he enlisted the ruling right of American politics. “Particularly conservative Christians, I was very angry that they were not involved more in the AIDS emergency. I was saying, ‘this is the leprosy that we read about in the New Testament, you know. Christ hung out with the lepers. But you're ignoring the AIDS emergency,” says Bono. “How can you? And, you know, they said, ‘Well, you're right, actually. We have been. And we're sorry. We'll get involved.’ And they did.”

The ability to successfully gauge the worldview and meaning-structure of an audience and speak to them in such a way that they can be convinced to do something they had been hesitant to do is indicative of an integral worldview. A person at this level is not so fully attached to his/her own worldview that it is impossible to see into another. Bono has this gift.

Stuart Davis recently expressed his feeling that U2 shows the greatest depth (meaning in their music) and span (range of influence) of any band in music today. I quibbled with that a bit, but I'd have to agree with him after seeing this interview.

Bono's music can move me to tears in ways few other musicians can (Peter Gabriel and Human Drama also can). He often seeks the best in human beings through his music, even when expressing his pain at what he sees around him.


Have you come here for forgiveness?
Have you come to raise the dead?
Have you come here to play Jesus?
To the lepers in your head

Did I ask too much, more than a lot?
You gave me nothing, now it's all I got
We're one, but we're not the same
Well we hurt each other
Then we do it again

You say
Love is a temple
Love a higher law
Love is a temple
Love the higher law
You ask me to enter
Well then you make me crawl
And I can't be holding on
To what you got
When all you got is hurt

One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should
One life
With each other
One life
But we're not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

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