Bono many be known for his distinct vocals and lyrics often heavy in social and political themes, but there’s a side of U2’s lead singer that many haven’t seen.
Bono believes in God. And if you meet him in person, you’ll quickly learn that he’s unashamed to tell you so.
Bono doesn’t claim to be a perfect Christian. In fact, he admits that many of his life’s deepest struggles are what caused him to turn to Christ.
Bono hasn’t always had it easy, and like many celebrities of our day, Bono wrestled throughout his younger years.
Paul David Hewson — notoriously later nicknamed “Bono” — was born on May 10, 1960, in Dublin, Ireland. He and his older brother were raised in the Northside suburb of Finglas by their Catholic father, Brendan Robert “Bobby” Hewson, and Protestant mother Iris Elizabeth Rankin – a highly unusual arrangement for the deeply sectarian country at the time.
His parents initially agreed that their first child would be raised Anglican, and their second as Catholic. Although Bono was the second child, he also attended Church of Ireland services with his mother and brother.
As a child, Bono was a clever, outspoken, and thoughtful boy whose early experiences shaped much of his later life as one of the most influential figures in Irish history.
When Bono was only 14-years-old, tragedy struck. His mother, Iris, was attending her own father’s funeral when she collapsed. Four days later, on September 10th, Iris Hewson passed away after suffering a cerebral aneurysm. Through unimaginable grief, Bono struggled to pick up the pieces after losing his beloved mother and grandfather in the same week.
Bono shared, “I don’t have a lot of memories of her, which is [an] unfortunate situation. … I look forward to meeting her again. But the loss of that is significant for [a child], and for me, I filled it with music and … and it deepened my faith, I suppose.”
Despite his father’s desperate attempt to keep the family together, Bono revealed that he “didn’t get on very well” with his father and never enjoyed a close relationship with him. Bono would later claim that his father’s unspoken message to his children was “to dream is to be disappointed.”
Bono has often said that his father’s gloomy outlook on life only fueled his ambitions and made him even more determined to follow hard after his dreams.
Bono would later go on to pay tribute to his mother in the highest form of honor he knew: music. Many of Bono’s songs include “I Will Follow,” “Mofo,” “Out of Control,” “Lemon” and “Tomorrow” focus on the heart-wrenching loss of his mother.
After his mother’s death, Bono was quite a handful and often acted out. Many considered him “troubled” despite his undeniable talents. He was even nicknamed “Antichrist” by teachers and fellow students.
As Bono so eloquently explained, “I spent a year at St. Patrick’s, not being happy, and basically they asked me to leave.” (This was largely a result of the young Paul throwing dog feces at his despised Spanish teacher).
After being dismissed from St. Patrick’s Cathedral Choir School, Bono was enrolled in the very controversial Mount Temple Comprehensive School — Ireland’s first multi-denominational and co-educational school. The decision to enroll young ‘Bono’ in this unique school would forever alter the course of his life.
At his new school, Bono quickly excelled and made new friends. Throughout that time, Bono and several of his classmates were part of a surrealist street gang called “Lypton Village.”
The gang had a ritual of nickname-giving. Bono was given several names: first, he went by the ridiculous “Steinhegvanhuysenolegbangbangbang,” then just “Huyseman,” followed by “Houseman,” “Bon Murray,” “Bono Vox of O’Connell Street,” and finally the one that stuck: just “Bono.”
His unique nickname originated from the Gresham Motel: Bonovox. It was later discovered that this was a store for hearing aids. “Bono Vox” is an alteration of Bonavox, a Latin phrase which translates to “good voice.” It was quickly shortened to “Bono” by boyhood friends. It’s been said that Bono initially disliked the name; however, when he learned it translated to “good voice,” he accepted it.
Hewson has been known as “Bono” since the late 1970s. Although he uses Bono as his stage name, close family, friends, and fellow band members also refer to him as Bono.
As a teenager struggling with grief, Bono eventually turned to the Bible for comfort and quickly realized that he loved the book of Psalms.
Bono shared, “First of all, David’s a musician, so I’m gonna like him. … And what’s so powerful about the Psalms are, as well as their being Gospel and songs of praise, they are also the Blues. It’s very important for Christians to be honest with God, which often, you know, God is much more interested in who you are than who you want to be.”
Throughout high school, Bono had many grand ambitions — especially of being an actor. But everything changed the day he noticed an open invitation posted on Mount Temple’s bulletin board. The flyer invited anyone interested in forming a band to assemble at ’60 Rosemount Avenue, Artane,’ the house of 14-year-old drummer Larry Mullen, Jr.
On 25 September 1976, 16-year-old Paul Hewson, 15-year-old guitarist David Evans (later nicknamed “The Edge”), 16-year-old Adam Clayton (who couldn’t actually play bass guitar, but did a great job pretending he did), Larry’s friend Peter Martin, Ivan McCormick, and David Evans’ brother Dick, responded to the advertisement inviting others to “form a rock band.”
That glorious first meeting would prove to change the trajectory of their lives forever.
Ivan and Peter were quickly “weeded out” of the group and Dick eventually left the band to study engineering.
The four remaining boys went on to form a band known as Feedback (supposedly after the ear-splitting wailing that always seemed to emanate from the guitar amps), before becoming The Hype, and then finally U2 (which had been named for the U2 spy planes).
Together, the four young boys covered popular songs of their day. But Bono was tired of long guitar solos and hard rock and wanted to branch out to sing other styles like The Rolling Stones and Beach Boys.
It didn’t take long for the group to realize that they couldn’t cover other songs very well, so they started writing their own songs. Just three years after meeting together in a small house for the first time, U2 signed with Island Records and released their first album, Boy, in 1980.
By the mid–1980s, the band had evolved into a top international act, noted for their anthemic sound, Bono’s powerful vocals, and The Edge’s unique guitar skills.
U2 had a knack for performing, but they weren’t very good at selling records until their 1987 album The Joshua Tree which, according to Rolling Stone, elevated the band’s stature “from heroes to superstars.”
But U2 wasn’t the only big takeaway from Bono’s time at Mount Temple Comprehensive School. While there, a beautiful 15-year-old young lady by the name of Alison “Ali” Stewart, caught 16-year-old Bono’s attention.
After losing his beloved mother, the beautiful, selfless and caring miss Ali Stewart stepped in. Ali made sure Bono got to school, washed his clothes and ate well by bringing him to her own home for dinner or cooking his meals herself.
Bono dated Ali throughout high school and on August 21, 1982, the lovebirds finally tied the knot. It was a quaint little ceremony in the Old Guinness Church of Ireland in Raheny, with Adam Clayton as best man.
Bono’s band was taking off while Mrs. Ali Hewson decided to shelve her dreams of becoming a nurse to support her husband.
The young Mrs. Hewson went on to get her degree in politics and sociology — which she achieved while being severely sleep-deprived having given birth to their first daughter, Jordan, in 1990. The little family of three grew as they welcomed another daughter, Memphis Eve (1991), and two boys, Elijah Bob Patricius Guggi Q (1999) and John Abraham (2001).
To this day, Bono has never shied away from bragging on his beautiful wife of almost 34-years.
Bono shared, “A is for Ali. If her name were Zena, I’d start the alphabet with her anyway; everything for me starts with her… Marriage is a grand madness. It’s like jumping off a very tall building and discovering you can fly. I was at some special weddings this year that reminded me and my missus why we jumped.”
In a world full of heartache, divorce, and families falling apart at the seams; Bono and Ali set a different kind of example. Despite hectic schedules, life in the limelight, and juggling four children: Mr. and Mrs. Hewson are more in love today than ever. And hand-in-hand, their love reminds the world that marriage was meant to last a lifetime.
Ali is the ‘ying’ to Bono’s ‘yang.’ While Bono is known for being flashy and outgoing, his counterpart is quiet, reserved, and poised. While she and her hunky hubby are worth an estimated $600 million, Ali isn’t interested in material possessions.
Ali shared, “I’ve never been interested in things that sparkle and shine, I’m more interested in people.”
Ali could easily live a designer-label-wearing, luxury-spa-going life of indulgence that would make the housewives of Wisteria Lane sick with envy. And yet we never see her embark on elaborate shopping excursions, or appearing on reality TV. Instead, Ali focuses on keeping up with her husband, caring for their children, and living to give.
Many reporters have revealed, “The first thing I felt about Ali was how down to earth she was — everyone says that after meeting her. You think about someone who is a rock star’s wife and the life she must lead, but she’s the opposite to that person.”
“She’s very non-showbiz, very down to earth and genuine,” says one reporter. “She’s sharp, realistic and very normal. With someone of her status you would think there would need to be a certain level of schmoozing, but there’s no bulls*** about her. If anything, she’d be turned off by empty flattery.”
Aside from being a faithful husband and rock star, Bono considers himself a family man and loves spending time with his four children.
And although their dad may be one of the world’s wealthiest rock stars, the four Hewson children are almost anything but spoiled rich kids. Instead, Bono and Ali are intent on raising their children the right way.
In a candid interview, Bono’s second daughter, Eve, revealed, “I don’t talk about money with my parents and I’m not the child who gets everything I want. My parents have been great about keeping us disciplined and making us work for what we want. We’re lucky that we get to travel places and we enjoy going out and having fun — but I don’t get handed money and I never will. I have to work.”
In a recent open letter posted on the band’s website, Bono brags on his four beautiful children and reveals a different side of his rock star life:
On daughter Jordan: “When she was born she was only five pounds… the midwife said it would be comforting for her to sleep on my chest where she would hear my heartbeat like when she is breastfeeding with her mother. She is still there.”
On daughter Eve: “Eve has discipline and mischief, real depth that she chooses to float above, until it’s necessary to take that dive.”
On son John: “He broke his nose in a match this year. His mother and I were badly shaken. He rolled his eyes, and explained that the greatest living Irishman Brian O’Driscoll broke his nose 13 times. So that’s a dozen more to go.”
On son Eli, apparently the only one to follow in dad’s footsteps: “Elijah Bob, or Eli as he’s known, is 15 and already a guitar shredder… Our boy Eli won’t be a student for long.”
Aside from his family and a tight-knit circle of friends, Bono is passionate about helping others less fortunate.
Bono shared, “I was watching the giant TV screens of Times Square turn crimson… the ultra vivid advertising morphed from advertising products to advertising hope… and gratitude… Mothers and their kids, nurses and farmers from Accra, Colombo, Phnom Penh holding up signs saying… Thank you New York… Thank you Boise… Thank you Chicago… For those AIDS drugs that mean we are alive… About 8 million people are on anti-retroviral drugs paid for by the USA.”
Perhaps the most unordinary thing about Bono’s unorthodox rock star life, is his unashamed faith in Jesus Christ.
Last year, Bono’s candid and heartfelt confession of faith rocked the world and shocked the nation to the core when he boldly declared his trust in Jesus Christ.
When asked if Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Bono replied,
“Jesus isn’t lettin’ you off the hook. The Scriptures don’t let you off the hook so easily… When people say, you know, “Good teacher,” “Prophet,” “Really nice guy” … this is not how Jesus thought of Himself. So you’re left with a challenge in that, which is either Jesus was who He said He was, or a complete and utter nut case. … You have to make a choice on that.
And I believe that Jesus was, you know, the Son of God. And I understand that … we need to be really, really respectful to people who find that ridiculous and … preposterous.”
Bono recently announced his collaboration with Eugene Peterson (author of contemporary-language Bible translation The Message) revolving around their common interest in the Psalms.
Bono and the entire U2 band have always been very open about their struggles and failings as men, but they’ve also consistently been vocal about their faith in Jesus Christ.
And U2’s music boasts of God’s goodness and mercy as they sing heaven’s anthem.
In the video below, watch as the entire band worships in reckless abandon as they sing the powerful song “Yahweh” and end with their unique song entitled “40,” which is their interpretation of Psalm 40.
Bono has won numerous awards with U2, and together they’ve released 13 studio albums and are one of the world’s best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 170 million records worldwide. They have won 22 Grammy Awards, more than any other band, and, in 2005, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Rolling Stoneranked U2 at number 22 in its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.”
It’s simply amazing to take a look back and see God’s sovereign hand on Bono’s life. Pulled out of obscurity in a small Irish town and placed on display for all the world to see; Bono’s journey boasts of God’s unending grace, mercy, and love.
Praise God for His redeeming love and grace! While listening to Bono’s inspiring story, I just couldn’t help but think of Colossians 1:13-14 which reads,
“God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son He loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.”
Thank you, Bono, for sharing your inspiring message of Grace! I’m so grateful for bands like U2 who are unashamed of the Gospel. The world needs more men of Faith like Bono! Please share if you agree!