Surrender by Bono – Book

From a Google image Search –

Bill Gates recommends books in his Gates Notes which you can subscribe to. He posts them on Linkedin. One of the books he read last year was Surrender by Bono of U2 fame. I have been reading the writings of well-known rockers on occasion. I read Flea’s book (Red Hot Chili Peppers) Acid for the Children, hoping all the while that the title was symbolic. It was and it wasn’t. I also read The Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith. Patti Smith’s book covers a melancholy time when friends were dying and is both nostalgic and surreal. She’s such a good writer. So that’s why I decided to follow Gates’ lead and dip into Surrender

Bono was born in Dublin and grew up at 10 Cedarwood Road with his “da” Bob Hewson, his mom Iris Hewson, née Rankin who died when he was fourteen of a brain aneurysm and his brother Norman. He was born during the “Troubles,” but his parents were not involved in the war. Bono’s dad was Catholic, and his mom was Protestant and that seemed to temper their animosities. There exists a level of spirituality throughout Bono’s life. He meets his bandmates when he is a teen. They remain an active band throughout their lives with ups and downs as individual lives are lived out over decades. Read the book. 

Each chapter begins with the lyrics to a song and a bad drawing although the drawings improve as the book progresses. Bono takes us with him to 10 Cedarwood Road so we can know his roots and then he takes us around the world. The book is long and detailed and well-written so take your time with it. It’s a remarkable story of a man who played no instrument and had to develop as a singer but who had the luck to have great band members, Larry, Adam, and Edge, stable, honest management, and a knack for meeting the right person at the right time.

Bono moved from punk rock to activism as he became richer and more famous. He married Ali and they had a family. Although he was often gone, he was lucky in his marriage too. Ali was a solid partner, and she also had her own life to live. He had enough security in his life to allow him to tune into world events. These were the days of the AIDS epidemic. At the time there were drugs, but they were very expensive. The disease took a terrible toll, offering up a tortuous death from various pneumonias and cancers, causing disfigurement and starvation. So many talented people were lost to this disease, which arrived seemingly from nowhere. Rock musicians raised money for AIDS research and treatment at massive concerts like LIVE AID and Bono and U2 were there through all of this, although the band was not all about activism.

How does a rock star who throws himself into crowds with abandon, stay a rock star but also become an activist? How does the band stay together and the marriage? Bono makes it clear that he was lucky to have great people around him in his band and in his private life. Rock bands travel all over the world. They see things that we only hear about in the news. Ali and Bono went to Africa and saw what was needed. It didn’t just take one rock concert, regardless of how many artists performed, to raise enough money to take AIDS treatments to Africa. Bono made contacts in the American government. He made deals. America was reluctant to budget the kinds of funding needed to wipe out AIDS in Africa. Bono won. 

It’s a great story of how a boy from Dublin ended up meeting political power brokers in Washington DC and in the Oval Office. You also get the bonus of lyrics for 40 U2 songs. Rock stars lead interesting lives. Read the book.  

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