The rocker, who fronts one of the most successful bands of all time, grew up in Dublin in the 1960s and 1970s, back when he was Paul Hewson rather than the one-word moniker he’s best-known for today.
Bono formed U2 while he was still at school, along with his classmates the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr, with the group enjoying massive success in the almost 50 years since.
Known for his philanthropy and charity work almost as much as for his music, Bono has led a rollercoaster of a life – which is now all set to be laid out in public.
The vocalist is due to release his memoir, Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story in November, which details his life from his childhood in the Irish capital to his Band Aid activism, music career and everything in between.
In anticipation of the memoir’s release, US outlet The New Yorker published an excerpt in which Bono reflects on the death of his mother, who tragically suffered a stroke on the day of his grandfather’s funeral.
In devastating simplicity, Bono writes that he has ‘very few memories’ of his mother, and ‘the simple explanation is that, in our house, after she died she was never spoken of again.’
He adds: ‘I fear it was worse than that. That we rarely thought of her again.’
The singer explains that he, his older brother Norman and his father Bob ‘avoided the pain’ that would come by acknowledging her loss.
Recalling what little memories of his mother that he has, Bono says Iris had a habit of laughing at the most inappropriate moments – such as when his father almost ‘castrated’ himself with a drill – that she only heard him sing in public once, and that her side of the family, the Rankins, were susceptible to brain aneurysms.
The Rankin and Hewson families suffered tragedy one after the other in the autumn of 1974, with Bono recalling that his grandfather died of a massive heart attack on the night of his 50th wedding anniversary, hours after dancing the night away with his wife and children.
‘Three days later, at the funeral, I spot my father carrying my mother in his arms through a crowd, like a white snooker ball scattering a triangle of color,’ Bono writes.
‘He’s rushing to get her to the hospital. She has collapsed at the side of the grave as her own father is being lowered into the ground.’
The family assured the young Bono that his mother had simply fainted, and the teenager stayed at the funeral to say his final farewell to his grandfather as his own father and older brother rushed Iris to the hospital.
Bono recalls that he and the other children ran around playing as normal, despite the sadness of the funeral and the worry about Iris, until her younger sister arrived at the house and declared she was dying from a stroke.
‘I’m fourteen and strangely calm,’ he remembers. ‘I tell my mother’s sisters and brothers that everything is going to be O.K.’
The brothers are brought to say goodbye to their mother three days later, with the musician recalling that she ‘looks peaceful… it’s hard to figure that a large part of her has already left.’
Bono reflects on how the house changed after the death of his mother, describing it as ‘three men used to shouting at the television now shouting at one another. We live in rage and melancholy, in mystery and melodrama.’
He and Norman – seven years his elder – fought ‘a lot’ but also supported each other, with the older brother teaching the future rock star how to play guitar, even as the family grappled with how to pay bills and cook meals without their mother around.
Almost exactly two years later, a 16-year-old Bono would, along with his classmates, form the band which would go to become one of the most successful in the world.
The frontman revealed earlier this summer that he recently learned he had a half-brother, who was kept secret from him growing up.
‘I do have another brother whom I love and adore that I didn’t know I had, or maybe I did,’ Bono explained in an interview with Desert island Discs.
‘My father was obviously going through a lot but partly his head was elsewhere because his heart was elsewhere. So I think that was part of the problem I was picking up as a kid.’
‘It’s a very close family and I could tell that my father had a deep friendship with this gorgeous woman who is part of the family and then they had a child and this was all kept a secret.’
Surrender is out on 1 November.
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