As the lead singer of U2, one of the most popular and influential rock bands of the last 30 years, Bono is a figure adored and admired both within and outside of the music industry. As a rock star, his music with U2 has earned him legions of devoted fans across the world, whilst as a humanitarian and crusader for the world's poor, co-founder of organisations such as DATA and the ONE Campaign, he has gained deep respect from politicians and global statesmen as well as music fans. His rare ability to effectively straddle the spheres of both entertainment and politics remains rivaled by few in the realm of popular culture, and his determination to change the world for the better continues to inspire millions on both sides of the political divide.
It's perhaps unsurprising that Bono's unusual adult existence was preceded by a less-than-ordinary upbringing. Born in the north Dublin suburb of Ballymun, Paul Hewson was the second child of Catholic father Brendan Robert Hewson (always called Bobby), and Protestant mother Iris Elizabeth Rankin – a highly unusual arrangement in then deeply sectarian Ireland. As a child Paul Hewson was a precocious, outspoken and thoughtful boy whose early experiences did much to shape his later life as one of the most important figures in Irish history.
As a child, his education started at The Inkwell, a small Protestant Church of Ireland junior school, before eventually continuing on to St. Patrick's Cathedral Choir School. But his time there was unsuccessful; as Bono put it, "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 Spanish teacher, which subsequently led to his enrollment in 1972 at Mount Temple Comprehensive School, a controversial establishment that was Ireland's first co-educational, non-denominational high school. Paul settled in very quickly and soon became well-adjusted and happy in his new environment.
But at the age of 14, he suffered a tragic and devastating loss when his mother died of a brain hemorrhage whilst attending the funeral of her own father.
From this point onwards, Paul's home life became considerably traumatic. Despite his father's attempts to hold the family together, Bono claims that he and Bob Hewson "didn't get on very well." As a result, father and son never enjoyed a particularly close relationship. In fact, Bono would later claim that the inarticulate Bob Hewson's unspoken message to his children was "to dream is to be disappointed." The singer has often cited this as a key reason for his forming such big ambitions and becoming even more determined to follow his dreams.
It was not long after his mother's death that Paul also got his new name. Originally 'Steinhegvanhuysenolegbangbangbang,' it evolved to 'Bonavox of O'Connell Street' after a hearing aid store in the centre of Dublin, before eventually being shortened to 'Bonavox,' 'Bono Vox' – cockeyed Latin for 'good voice' – and finally 'Bono.' Credit for this goes to his mate Guggi (real name Derek Rowan), a childhood friend, who along with Bono was a member of the group Lypton Village. This was a gang of disaffected-but-creative youths that included Gavin Friday (real name Fionan Hanvey), the man who would eventually go on to form the avant-garde rock band the Virgin Prunes. Bono has often cited Lypton Village as a key source of inspiration and support both before and during his time with U2.
At Mount Temple, Bono describes himself as being "a bit wide-awake, a bit bright, a bit experimental." Although he was far from exceptional as a student, he had a flair for history and art, and became a keen and expert chess player. However, he was perhaps the most adept at navigating the field of romance, entertaining many girlfriends. In 1976, he started dating Alison Stewart (b. March 23, 1961), commonly known as Ali, with the two eventually marrying on August 21, 1982. They went on to have four children: Jordan (b. May 10, 1989), Memphis Eve (b. July 7, 1991), Elijah Bob Patricius Guggi Q (b. August 17, 1999), and John Abraham (b. May 20, 2001). To this day, the family continues to make their home in Dublin.
Despite his initial ambition to be an actor, it was arguably Bono's tendency to be, in his own words, "promiscuous with my ambitions, flirting with all kinds of things" which led him to respond to a notice posted on the Mount Temple bulletin board appealing for musicians. Those interested were told to assemble at 60 Rosemount Avenue, Artane, the house of 14-year-old drummer Larry Mullen Jnr.
As well as Bono, the other boys who made it to that first session were 15-year-old guitarist David Evans (later nicknamed The Edge), 16-year-old Adam Clayton, who couldn't actually play bass guitar but certainly knew how to talk as though he did, Larry's friend Peter Martin, Ivan McCormick, and David Evans' brother Dick. Ivan and Peter were, to quote Adam, "weeded out" early on, whilst Dick eventually left the band to study engineering at Trinity College Dublin. The four remaining boys were initially named Feedback (supposedly after the ear-splitting wailing that always seemed to emanate from the guitar amps), before becoming the Hype, and then eventually U2.
Shortly after the band's formation, Bono, Edge and Larry became involved in the Dublin-based Christian group Shalom. From an early age, the controversy caused by the marriage between his Protestant mother and Catholic father had made Bono extremely suspicious of organised religion, with him later describing it as having "cut my people in two." Therefore, the non-denominational nature of the Shalom group provided Bono and the two other believing members of U2 with solace, harmony and strength.
However, Bono, Edge and Larry's involvement with Shalom later caused friction within U2, as the non-believing Adam felt that the latter three's more devout friends were trying to make them prioritise their faith over the band. The three believers did eventually leave Shalom, as they felt that the group was trying to force upon them the false assertion that a commitment to rock n' roll and a commitment to God were mutually excludable principles. Since then, Bono's Christian faith has played a big role in his life, but in a way that has largely been free from the influence of the mainstream church.