Bono discusses his new memoir, 'Surrender,' and the faith at U2's core The veteran rock star speaks with Morning Edition about his new memoir, Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story — and in particular, his deep-rooted spirituality.

Bono discusses his new memoir, 'Surrender,' and the faith at U2's core

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It was 1976. An Irish kid named Paul Hewson was trying to figure a lot of things out. His mom had died a couple years earlier when he was just 14. Bono, as he was known, spent a lot of time at home in Dublin arguing with his dad and his older brother. But two goals kept him focused - to win over the heart of a girl named Alison Stewart and to become a rock star.


U2: (Singing) In the name of love. What more in the name of love?

MARTIN: And in the same week, both things happened. He asked Alison out, and she said yes. And he ended up in Larry Mullen's kitchen for an audition. Two other guys were there - Adam Clayton and David Evans, also known as the Edge. The four of them would go on to become one of the biggest bands of their time - U2. And, by the way, Bono is still married to Alison Stewart 40 years later.

BONO: I wonder if sometimes we do have what we need around us that's there. I certainly felt, and have continually felt, that the people I need are right there.

MARTIN: Bono writes about these foundational relationships in his new memoir called "Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story." I wanted to focus on another constant in his life that's central to the book - his faith. He was never a mass on Sundays kind of Catholic. But from a young age, Bono was fascinated with mysticism and ritual and Jesus.

You write in the book, if I was in a cafe right now and someone said, stand up if you're ready to give your life to Jesus, I'd be the first to my feet.

BONO: Yeah.

MARTIN: Did your band share your focus, your preoccupation with faith?

BONO: They still do. At first, Adam was just like, oh, man. He had just one thing in life - just wants to be in, like, the badass rock 'n' roll band. And, like, oh, my God, he won't write songs about girls. He's writing songs - oh, God. But he stood by me - you know? - and stood by us in our devotion. You know, I mean, can you imagine Ireland in the '70s? It's a civil war - all but a civil war. The country's dividing along sectarian lines. I don't know, I was very suspicious and still am a little suspicious of religious people. I mean, religion is often a club that people use to beat someone else over the head with. And we learned that. I learned at a very early age in Ireland.

MARTIN: You write that a lot of U2's music, though, is grounded in the feeling, the emotion, even the structure of a hymn.

BONO: Yeah. Edge's family were Welsh. And if you've never heard crowds singing at a Welsh-Irish rugby match, the stadium filled with song and they sing these huge hymns. You know, (singing) bread of heaven, bread of heaven, guide me to (inaudible). We'll support you ever more.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Feed me till I want no more.

BONO: And it's in him. It's in Edge - those fifths. And that's the feeling we've been looking for in our music. Yes, we - like, we want punk rock. We want it to be brutal. We want it to be tough-minded. We want it to have big tunes. But the ecstatic music is sort of part of who we are.


U2: (Singing) I have run. I have crawled. I have scaled these city walls.

MARTIN: "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," you say explicitly in that song, there's some kind of root of that.

BONO: Yeah, that's a gospel song. It's a psalm if you wanted to...

MARTIN: What's a sam (ph)?

BONO: Sorry, did I not pronounce that right? Psalm.

MARTIN: It's a psalm.

BONO: Is that how you say it, Rachel? You're so posh.

MARTIN: I don't know. I'm from Idaho. I don't know if that's my particular dialect - the psalm.


U2: (Singing) But I still haven't found what I'm looking for.

MARTIN: Your dad said, near the end of his life, that the most interesting thing about you was your spirituality, was your religion.

BONO: My faith, yeah.

MARTIN: Your faith.

BONO: He was brilliant. He had faith, and he lost it, you know, just - and people do - just when you need it. You know, he was dying. And I write in the book about going in to see him. And I was reading him bits of scripture, and he was kind of giving me the hairy eyeball. It was a little bit - ugh, knock it off, will you? You know, and I was so sad for him that he didn't have that because he had always said to me things like, you know, this stuff, this God stuff, I don't experience that, but you shouldn't give that up because it's the most interesting thing about you. He said it was - again, a classic Bob Hewson.

MARTIN: I mean, was that sort of a slight to you?

BONO: Yeah, but he was...

MARTIN: I mean, you're this musician.

BONO: And now you're picking it up. His compliments would arrive either with a tickle or a boxing glove, you know? And I remember when we were recording U2's first album. He's like, you know, what are you doing? And I said, I've just been recording the album. And he's like, you've been doing that for weeks. And I said, yeah, it's three weeks. This is the last week. And he says, how long is an album? And I'd say, it was about 40-odd minutes. Oh, God, will you get it right? Get it right.


U2: (Singing) A boy tries hard to be a man. His mother takes him by his hand. If he stops to think, he starts to cry. Oh, why? If you walk away, walk away, I walk away, walk away. I will follow.

MARTIN: After 40 years of selling out arenas as a musician, trying to eradicate hunger and AIDS as an activist, Bono is ready to admit he hasn't gotten it all right. And the Dublin kid who's always been the big voice at the center is ready to hear what others have to say.

BONO: Just shut up and listen is kind of where I'm at at the moment. I just need to be more silent and to surrender to my band. It's been at the core of what I'm trying to do with my life. Surrender to my wife - and when I say surrender totally, I do not mean making peace with the world. I'm not ready to make peace with the world. I'm trying to make peace with myself. I'm trying to make peace with my maker. But I'm not trying to make peace with the world. The world is a very unfair - deeply unfair place. And I'm ready to rumble. I'm keeping my fists up for that one.

MARTIN: The book is called "Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story." Bono, thanks for talking with me.

BONO: Thank you.


U2: (Vocalizing).

MARTIN: To hear much more of my conversation with Bono about his family, his voice, his ego, listen to this week's Up First Sunday. You can find it wherever you get your podcasts.

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