"It's a record about looking for some kind of transcendence as well as trash."
-- Bono, on Pop
Rambling Bono Claims the Grammys as His Own
The Independent (London),
March 01, 2002
Was this the world's biggest rock star accepting his due at the biggest industry night of the year? Or the final emergence of Bono, multi-purpose saint and martyr? One could have been forgiven the confusion, watching the U2 frontman striding up to the podium at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles on Wednesday night to accept each of his band's four Grammys for their album All That You Can't Leave Behind.
Bono rambled, invoked God and his mother, overran his allotted time -- even talking over the orchestra at one point -- and generally acted as though the night was all his. (It was not -- both Alicia Keys and the bluegrass musicians behind the soundtrack album O Brother, Where Art Thou? came away with more awards.)
"It is a gift, much more than it is a craft in our case," the 41-year-old musician-turned-activist said. "We depend on God walking through the room more than most. And God has walked through the room for us." There's nothing unusual, of course, about rock stars being full of themselves at awards ceremonies. There is particularly nothing unusual about Bono behaving this way. His four Grammys capped a week in which he was hailed by Time magazine as a man with a mission to change the world, and Paul O'Neill, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, agreed to accompany him on a trip to Africa to examine possible debt relief.
As the otherwise wildly flattering Time profile of him said, right at the top: "Bono is an egomaniac. He knows this and frequently apologises for it." U2's album wafted over the Grammys ceremony with an almost spiritual presence. Unusually, this was the second year that it featured at the awards. (Last year, the first cut from the album, "Beautiful Day," was honoured because it had been released just ahead of the October cut-off date.) And, even more unusually, it has been regarded by the industry as a sort of balm for the wounded psyche of America in the wake of 11 September. The album, and in particular the song "Walk On," have taken on unintended symbolic meaning thanks to such lyrics as: "I know it aches/And your heart it breaks/And you can only take so much/Walk on." For all his rambling, Bono clearly knew his audience, and took care to identify himself with the U.S. rather than characterise himself as a critic of its global policies.
"I have to tell you, as outsiders, as guests of the nation, we've always loved coming here, but this year I've rediscovered my love for America -- the great idea as opposed to just the great country," he said. "It is a great idea, worth defending." This was clearly Bono the politician - participant at the World Economic Forum, unofficial consultant to the Pope, and hobnobber with the great and good in major Western governments. As he said when he interrupted his guitarist, the Edge, while accepting their fourth award: "He's a guitar player. I do the talking."
For all his new-found political passion, Bono was far from the most remarkable event at this year's Grammys. U2 have been accepted members of the business for 20 years, in stark contrast to the country artists featured on the O Brother Where Art Thou? album, who ran away with more than a dozen awards between them in spite of almost no exposure on mainstream country radio.
Their success -- including an unexpected album of the year award for O Brother -- was nothing short of a revolution that promises to turn the Nashville end of the music business upside down.
See the full list of winners at www.independent.co.uk
THE THOUGHTS OF BONO
Extracts from Bono's addresses to the 44th Annual Grammy Awards:
It's an extraordinary thing. It's a gift much more than a craft in our case. This is a punk road band, hearing mad tunes in their heads that are gospel and folk and psychedelic and hard rock. And we depend on what Quincy Jones said, we depend on God walking through the room on our record and want to give thanks. Amen.
It's still an extraordinary thing to behold, the sound of a rock band in full flight. The promise that your friendship will survive commerce, being broke, not being broke, some really lousy haircuts, the '80s, and that maybe 20 years later you may find yourself at an awards ceremony with the same people you started out with and just think 'Wow!.' Thank you so much.
...and on the Idea of America
Just as guests of the nation, we've always loved coming here. But this year I've rediscovered my love of America, the great idea, as opposed to the great country. I actually believe in the idea of America, and I'm really encouraged that idea might catch on. That would be a real fitting memorial to the people who lost their lives on September 11.
© The Independent, 2002. All rights reserved.