"[I]n the early '80s . . . there was this rather ridiculous idea . . . that if it was big, it was bad. Which of course rules out Elvis."
Secrets of Sarajevo: 20 Years Later
April 26, 2013
Many U2 fans remember Bill Carter as the ponytail-wearing journalist who convinced the band to bring the Bosnian War on tour with them in 1993. Few have heard the story of how it all went down.
Today, Carter thrilled attendees of the U2 Conference by sharing his first-person account of the events that led up to the link-ups.
20 years ago, Carter had lost his fiancé and joined an unofficial humanitarian group that hand-delivered food to citizens in Sarajevo. He knew that the rest of the world had no idea how bad the situation in that region was, and wanted to find a way to change that.
He described himself at the time as a casual U2 fan — someone who had enjoyed the band's music and seen a few of their shows growing up, but that was all. He had a good impression of the band members; thought they seemed like decent guys who may be able to help him get the word out about the war. So when he heard they'd be bringing their tour to Italy, he wrote a fake letter on real letterhead from a TV station he was working for and requested an interview, which was miraculously granted (because he pretended to be someone else).
Once he got there, admittedly unprepared, he told Bono of all the things happening in the city under siege, and it brought Bono to tears. The band were only in Italy for a short amount of time, so he was tasked with dreaming up some way for them to help before they left.
After all were in agreement for the satellite link-ups, Bill had a greater problem: Finding folks who would be willing to risk their lives (more than they already were by simply living there) to get to the studio to speak to concert audiences. It took him a few days each time to convince the citizens that their participation would make a difference.
And once he did convince them, getting them from point A to point B was no easy feat — he had to drive in the dark with the lights off at approx. 120 miles per hour down "Snipers' Alley" to make it through. Each trip was just as harrowing as the last, with terrified passengers literally dodging bullets.
Of course he succeeded; the link-ups worked, and the rest is history.
Carter went on to make a documentary about the war, which he was having trouble naming until Bono suggested Miss Sarajevo. Carter thought the name was too "pop" and rejected it until Bono told him that if he used it, he'd write him a song for it.
Again, the rest is history.
Today Carter is an honorary citizen of (a now-thriving) Sarajevo and the star of his documentary, little Alma, was able to attend an American college with the help of a letter of recommendation from Bono.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will archive the stream of Bill Carter's presentation in the coming weeks. Stay tuned to @U2 for the link.
(c) @U2, 2013.