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"One of the most valuable things about [Bono's] lyrics is that you can adapt them to any particular situation." — Larry

Bono pays tribute to Australian preacher John Smith

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Bono John Smith 1200px

Australian preacher John Smith probably isn't a recognizable name to a lot of U2 fans, but he was very recognizable to Bono and U2 -- so much so that Bono wrote a tribute to Smith that was read out loud at the preacher's memorial service a couple weeks ago in a seaside village near Geelong, Australia.

Bono/U2 first met Smith in 1984 during The Unforgettable Fire tour in Australia. In the '60s, Smith founded God's Squad Christian Motorcycle Club, a group described as a "counter-cultural mission to the marginalised and despised" -- sounds right up Bono's alley, doesn't it?

The Australian Christian site Eternity News has published the full text of Bono's tribute. Here's some of it:

When Bob Dylan sang, "always on the other side of whatever side there was" he might have been singing about John: an outsider in an outsider community, an outlaw of a different kind preparing the way for the coming of different kind of world … speaking truth to power. It didn't matter who you were; didn't matter if he was your guest.

In our last meeting he spoke truth to me, gave me a hell of a hard time, thought I had gone soft and become too comfortable around the powerful. Thought I was living too well.

He was probably right. I still think about it.

You can read the full tribute at Eternity News. 

Bono/U2 and Smith visited many times over the years -- the 1987 Greenbelt Festival in the UK, when Smith launched his autobiography, On The Side Of The Angels. It has a quote from Bono on the cover: "Truly a preacher to the convertible. John Smith's message is for those who want to do more than just listen." (The same quote appears in the Testimonials section on Smith's website.)

They also spent time together during the Lovetown tour in 1989, at a church event in Dublin in 1994 and probably several other times that I missed in my research for U2-A Diary. Just a few years ago, Bono and Edge voiced their support for the making of a film about Smith's life.

Smith's impact on Bono has probably been dramatically understated over the years. In one of his final writings, Smith said he was "determined to keep on doing my best to be useful." That concept may sound familiar. Bono has said the same thing about his own Christianity over the years, like this Rolling Stone interview where he said, "I want to be
useful. That is our family prayer, as you know."

(c) @U2/McGee, 2019.