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"I've nothing against synths, contrary to popular belief -- it's the machines who play the machines that worry me."

-- Bono

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U2 Lists: Top Nine Tributes to Bono

@U2, July 29, 2010
By: Karen Lindell


[Ed. note: This is the 20th in a "U2 Lists" series, where @U2 staffers pick a topic and share their personal rankings on something U2-related.]

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I'd hate to introduce Bono in public.

Not because I would lapse into a clumsy, gushing ode to his greatness (although that would indeed happen), but because, well, I'd be introducing him, which is the equivalent of a no-name person who doesn't sing opening for U2. My rambling spatter would be drowned out by the eloquent deluge that everyone came to hear.

I've been to many events where Bono made a speech or accepted an award, mainly for his humanitarian work, but I can't remember anything said by the distinguished people -- some well-known, others not -- who made the opening remarks. Most of these introductions are in the form of an adoring veneration ("He is God") or a long list of accomplishments that is not particularly captivating, even if it is Bono's résumé.

After the prefatory remarks, however, Bono steps up to the microphone, starts talking (usually by making a self-deprecating crack) -- and it doesn't really matter what came before. Lots of people (other than fawning fans and reporters) say nice things about Bono, whether they're introducing him at an event, addressing him directly or commenting to a journalist. But a few have said things that I think rose above the usual complimentary chatter.

Here are my top nine tributes to Bono:

1. "Bono's in love with the world. He wants to embrace it. I want to punch its lights out." — Bob Geldof, 2005

Bono, whether he's singing or soliciting aid, somehow makes you feel hugged. And his pleas for humanitarian aid never feel like a bully's bludgeon.


2. "I remember when you [Bono] started your thing up for the Third World debt, a lot of people said, 'Why don't you just leave this job to the professionals and you get on with your own life?' But I suppose you've got to remember that it was the professionals that built the Titanic and the amateurs that built the ark." — Mick Jagger, 2002

Bono indeed floats our boat.


3. [Bono is] "quite hard to photograph because he has so many different faces, but therefore my favorite." — U2 photographer Anton Corbijn, 1989

Larry's got the chiseled cheekbones, but you've got to love Bono's chameleon features (and even his fluctuating hair lengths).


4. "But it wasn't the songs that were the attraction. It was the energy and commitment to performance that were fantastic even then. Bono would run around looking for people to meet his eyes." — Paul McGuinness, on U2's early days, 1987

He still connects, even behind the sunglasses.


5. "Like when you talk to him, he just makes you feel, like, awake." — Gwen Stefani, 2001

He's our personal jolt of, like, caffeine.


6. "[M]ost important, his is a voice shot through with self-doubt." — Bruce Springsteen, inducting U2 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2005

Ego firmly in place, yes. But it's rooted in humility.


7. "I couldn't stop looking at him. He's so affectless. You felt like you're in the living room with your buddy who just happens to be a global rock star and has the world's best interests at heart." — George Clooney, 2005

Bono -- friend to all.


8. "That I would like to be wrapped up in his arms like the little English girl there is no doubt. But if my instincts are correct, there is something which preempts flirtations with him. Something bigger than him or me or us combined, or our music combined. Something to do with politics, kids, freshness and breakthrough. And love." — Joan Baez, after watching Bono dance with the girl at LiveAid, 1985

I really can't add to that.


9. "[Bono's] somebody that I look up to. He's like -- I don't want to say a legend because he's not dead. But he's an incredible everything, you know?" — Wyclef Jean, 1999

We know.

© @U2/Lindell, 2010.

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