The Media Misses Bono's Point...Again. The coverage of “LITTLE BOOK OF A BIG YEAR: Bono’s A to
2015 came upon me like a bull in a china shop (or should it be a sheep), and on January 2, I woke up to a 6000 word essay by Bono entitled LITTLE BOOK OF A BIG YEAR: Bono’s A to Z of 2014. I must first disclose, I have been a card carrying member of the fan site U2.com since 2008 and have enjoyed the content, freebies and pre-sale codes throughout the years. As a member, it was not necessarily unexpected that Bono would post an essay and reflection about the past 365 days. It was a big year for Bono and the band, and even if he wasn’t involved in a massive bicycle accident that will effect him for the rest of his life, it makes sense that he would be pensive and reflective of 2014.
As a lyricist, I think Bono is one of the greatest of all time. Disagree if you want, but the U2 catalog is poetic and meaningful. I can find eloquence in everything from “Get On Your Boots” to “Where the Streets Have No Name,” but in more general terms, Bono is great writer. Maybe it is because he is from the island known for some of the most prolific authors of all time, but through his writing, he has the ability to reach people and inspire change. Sometimes, I read Bono’s speech from the 2006 Prayer Breakfast just to remind myself how to combine tone and mood. If unfamiliar with Bono’s published articles, read the Time article about Nelson Mandela or his Ted speech on poverty. He is always self deprecating and funny; thoughtful and intelligent. He displays urgency and honesty while treating others with respect.
Simply put, he is an Irishman.
After reading “Bono’s A to Z of 2014,” I was touched by his reverence and love for his wife, his children and his friends. He rarely, practically never speaks of his children’s accomplishments and to read his description was to read the prideful love of a father for his beloved family. He wrote of the support of his bandmates and his longtime childhood friends and the love he feels from fans. There was a variety of other topics in there too, ranging from respect for Kanye West, Jimmy Fallon and Bruce Springsteen to thoughts on poverty, ebola and capitalism.
Yet it was a fifteen word phrase that every news agency from Rolling Stone to NBC chose to focus on:
“As I write this, it is not clear that I will ever play guitar again.”
A few things become abundantly clear after reading the summaries of Bono’s article.
First, the journalistic world has decided to turn an eloquent commentary of 2014 into a ten car pile up on the freeway where everyone slows down just so they can see the carnage.
It doesn't take a journalism major to understand salacious headlines get views, clicks or whatever, and a header that reads “Bono expresses adoration for his wife, family and friends” is not twitter feed worthy, but it feels almost criminal that the underlying mood of thankfulness and trepidation for the future was totally missed by the news media.
There is something wrong when it is the musician that is the best writer to publish on the topic today.
Second, people just don’t get Irish humor. It reminds me of the time, earlier this year, when the same media outlets claimed Bono apologized for Songs of Innocence showing up in iTunes accounts when he said, “Oops, sorry about that.” It was one of the worst apologies of all time, if it was actually an apology at all…which it wasn’t. It was an Irishman’s middle finger to the world while showing that he at least understood that people were upset. It was like the classic non-apology that starts with, “I am sorry you feel that way.”
So read the entire essay for yourself. Bono warns that the read is long, but I assure you it is worth the time.
And as far as Bono’s guitar playing skills are concerned, the band has always been trepidatious. They have even been known to turn his guitar down while playing live. In the article, after the now famous fifteen words, Bono reflects on the fact that the band’s success has never really rested upon his guitar skills, “The band have reminded me that neither they nor Western civilization are depending on this.”
But they would miss his writing. And so would I.