You would expect an autobiography by U2 frontman Bono to be self-assured and provocative. Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story is all those things, but it is also candid and introspective. Bono has called it more of a ‘we-moir’ than a ‘me-moir’, considering all the people who have helped him to get where he is today.
Surrender is divided into forty chapters, each named after a song. His life story is not told chronologically but thematically, covering a variety of subjects close to his heart. In fact, the first chapter is literally about his heart; in it he describes a life-saving operation he had in 2016. The opening line is, “I was born with an eccentric heart.” It ends with his heartbeat, too, as he imagines his own birth.
Forty chapters are hardly enough to chronicle an extraordinary life of mega-stardom and activism. Born Paul David Hewson in 1960 in Dublin, Bono grew up during the Troubles in Ireland. The son of a Catholic father and a Protestant mother, his parents raised him in an environment of religious tolerance. In the chapter ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’, he describes what he calls the “religious apartheid” that existed in Ireland at that time. It is the only part of the book where he shows real anger. His beloved mother Iris died when he was fourteen, a tragic event that triggered rage issues that would plague his life.
He met his future wife Alison Stewart at Mount Temple Comprehensive School, one of Ireland’s first non-denominational secondary schools. The two are still married and have four children. He also met Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr. and Richard ‘The Edge’ Evans there, with whom he would form the band U2 in 1976.
A BAND IS BORN
In chapter six, ‘Song for Someone’, he remembers the start of the band. “Adam was the spirit of rock and roll, a sort of posh Sid Vicious. If Larry gave life to the band, it was Adam who believed this band could give us a life.” His friend Guggi, now also an artist and musician, gave him the nickname Bono Vox, after a hearing-aid shop called Bonavox.
U2 went on to become one of the biggest rock bands in history, selling 170 million records and winning twenty-two Grammys. Surrender describes the inspiration behind their most popular songs, explains the contributions of each of the band members and shares amusing anecdotes, like having a bad hair day at Live Aid in 1985.
At sixty-two, Bono’s story is far from over. For now, however, fans can read or listen to his amazing life story. Beautifully written, Bono insists that no ghostwriter was involved. The book is illustrated by original drawings and photographs, while the audiobook is narrated by the artist himself. His dulcet Irish tones lend an extra dimension to the prose — as you would expect from someone nicknamed Bono Vox.