Bono On His Dad's Final Days

I’d go and usually have a pint of Guinness and a chaser to steady my nerves. Then I'd go to the hospital and I'd sleep beside my father.

Anthony Bozza

Interview by

October 2001. By phone
Minidisc recorder

Article appeared in Rolling Stone


Animator: Truscribe


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David Gerlach: This interview is with Bono of U2. It’s Bono talking about what it was like to be by his father’s side in the months and final weeks before he died. Pretty remarkable interview. It comes to us from Anthony Bozza.

Anthony is an author and writer, and back in 2001 he was working at Rolling Stone. And the magazine, they were doing one of those “look backs at the year that was.” So Anthony jumped on the phone, he plugged in his recorder and he called Bono. They talked about a number of things including what it was like to perform right after 9-11. Anthony also posed a question: he asked Bono what was his most memorable personal encounter of the year. And that’s when Bono opened up about this dad.

Bono: What was the question again?

Anthony Bozza: Most memorable personal encounter.

Bono: Ok, well then with my father, as I slept beside him in his last weeks and hours. And his last words which were: Are you all fucking mad? (laughs)

Anthony Bozza: Are you serious? Oh, good lord.

[Music: Scratch Massive "In the Dressing Room"]

Bono: And I’d go and usually have a pint of Guinness and a chaser to steady my nerves. Then I’d go into the hospital and I’d sleep beside him. You know, because I didn’t want him to be alone at night. He had many memorable things to say. He was very funny in the last few days. Like, uh, “Dad, ya got any visitors today?” He goes, “Yeah. It’s great… They’re really great. Great when they leave.” (laughs) You know, he’s a tough guy, really, just a tough guy. And I had a bit of an epiphany about it all, because my prayer for him was that he would keep his dignity. He had a lot of front. But he didn’t get to keep his dignity. Cancer is very cruel in the way that it kills you so slowly. But I… you know, I sat there. I held his hand. I did things that he would never let me do. He was trapped [chuckles]. But I had kind of an a epiphany where I thought: maybe dignity is not such a big deal after all. I had it up there with righteousness. I had it up there with something you’d aspire to. But actually the two most important events of your life — being born and dying — are very messy. Very messy. Giving birth is very messy for mother and child.

Anthony Bozza: They defy being cool.

Bono: Right. And that’s it. I suppose that was the insight. That dignity is maybe a human construct. It’s a bit like cool. It might be vain. I began to understand Indian sadhus and the begging bowls of the Hindu priests that get dignity out of the way. And that maybe humility is the eye of the needle that we all have to pass through.

[Music: U2 - “Kite”]

David Gerlach: That’s Bono on the the last days and hours he spent with his dad before he died of cancer. And this is Blank on Blank.  Thanks again to Anthony Bozza for adding his interview to the archive. You can check out more of his work at AnthonyBozza.net. This Blank on Blank was produced by me and Shawn Wen. Our sound logo comes to us thanks to Jeffrey Alan Jones. Now for more of our interviews that you can hear nowhere else. Including more from Bono from that telephone call back in 2001. Bono talking about what it meant to him to be on stage performing for a wounded nation just weeks after 9-11. You can hear all that and more at BlankonBlank.org. I’m David Gerlach. Keep listening.

Music: U2 “Kite” | Scratch Massive “In the Dressing Room” & “For a Departure”
PhotoDanny Hammontree via Flickr