Bono reveals his guilt over the way he treated his late father and says he finally felt ‘free’ after praying in a candle-lit chapel and asking for forgiveness
Rock singer Bono has revealed how he knelt in prayer in a candlelit French chapel seeking forgiveness from his late father for the way he treated him after his mother’s death.
In a candid interview on today’s Desert Island Discs, the U2 frontman says he finally felt ‘free’ after the gesture which allowed him to dispel the guilt that had plagued him for years.
‘I apologised to my father in a little chapel in France after he passed away,’ he says. ‘I went up to this little chapel, there was nobody there and lit a candle.
‘I got on my knees, and I just said “Look I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you. You went through a lot, please forgive me”, and I felt free.’
Rock singer Bono (pictured) has revealed how he knelt in prayer in a candlelit French chapel seeking forgiveness from his late father for the way he treated him after his mother’s death
The 62-year-old believes he could have been more supportive to his father, Bob, after the death of his mother, Iris, from a brain aneurysm suffered at her own father’s funeral in 1974, when the singer was 14. On adapting to an all-male household with his father and brother, Norman, Bono – real name Paul Hewson – says: ‘I had a complicated relationship with Bob. You know I am sure I was hard to deal with. The annoying gene would have been very present.
‘He didn’t know quite what was going on and I subsequently understood he was coping with other stuff in his life. I feel like I wasn’t there for him really in a way I should be. He was very droll, very funny but it got rough.’
The relationship was further complicated when, in 2000, the singer discovered he had a half-brother – and his mother was unaware of her husband’s infidelity.
Recalling a stand-off, Bono says: ‘I asked him did he love my mother and he said “Yes” and I said, “How could this happen?” He said “It can”, and that he was trying to put it right, trying to do the right thing. He wasn’t apologising, just stating these are the facts.’
Bono with father, Bob Hewson at the Clarence hotel for a surprise 75th birthday party in 2000
Despite the tensions, Bono speaks warmly of his father, who defied his Catholic family to marry Iris, a Protestant. He says U2, formed in 1976, became ‘another family’.
Bono, an outspoken anti-poverty campaigner, addresses charges of hypocrisy against the band because of their legal, but controversial, overseas tax arrangements.
‘I think at the root of this [criticism] is a false idea that if you’re tough-minded in your activism you somehow have to be soft headed in your business,’ he says. Asked how he squares the tax set-up with his own moral compass, he adds: ‘It is actually the fiduciary duty of a public company to control costs. This is a bit of a gotcha situation for U2.
‘There’s a lot of reasons not to like our band. This is not one of them. We pay a lot of tax, and we are very proud to pay tax.’
lDesert Island Discs is on BBC Radio 4 today at 11.15am, repeated on Friday at 9am.