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Bono: The Rolling Stone Interview

November 3, 2005 12:00 AM ET

Below is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared in RS 986 from November 3, 2005. This issue and the rest of the Rolling Stone archives are available via Rolling Stone Plus, Rolling Stone's premium subscription plan. If you are already a subscriber, you can click here to see the full story. Not a member? Click here to learn more about Rolling Stone Plus.

On the first weekend of October, I visited Bono in Cancún, Mexico, where U2 were on a weeklong break before the second North American leg of the band's Vertigo Tour. Bono and U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. were both there with their families — in fact, it was Elvis Mullen's tenth birthday that weekend, and a barbecue was planned at the house Bono had rented on the beach, where he, his wife of twenty-three years, Ali, and their four children were staying.

With a storm gathering outside, Bono and I retreated to the bedroom, where we sat down to begin our conversation. We started at noon and talked into the evening, then started again the next morning. In all, we talked for more than ten hours. Anyone who has been to a U2 concert knows Bono's dramatic ability to tell a story and his sheer love of words. One on one, he is just as impressive, full of wit and charm. And he does love to talk. Two weeks later, the day before U2's fifth sold-out show at Madison Square Garden, in New York, Bono stopped up at the Rolling Stone office to spend an hour or two clarifying a few more points. "You're going to need an anti-Bono-nic when this all over," he joked.

The story of Bono and his band is a story of commitment to one another — after twenty-nine years, they remain a remarkably stable unit — and to the greater causes of social justice on which Bono has staked his reputation. Bono gives us a vision of how tomorrow can be better than today. He appeals to something greater than ourselves. He tells the story of his life and struggles in terms everyone can understand. He speaks about faith in a way that even a non believer can embrace. "The New York Times Magazine" called him "a one-man state who fills his treasury with the global currency of fame...the most politically effective figure in the recent history of popular culture."

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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