He’s been in one of the biggest bands in the world for well over three decades, but Adam Clayton is rarely the center of attention. That changed Monday night at the Playstation Theater in New York’s Times Square when the U2 bassist received the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award at the annual MusiCares MAP Fund Benefit Concert. The organization, which was established by the Recording Academy in 1989, has distributed more than $4.4 million to musicians in need, focusing much of their work on addiction issues.
The intimate show featured Macy Gray delivering a funky rendition of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” Michael Franti reviving “Television, the Drug of the Nation,” which played before every show on U2’s Zoo TV tour in 1992/93, Jack Garratt leading the house band in a bombastic rendition of “The Sweetest Thing” and The Lumineers covering “One,” a song they used to play at New York bars.
At the end of the night, U2 took the stage and tore through “Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of,” “Vertigo” and “I Will Follow.” But the most moving moment came near the end of the show when Clayton accepted the award from Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and spoke movingly about his own battle with addiction, a topic he has rarely addressed in public. Here are his complete remarks.
Thank you, Chris. He celebrated his 80th birthday last week. Coolest man. Still in the music business. I’ve known this man a long time and apart from U2 and Paul McGuinness he’s my longest relationship in the music business and he turned me onto Chronixx who played here tonight, so thank you Chris.
This is really great. Thank you. I’m not used to achieving anything on my own. This is very unusual. An award for not doing something. This is a big place for a solo act. Nowhere to hide. I’m Adam and it has taken me a long time to be able to own that. I always thought I had someone else’s name. It wasn’t mine. I didn’t know any Adam apart from the first one and I was too self-conscious to explain that to anyone. Where I grew up, there were Johns, Davids, Pauls, Seans, Kevins and Rorys. I always felt different and unable to fit in.
“I was filled with fear and unable to objectively examine what was going on or see how these negative traits were holding me back.”
I’m an alcoholic, addict. But in some ways, that devastating disease is what drove me towards the wonderful life I now have. It’s just I couldn’t take my friend alcohol. At some point I had to leave it behind and claim my full potential. My disease is one that requires me to self-diagnosis. I spent many years feeling different, trying to fit in, being restless, irritable and generally discontent. I sought out many philosophies, activities, disciplines. I tried a lot of different things to calm my inner self. I compared my actions to others. I judged the behavior of others to see where I fitted in. I tread the well-worn path of every abnormal drinker to try and drink like normal people.
I was filled with fear and unable to objectively examine what was going on or see how these negative traits were holding me back. I didn’t think you could be in a band and not drink. It is so much a part of our culture. Because we work at night, we go out at night. We live at night, we do business at night. I thought my life would be over, but two heroes of mine were there for me and it meant a great deal to me that they tried to convince me otherwise.
After two particularly destructive benders, Eric Clapton was there on the end of the phone. He didn’t sugarcoat it. He told me that I had to change my life and that I wouldn’t regret it. He gave me the number of a treatment center and the power to give a call to them. Once I was going through that five week program Pete Townshend visited me and again put steel on my back.
These two talents were enough to get me started and convince me my life wasn’t over, but that I was at the start of a long journey to learn to love myself. At first it was hard examining the evidence of recovery, but I’ve never met an alcoholic in recovery that doesn’t believe that this is the best thing they have ever done. I was lucky because I had three friends that could see what was going on and loved me enough to take up the slack of my failings. Bono, The Edge and Larry [Mullen] truly supported me before and after I entered recovery and I am unreservedly grateful to their friendship, understanding and support.
I am in awe of the extraordinary work we have done together. Not just music, but also our relationships with (RED), Music Rising and Music Generation. We have a pact with each other. In our band, no one will be a casualty. We all come home or none of us come home. No one will be left behind. Thank you for honoring that promise and letting me be in your band.
I was in Brazil and I met a lawyer who was smart and beautiful. We started dating. I got married in sobriety to Mariana. I didn’t think that would happen. She’s never seen me drinking, but she does know me crazy. Thank your Mariana for the wonderful life we have together and for making every day more meaningful.
Wow. We’ve had a great night of music, haven’t we? That’s one thing I never wanted to lose. It kept me going through some bad times. I’d like to thank Neil Portnow and the MusiCares team for organizing this evening. I’d like to thank the Recording Academy for their support. Thank you Hal Willner and Rachel Fox for arranging the wonderful music that we’ve heard. Cat Deeley, thanks for being so generous and graceful. It’s so great for us Irish boys and anyone that’s coming from the UK to see you returning to your old gig in the music world.
I’d like to thank the artists that performed tonight; such inspiring performances, a real honor to be here. Michael Franti, from the first moment we heard “Television, the Drug of the Nation” we knew we were going to be hearing it for a long time and it’s great to see you here. Macy Gray, I remember the first time I saw you on English TV. You blew me away. Thank you very much. The Lumineers, its a pleasure to have you on stage with us every night and really great to see you here without me having to run to my other gig.
“I’ve never met an alcoholic in recovery that doesn’t believe that this is the best thing they have ever done.”
Jack Garratt what can I say? This man is extraordinary and he just seems like every time there is a new challenge or a new instrument to play he just finds another arm. And Chronixx, of course, since Chris played me your music in Jamaica two years ago I’ve been a huge fan. Thank you for making your schedule work for us. Hal Willner put together a wonderful band; great to hear Marc Ribot playing. It’s guys like that remind me that’s what I want to be one day.
Thank you also for the stage crews that made things run smoothly. Our guys came from Boston last night and I’m sure they’re looking forward to their beds. Thank you all. I’d also like to thank Guy Oseary, The Maverick Team, Arthur Fogel and Live Nation. Thanks to my brother Sebastian who is here tonight. He’s known me at my best and at my very worst. Gavin Friday is here tonight. Thank you Gavin.
And finally, this isn’t really about me. I’d like to thank everyone that supported tonight’s event by buying tables and tickets. Without your support, none of this would be possible. You brought hope and a second chance to so many people struggling with addiction.
I would like to end on a quote written by Bono when we were 18. “If you walk away, walk aways, I will follow.” Thank you.