Bono Pens Eulogy for Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela’s death on Dec. 5 inspired a number of heartfelt reactions from members of the rock community. While many lamented the loss of an inspiring figure and world leader, others felt Mandela’s passing on a more personal level — including U2 frontman Bono, who was fortunate enough to count the legendary activist among his friends.
The two men publicly bonded over their shared interests and participation in a number of initiatives, including efforts to combat world poverty and help fund AIDS research, so it’s unsurprising that Bono has contributed a lengthy, heartfelt Mandela tribute to Time magazine. Titled ‘The Man Who Could Not Cry,’ it offers a personal perspective on the way Mandela inspired the Irish youth of Bono’s generation (as he put it, “Irish people related all too easily to the subjugation of ethnic majorities”) and recounts a number of crucial life lessons Bono took from Mandela, including the importance of turning perceived enemies into allies:
Mandela lived a life without sanctimony. You try it; it’s not easy. His lack of piety helped him turn former foes into friends. In 1985, U2 and Bruce Springsteen responded to Steve Van Zandt’s call to lend our voices to an artists-against-apartheid recording titled ‘Sun City.’ Sun City had been set up on the border of Botswana to bypass the cultural boycott of South Africa. Sol Kerzner’s casino there had become a pretty busy venue. Years later, when I chastised the music producer Quincy Jones about his friendship with Kerzner, Quincy replied, “Man, you know nothing about Mandela, do you? He wasn’t out of jail seven days before he called Sol Kerzner. Since then, Sol has been one of the largest contributors to the [African National Congress].” I felt like one of those Japanese soldiers who came out of the jungle in the 1950s still fighting World War II.
You can read the complete essay, including the story of how years of limestone mining during his imprisonment left Mandela literally unable to cry, at Time’s website.