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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 December 2006, 14:48 GMT
Voice of influential U2 frontman
Bono was born to a Catholic father and Protestant mother in 1960
U2 star Bono is being awarded an honorary knighthood by the Queen, honouring his rare ability to combine the duties of a pop star with those of a global campaigner.

Bono has consistently used his position as frontman of one of the most popular rock acts in the world to draw attention to human rights issues, from the need for debt relief in Africa to criticising nuclear tests in France.

He has also become known for his ability to secure an audience with world leaders such as President George Bush and the late Pope John Paul II.

Bono was born Paul Hewson on 10 May, 1960, to a Catholic father and Protestant mother in Dublin.

'Good voice'

Ireland's religious strife, and the sudden death of Bono's mother when he was 14, proved major influences on the songs he wrote for U2.

His music career began when he formed a band with guitarist The Edge (real name David Evans), bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jnr at school in 1976.

U2 in 1988, receiving one of 14 Grammy Awards in New York
Taking on vocal duties, Hewson adopted the nickname Bono Vox, supposedly from the Latin for "good voice".

The band also changed its name from Feedback to Hype to U2, and were signed to record label CBS Records Ireland after winning a talent contest in Limerick.

Critics heaped praise on their 1980 debut album Boy, supported by a series of passionate and charismatic live shows throughout Britain and the US.

Solidarity song

In 1983 the band reached the UK Top 10 with New Year's Day, a song inspired by the Polish Solidarity Movement and the first of 25 Top 10 hits.

Third album War covered religious and political conflicts, especially in the song Sunday Bloody Sunday, before live album Under A Blood Red Sky earned U2 their first significant US chart placing.

U2 at a 1992 Greenpeace protest against Sellafield nuclear plant
In 1984 the band established its own company, Mother Records, to unearth fresh musical talent in Eire.

U2's commitment to its members' ideals was further underlined by their appearances at Live Aid, Ireland's Self Aid, and their involvement with Amnesty International.

Their 1987 release The Joshua Tree became the fastest-selling album in history, topping both the US and UK charts.

However Bono's righteously candid interviews, combined with a tendency to preach on stage, led to a press backlash against the singer's "po-faced self-mythology".

Televangelist persona

U2 responded by disappearing for two-and-half years, returning with a postmodern sense of irony and the acclaimed 1991 album Achtung Baby.

During the supporting Zoo TV stadium tour, Bono assumed the personae of a prototypical rock star called the Fly, a corrupt televangelist named Mirrorball Man and Mister Macphisto, the devil portrayed as an ageing rock god.

Bono with President Bush
The singer had a "good old row" with President Bush in 2003
A regular concert feature was Bono's live attempt to contact world leaders, usually thwarted by a confused receptionist.

Undaunted, Bono continued to work as a social activist, protesting alongside his wife Ali Hewson against the operation of Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria.

Bono used his acceptance speech at 1995's MTV Awards in Paris to criticise French president Jacques Chirac's support for nuclear tests.

In 1999 he joined the Jubilee 2000 movement - later renamed Drop the Debt - dedicated to erasing the public debt of 52 of the world's poorest countries, many located in Africa.

As group ambassador he met with Pope John Paul II, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and US Presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush, saying he and Bush had a "good old row".

Epic rock

Meanwhile U2 regained mass popularity with the 2000 album All That You Can't Leave Behind, a return to their original epic rock sound.

Bill Gates, Bono and Melinda Gates in Time magazine
Time magazine honoured Bono alongside Bill and Melinda Gates
In 2004, as the band prepared to release 14th album How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, Bono was invited to address Labour's annual party conference.

Calling Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown the "John Lennon and Paul McCartney" of the global development stage, he told them to "finish what they started" and end world poverty.

He spent the following year touring with U2 and promoting the Make Poverty History campaign, taking part in the London leg of Bob Geldof's Live 8 concert series. Time magazine named him Person of the Year "for being shrewd about doing good".

Bono also admitted his commitment to global causes had caused friction within the band.

"They are hugely supportive spiritually and financially of the work I do, but they are in a rock'n'roll band and the first job of a rock'n'roll band is not to be dull," he said.

"There was one point when I thought 'I'm going to be thrown out of the band for this stuff'."

In 2006, the band won five Grammys while Bono launched the Product Red brand, to raise funds for anti-Aids initiatives.

With the ear of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, George Bush and other global leaders, Bono will start 2007 with his influence recognised with an honorary knighthood.

Honorary knighthood for U2's Bono
23 Dec 06 |  Entertainment
U2 'tension' over Bono campaigns
31 Dec 05 |  Entertainment
Bono crowned 'most influential'
31 Jul 06 |  Entertainment
Bono bets on Red to battle Aids
26 Jan 06 |  Business


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