Michael Stallard first told me this true story. U2 is an anomaly in the world of rock music, right? The world is littered with rock bands who make it and break up, or don’t make it and break up – all caught in the throes of egos battles or conflicting opinions and ideas, or maybe just awash in money and lose the storyline of the band and it’s identity. From the beginning U2 said once “music can change the world because it can change people.” The strength of the band’s identity and commitment to each other has driven the success. The success has not driven the success.
In 1974 Bono’s mother died unexpectedly of a brain hemorrhage, which left his father to hold together the family, and as Bono describes it, he felt alone during the experience. Just a couple years later in 1978, his friend and drummer Larry Mullen lost his mother in a car accident, which left Larry devastated. Lost in that pain, Bono was present to help his friend heal emotionally. Again in 1990 his dear friend and band mate The Edge went through an emotionally difficult divorce with his wife, and again the band rallied around the core group to support and find solidarity and kinship. During that same time the bassist, Adam Clayton was working through debilitating drug and alcohol addictions which left him unable to play a signature live concert from Sydney, Australia to be televised around the world. Yet again the band slowed down, and took a break to support one of their own.
In 1987 the band was playing a concert in Tempe, AZ to celebrate the Reverend Martin Luther King. Their song, “Pride” is a tribute to MLK and the band had been receiving consistent death threats from someone who claimed they would be present in the audience, and if they played that song, there would be an attempt to assassinate Bono. The FBI declared the threat credible and advised the band not to play, and certainly not to play that signature song.
As Bono recalls, as he entered the third verse, “Early morning, April 4. A shot rings out in the Memphis sky…” he closed his eyes not knowing what would happen. When he opened his eyes, Adam Clayton was standing directly in front of him.
In your life, in your work, you might not be in a rock band galvanized by hardship and triumph. Yet consider the power of finding that storyline that binds – beyond finding that next quarter profit or hitting the upcoming deadline. The message by analogy must be: focus on building each other first. Grow everyone in your path.