Dr. Nicholas Greco argues U2 may have a good message despite claims of hypocrisy against them.
Greco explores U2 as a band interested in social justice alongside their particular brand of Christianity in his third book, The Rosary and the Microphone.
The powerful imagery – and title of his book – of a microphone and rosary is inspired by a live performance in Chicago from U2. Before the finale, Greco says, Bono dedicates the final song to a priest at Notre Dame University.
Greco says, “That is a really blatant symbol of the intersection between faith and music that Bono and U2 seem to be suggesting and putting out there to the audience.”
Greco says, “When I say that I am writing a book on U2, most people look at it me and say, ‘Why? Why are you doing that?’
“Generally, they are not as curious as they are disgusted because I think they have seen U2 in the media and they wonder why someone would spend so much time on a band that many people do not find particularly attractive.”
Greco says that U2’s lead singer, Bono, is referred to as a hypocrite because of his calls for the rights and freedoms of the less fortunate and vulnerable while he lives a life of luxury.
“I am a fan of U2, that’s one of the reasons why I wrote the book, but I was also really interested in how they use their music videos and live performances to actually send a message of social justice out to the world,” says Greco.
The tension of pushing an agenda of social change and the goal of a professional musician – increasing record sales – is part of U2’s brand.
“It’s an interesting place that they are situated,” says Greco. “They are both pushing an agenda that is perhaps social justice focused, but they also reap the benefits of that. In the book, I discuss that in some ways they are both complicit in things and try to get people to change their ways.
“If you spend $100 on a U2 concert ticket, that money is not going to a charity. It is actually going to U2.”
In short, their fame and music provide a platform to discuss these issues on a large scale which, Greco argues, is ultimately good.
Some people may identify U2 as a Christian band but Greco says, “That’s not exactly what they are.”
“There is something that he [Bono] is saying that can remind all of us to think of our neighbour and those that are suffering and to be empathetic of their plights. In some ways, the music of U2 is worthwhile because I think it is a call to care about other people and to have an outward view rather than what many of us, as Christians, who often have an isolationist view. I think what U2 does is they try to make us look outward and I think that is very important.”
Greco warns there are portions of this book that may be more geared towards the academic, but does hope that the common reader would be able to finish the book with an understanding of how U2 uses all their resources – songs, music videos, live performances – to present an idea of caring for social justice.
The Ebook of The Rosary and the Microphone is currently available while physical copies are expected to hit the shelves in mid-November.
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