Bono

When U2's singer Bono inducted Bruce Springsteen into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March, his clever speech anointing the New Jersey rocker "America's writer and critic" was one of the more heartfelt and entertaining speeches of the event.

Bono's passionate nature also is evident in U2's stirring lyrics and in the band's frequent work for causes in which it believes, such as civil rights and anti-war crusades.

Bono's latest cause is to recruit artists to support Jubilee 2000, an international movement to convince the world's richest countries to forgive the massive debts owed by the Third World.

Bono was born Paul Hewson 39 years ago today in Dublin, Ireland. He started jamming with his future U2 bandmates at Dublin's Mount Temple High School. The guys came together in response to a bulletin board notice posted by drummer Larry Mullen Jr.

The group, which formed as the Feedback, also included bassist Adam Clayton, guitarist David Evans -- who later changed his name to the Edge -- and Evan's brother, Dick, who soon left to form the Virgin Prunes.

Choosing the name U2, the group won a talent contest sponsored by Guinness, which brought them to the attention of Stranglers manager Paul McGuinness, who signed them. U2 then topped Ireland's album chart with its EP U2:3 in 1979.

Island Records signed the band for its first LP, 1980's Boy. The album, with its anthemic, atmospheric rock was unlike much of the synth-pop out at the time, and made it to the upper half of the Billboard 200 albums chart.

Bono -- who originally changed his name to Bono Vox, which is Latin for "good voice" -- and the rest of the group publicly embraced Christianity and toured relentlessly. October, U2's second LP, went top-20 in the UK, and the song "Gloria" became an MTV favorite.

War (1983), buoyed by the radio favorites "New Year's Day" and the heavily pacifist "Sunday Bloody Sunday," elevated U2 to playing arenas in the U.S. Bono's good looks and the band's earnest politics made them one of the highest profile rock bands in the world. Though the moody The Unforgettable Fire (1984) wasn't the commercial blockbuster many had predicted, it spawned U2's first U.S. top-40 hit, the Martin Luther King-inspired "(Pride) In the Name of Love" and was the basis for a successful world tour.

U2 reached superstar status with the 1987 commercial blockbuster The Joshua Tree, which yielded two U.S. #1 hits, "With or Without You" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." After the live LP Rattle & Hum drew mixed reviews, U2 reinvented its sound on Achtung Baby (1991), adding more metal and funk grooves on such cuts as "Mysterious Ways" and "Even Better Than the Real Thing." The ballad "One" became one of U2's biggest singles and the LP garnered highly positive reviews. During the multimedia tour to support the album, Bono toyed with his stardom by appearing as the Fly, an exaggerated rock persona.

Zooropa (1993) was even more techno- and dance-oriented than its predecessor, but didn't sell as well. For that tour, Bono's Fly morphed into the darker MacPhisto character. Four years later came Pop, featuring such electronica-heavy cuts as "Discotheque" and "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" (Real Audio excerpt). The album was well received, but didn't rank among the group's best sellers. Its accompanying stadium tour often met with less-than-capacity crowds and was knocked by some critics for being preoccupied with theatrics, as evidenced in the giant lemon from which the band emerged.

U2 stuck to their political guns by playing a concert in war-torn Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1997. This gig followed Bono and the Edge's 1995 recording of the song "Miss Sarajevo" with Brian Eno and Luciano Pavarotti, under the band name the Passengers. Bono sang: "Is there a time for keeping your distance?/ A time to turn your eyes away?"

In 1998 U2 issued Best Of U2-1980-90, which featured the previously unreleased track "Sweetest Thing" (RealAudio excerpt).

Bono, ever committed to human rights, befriended writer Salman Rushdie after "The Satanic Verses" author was forced into hiding by a 1989 death edict issued by Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeni, who was angered by the book. Bono reportedly let Rushdie live at his estate and recently collaborated on a song with him.

U2 launched a dance-music label in November and are working on a new LP with Eno, who first teamed with the band on The Unforgettable Fire. Bono also co-wrote the script and will lend music to a new film by German director Wim Wenders.

In addition to Bono's work for Jubilee 2000, U2 recently donated a track to Across The Bridge Of Hope (White Label), a UK charity album to benefit victims of last year's terrorist bombing in Omagh, Northern Ireland.

Bono shares his birthday with his daughter, Jordan Hewson, who turns 10 today.

Other birthdays: Donovan, 53; Graham Gouldman (10cc), 53; Dave Mason, 53; Jay Ferguson (Spirit), 52; Sly Dunbar (Sly & Robbie), 47; Krist Novoselic (Nirvana, Sweet 75), 34; Young MC, 32; and Danny Rapp (Danny & The Juniors), 1941-1983; and Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols), 1957-1979.