Bono received death threats after incurring the wrath of the IRA, the American far right, and Dublin gangsters.
The U2 frontman admitted his pro-peace stance has caused him difficulties over the years and left not only him as a target but his wife Ali Hewson and their four children, Jordan, 33, Eve, 31, Elijah, 23, and 21-year-old John.
In his upcoming memoir ‘Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story’, Bono recalled Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams saying he “stinks” after it was perceived “U2’s opposition to paramilitaries (of all kinds) had cost the IRA valuable fundraising in the US”.
However, he was told by special branch officers that his wife was most likely to be their target.
He wrote: “I still take that badly.”
Another shocking threat came at the height of U2’s success in the 1990s.
The 62-year-old singer wrote: “A famous gangland leader in Dublin had been planning to kidnap [his daughters], that [the gangster’s] people had been casing our houses for several months and developed an elaborate plan”.
And while touring America in the 1980s, the group spoke out against the Arizona state governor’s opposition to a memorial day for Martin Luther King, prompting a sinister threat about what would happen if they sang ‘Pride’, their tribute to the civil rights leader, at their show in the state.
Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Bono explained: “The specific threat was that if Bono sings the verse about the assassination of King he will not make it to the end of the song”.
He told how he had “got all messianic on myself” and half-knelt to sing the lines “Shot rings out in the Memphis sky, Free at last, they took your life, they could not take your pride.”
He added: “I then realised the gravity of the situation and I did close my eyes. It was a slim possibility but just in case.”
The ‘One’ singer recalled his relief has he made it through the verse – and his shock when he opened his eyes to realise his bandmate, bassist Adam Clayton, had been shielding him throughout.
He said: “[I thought] ‘I am still alive. Oh good’. And I looked up and I could not see the crowd because Adam Clayton was standing in front of me and he had been there for the entire verse.”
Elsewhere in the book – which is released next month – Bono recalled how Mikhail Gorbachev met his wife’s goddaughter Anna, who had been born severely disabled because of the Chernobyl disaster, when he visited his home in Dublin in 2002 and the politician confided that he knew the Soviet Union was finished following the 1986 nuclear disaster.
According to Bono, the politician told him: “I thought to myself if the state cannot control a nuclear power plant of this significance, then the state is no longer functioning as a state. The state is kaput.”