Bono Recalls U2’s ‘Enormous Influence’ on Nelson Mandela

DUBLIN — U2 frontman Bono paid tribute to himself in a 1,000-word essay published by TIME following the death of iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela.

“As an activist, Nelson Mandela did pretty much whatever U2 told him to,” he writes. “We have been a forceful presence in his life going back to 1979, when U2 made its first anti-apartheid effort.”

In the piece, titled ‘The Man Who Could Not Cry,’ the legendary bandleader calls his friend “a remarkable man” for using U2’s message of peace to inspire the South African people during the country’s transition from apartheid to multiparty democracy.

Bono also praised Mandela for helping U2 battle the AIDS epidemic and extreme poverty around the globe by increasing access to the greatest band in the world’s discography.

Bono closes his essay with an anecdote that gave the article its title—referencing Mandela’s inability to shed tears. “Laughter, not tears, was Madiba’s preferred way—except on one occasion when I saw him almost choke up,” he recalls.

“Madiba and I were listening to ‘One’ from our album Achtung Baby, which many people say is our best record, and I could have sworn I saw him shed a tear. Everybody cries during that song.”

Bono adds, “But he explained to me that dust damage to his tear ducts from years of working in limestone mines had left him unable to cry. After listening to the song, he said he would have surgery to put this right, and in 1994 he did. I never knew if he listened to the song again, but I would like to think that Madiba is in heaven, listening to U2’s music and weeping.”