When Bono said goodbye to his mate Michael Hutchence

THE death of Michael Hutchence is still vivid in the minds of many Australians.

Just as people can remember where they were when Princess Diana died or when Cathy Freeman won the 400m at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, most can remember when they heard the news of the singer’s demise in a hotel room at The Ritz-Carlton hotel on November 22, 1997.

bono hutch
Bono gives Hutch a kiss on the cheek. Tim Douglas and camerapress.com ©

Half a world away, U2 were on the Popmart Tour, in between shows. Their concert on November 23 in San Antonio, Texas, was an emotional one.

Bono and Hutchence had struck up a strong friendship in recent years and the death blindsided the U2 singer, just as it had everyone else.

He began calling out for “Hutch” during the intro of the song Gone whenever it was played live.

Three months later, on February 27, 1998, U2’s Popmart Tour arrived in Hutchence’s home town.

Bono publicly farewelled his friend at the Sydney Football Stadium during what had become a staple ending to shows following the tragedy of November 22 the previous year.

The Popmart screen lit up with Michael’s face during the song One as Bono bid adieu.

Just wanted to say goodbye,
Just wanted to say goodbye,
To a great singer,
A great mate,
Just wanted to say goodbye,
In front of his mates,
In front of his family,
In front of his band,
I just wanted to say goodbye,
So goodbye, Michael

There’s no doubt Hutchence’s death hit hard. It led to the writing of Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of.

Bono once told Rolling Stone:

“I felt the biggest respect I could pay him was not to write some stupid soppy fucking song, so I wrote a really tough, nasty little number. Sort of, you know, slapping him around the head. And I’m sorry, but that’s how it came out for me.”

Death permeates many a U2 song. It’s an Irish melancholic thing.

Greg Carroll – http://www.geocities.ws/dagsyfm/u2/onetreehill.html

The impact of losing Greg Carroll, the Maori who became Bono’s personal assistant and died after crashing a motorcycle while running an errand for his boss, cut deep.

The Joshua Tree is dedicated to him. The song One Tree Hill from that album is titled in honour of the New Zealand landmark Bono visited with Carroll while on tour in the land of the long white cloud in 1985.

“It was a devestating blow,” Bono once told journalist David Breskin about Carroll’s death. “He was doing me a favour. He was taking my bike home. Greg used to look after Ali (Bono’s wife). They used to go out dancing together. He was a best friend. I’ve already had it once with my mother. Now I’ve had it twice. The worst part is the fear. After that, when the phone rang, my heart stopped every time. Now when I go away, I wonder ‘will these people be here when I get back?’. You start to think in those terms.”

In U2 by U2, he writes how the loss of Carroll, and death in general, always resulted in a bleak trip down a horrid memory lane paved by his mother’s passing.

“I guess the problem with dealing with death, for me, is that it’s always the same death. It’s always my mother dying, it’s always the centre of the universe disappearing and having to find another one. It just brings me back to that moment every time.”

Having lost his mother at 14, Bono has revisited Iris’s death throughout the band’s career (I Will Follow, Tomorrow, Mofo). The latest offering, Iris (Hold Me Close), is a masterpiece in the art of songwriting.

809947-michael-hutchenceWhen Hutchence’s casket was removed from the hearse and carried into St. Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral in Sydney on a hot November afternoon, a single tiger lily representing his daughter sat amid 500 irises on top of the coffin.

Pure coincidence no doubt, but there was Iris again.

It’s always the same death.

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