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Bad start for Bono


 

When the Times announced Bono's hiring as an op-ed columnist, editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal had this to say: “Bono is a great addition to our Op-Ed line-up. He is an extraordinary man who thinks deeply about his art and the major issues confronting the world. His writing will reflect that.”

And now, in his debut, Bono gives the Times and its readers...an homage to Frank Sinatra.

I shit you not. But that's not the worst of it: Bono also uses his column to plug Duets, a 1993 Sinatra album he contributed to--and almost certainly still gets revenues from. Here's how he does it:

Singers, more than other musicians, depend on what they know — as opposed to what they don’t want to know about the world. While there is a danger in this — the loss of naïveté, for instance, which holds its own certain power — interpretive skills generally gain in the course of a life well abused.

Want an example? Here’s an example. Take two of the versions of Sinatra singing “My Way.”

The first was recorded in 1969 when the Chairman of the Board said to Paul Anka, who wrote the song for him: “I’m quitting the business. I’m sick of it. I’m getting the hell out.” In this reading, the song is a boast — more kiss-off than send-off — embodying all the machismo a man can muster about the mistakes he’s made on the way from here to everywhere.

In the later recording, Frank is 78. The Nelson Riddle arrangement is the same, the words and melody are exactly the same, but this time the song has become a heart-stopping, heartbreaking song of defeat. The singer’s hubris is out the door. (This singer, i.e. me, is in a puddle.) The song has become an apology.

To what end? Duality, complexity. I was lucky to duet with a man who understood duality, who had the talent to hear two opposing ideas in a single song, and the wisdom to know which side to reveal at which moment.

Lame topic, overly florid writing, a journalistic conflict of interest.... In retrospect, maybe Bill Kristol's Times debut wasn't so bad.

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