Inside the MusiCares Person of the Year Award Ceremony

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“A person of integrity” — President Bill Clinton describes Bono

“Almost a saint, but an inspired sinner” — The Edge describes Bono

Actors, musicians, supermodels, politicians, and a U.S. president all turned out to pay tribute to Bono Friday evening at the MusiCares Foundation annual Person of the Year ceremony in New York City.

Khelia Johnson reports on the night’s events for U2log.com.

Guests began arriving at the red carpet entrance at the back of the Marriott Marquis Hotel around 5 p.m. to a swarm of fans and paparazzi. Among those who graced the red carpet were P Diddy, Jay Z, Tony Bennett, Tommy Mottola, Bonnie Raitt, Michael Stipe, Robert De Niro, David Bowie, Ed Burns, Salman Rushdie, Helena Christensen, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Jeffrey Sachs, Paul McGuinness, Dennis Sheehan, Dr. Ruth, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Senator Orrin Hatch.

Bono arrived at the hotel around 7:45 p.m., wearing a black suit, blue shirt, and red sunglasses. Ali, Jordan, and Eve accompanied him. As he traditionally does, Bono made time to greet his fans outside the hotel.

Inside, a silent auction was held in the ballroom on the fifth floor of the hotel from 5 to 7 p.m.. The auction included approximately 550 music, travel, and sports items. Proceeds from the auction benefited the MusiCares Foundation.

At 7 p.m., guests moved to the ballroom on the sixth floor for dinner. Bono sat at the front table with his family, Edge, Paul McGuinness, President Bill Clinton, and Jeffrey Sachs.

The program began around 9 p.m. The first speaker introduced Neil Portnow, the President of the Recording Academy, who spoke about Bono’s work in Africa and introduced the Children of Uganda. The Children of Uganda played drums and performed a traditional African dance. Following the African group’s performance, Portnow introduced Bill Clinton, who received a standing ovation as he walked to the stage.

Clinton spoke about his friendship with Bono before he presented him with the Person of the Year Award. Clinton recalled how he had first met U2 and became friends with Bono. He said Bono was able to do what he could not during his terms as president: get the support of Jesse Helms. Clinton called Bono “a person of integrity” and said that the world could use more people like him.

As Bono walked to the stage to accept the award, he received a standing ovation. Bono hugged Clinton and joked to the audience, “I try to keep my distance from tall people.”

During his acceptance speech, Bono thanked many of his friends and family (Edge, Ali, his daughters, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Paul McGuinness, Bobby Shriver) and
acknowledged certain friends who were in attendance (Salman Rushdie, Robert De Niro, David Bowie). When he reached a seemingly fitting end to his speech, he paused and said, “This is where I was planning to end, but it’s my night and everyone has paid quite a bit to be here, so you’ll have to listen to me.”

He went on to talk about how the war against poverty is bound up with the war against terrorism. He came out firmly against the war with Iraq. “We do not need to make a martyr out of Saddam Hussein. It is not as simple as war or no war. These are complex problems, and we need complex solutions,” Bono said.

He also remarked that Africa made America sexy and the Irish made America drunk, which drew laughter from the audience.

After Bono’s speech, Ashley Judd (who served as the hostess for the program) introduced the entertainment:

BB King and Wynona Judd – When Love Comes to Town
No Doubt – Sweetest Thing
Video montage of Bono’s work with Africa (Clips from Grammys, MTV Diary, VH1 Legends)
Mary J Blige – One
Nora Jones – Stuck in A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
Jimmy Fallon (He came dressed as Adam Clayton and jokingly mocked Bono for winning too many awards.)
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Stories for Boys
Patti LaBelle – Angel of Harlem (She said Bono and Clinton “were her boys” before her performance and received hugs from both after.)
And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead – Electric Co.

Edge then took to the stage to congratulate Bono and talk about the band’s success. Edge said he wanted to thank the little people who had helped them along the way. He proceeded to list off Clinton, the Pope, and “Bush and his regime–oh, I mean administration,” which elicited a roar of laughter.

Edge jokingly talked about how U2 got their start when “men in suits and politicians were not to be trusted” and how ironic it was that now they were sitting next to those men at a black tie event. He commented on the strangeness of having someone like Jesse Helms backstage at one of their concerts and asked, “Where did it all go wrong?” Edge also spoke about who Bono really is and listed off characteristics that included “almost a saint, but an inspired sinner” and said, “they used to call him a nice bunch of guys — but that is a understatement.”

Following Edge’s speech, there was more entertainment:

Garbage – Pride – (Shirley Manson wore a U2 War Tank top similar to Bono’s from Blood Red Sky.)
Elvis Costello – Kite
Sheryl Crow – All I Want Is You

Elton John and Tina Turner sent video tributes because they could not attend the ceremony.

At the end of the program, Bono took to the stage and said he wanted to sing a bit himself and launched into a soulful version of “That’s Life” with piano, bass, and string accompaniment. After that song, he signaled for one more and started “Night and Day” (which was the same arrangement as on Red, Hot, and Blue). Edge joined him in the middle and played a great guitar solo on a Les Paul. The program closed with Bono and Edge performing “The Hands that Built America.”