Instead, he tried to find his editorial voice by recalling The Voice: Frank Sinatra.
It was a decidedly odd -- but, in places, oddly effective – debut for the rocker-turned-social activist-turned-pundit. The Times' first one-named semi-regular contributor ("Krugman" just doesn't cut it alone) is set to pen occasional pieces as well as record podcast versions.
In an often entertainingly rambling 1,016 words, Bono cites two Sinatra versions of “My Way”: The first, recorded in middle age; the other in old age. The original is defiant, Bono says, but Sinatra’s take when his old blue eyes had seen 78 years is a virtual apology.
Sinatra “had the talent to hear two opposing ideas in a single song, and the wisdom to know which side to reveal at which moment,” Bono writes.
“This is our moment. What do we hear?” he asks.
So what are we hearing from Bono?
The lesson he takes from Sinatra the singer, whom he says possessed “the least sentimental voice in the history of pop music," is that we need to be wary in a world turned upside down.
The lesson he takes from Sinatra the man, comes from a conversation from around the time Bono recorded “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” with Sinatra for the 1993 “Duets” album.
“Being modern’s not about the future,” Sinatra told him, “it’s about the present.”
The “duality” Bono finds in Sinatra’s singing voice can be related to his own life. He’s a working class Dublin kid who became a rebel rock star and champion of the downtrodden. Yet he’s a firm member of the establishment with the awards display case to prove it: Time’s Person of the Year, an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth and Grammys galore. In his first piece for the Old Gray Lady, he takes the reader from a rowdy, Guinness-soaked Dublin bar to the wine cellar in his stately home.
Bono, though, has always been smart about making connections in many worlds to further his causes, as well looking to -- and learning from -- the past.
As social activist, he’s proudly stood on the shoulders of other rock stars: John Lennon, George Harrison, Bob Geldof. And now he’s looking to Sinatra’s long-dormant voice as a perennial “foghorn” to help guide us through uncertain times.
Maybe what Bono’s telling us -- as he gets in shouting distance of 50, as he continues to make music, as he pushes ahead with Project Red and ONE, as he becomes a contributing columnist to a world-renowned paper – is that he still hasn’t found what he’s looking for.
But he’s sure as hell going to do things his way.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.