This story originally aired on Nov. 20, 2005.
The members of the Irish rock band U2 have always believed that their group was about something more than making records and playing concerts.
The themes of their music, often about social injustice, ranging from the American civil rights movement to genocide in Bosnia, have helped them sell more than 130 million albums around the world and gross nearly a billion dollars on the concert trail. And offstage, their lead singer, known by his teenage nickname "Bono," is equally impressive. His political activism, working to help erase Third World debt and supplying Africa with AIDS drugs, has made him a political force.
Correspondent Ed Bradley takes a look at U2 and the double life of their lead singer.
After 25 years of touring, most critics say U2 is as good today as they've ever been, still selling out some of the world's largest stadiums and arenas when touring around the globe.
"It's only rock and roll where people are burned out at 40. I want to see what can happen with a band if they keep their integrity, keep their commitment to each other, and can we create extraordinary music," says Bono, speaking to 60 Minutes while on tour in Milan, Italy this past summer.
"You know what would have happened – and I'm not making a comparison, because I don't feel worthy to touch their hem – but what would have happened if the Beatles lived, and didn't, you know, disappear up their own arses but actually stayed in contact with the world, were awake. Didn't let their money buy them off. You know I'm still hungry. I still want a lot out of music," Bono says.
Bono has said when fans are screaming, it's not about the band, it's about them. "It's unexplainable what a song means to you. Because, remember, songs, it's not like a movie you see once or twice. A song, it gets under your skin and that's why [we] abandon ourselves to it," says Bono. "It has a sense of kind of uplift, of getting airborne."
"Everything feels possible. And maybe more things are possible than we think," he adds.
And at every concert, the band tries to make that happen. Before the show, fans are asked to join a campaign to help end world poverty. And during the performance, Bono sings of social justice and argues for religious harmony.
Bono's passions are shared and supported by the band, drummer Larry Mullen, Jr., bassist Adam Clayton and the guitarist who calls himself "The Edge."
"I think early on the heroes that we had were people like Bob Marley, John Lennon, The Clash," says The Edge. "And those bands all had the same combination of rock 'n roll, the rage, railing against injustice. And the politics. We connected with that in a major way."
The four of them formed their bond and their politics as teenagers in Dublin, Ireland. Larry Mullen wanted to start a band to play in pubs. Instead, he got one intent to take on the world.
Mullen says being Irish helped shape the bands' political and social concerns. "I mean we lived all our lives with the terrorist situation in northern Ireland. And with the British army and seeing that on the news night after night, atrocity after atrocity," he says. "But more than anything else, for the British folks Irish people were all terrorists. So when we went to Britain, it was always a lot of resistance to U2. And that's why we came to America."
In 1980, American music fans embraced them. By 1987, following their masterwork album "The Joshua Tree," critics began to call them the biggest rock band in the world. Tours and CDs since then, including their latest, have added to their popularity.