April 23, 2007 — -- Some things are worth the pain that comes from separation. So reasoned the Edge, U2's guitar player, when he parted with one of his most prized possessions this past weekend, the Gibson Les Paul electric guitar that he used to record "New Year's Day" and has owned since 1982.
The rock 'n' roll legend was in New York City to host Saturday night's "Icons of Music" auction, which benefited Music Rising, a charity he co-founded with Gibson Guitars in an effort to replace some of the musical instruments lost to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"The initial idea was to try to help the [Bayou's] musicians, so we put a lot of instruments in the hands of professional musicians in New Orleans and that area," the Edge told ABC News. "Now we have got to the point where we want to try to focus on the local music…the churches, the schools of the areas that have been most badly hit."
In anticipation of this past weekend's auction -- which at last count has brought in $2.4 million -- the Edge called on friends and colleagues from the music world, and challenged them to donate marquee items by putting his cherished Gibson on the auction block.
"It will be hard to give up," said the Edge of the guitar, "but I just felt like this was a special occasion and I wanted to put forward something that meant a lot to me…Hopefully it will generate a lot of money."
Even by a rock star's standards, the $240,000 the instrument fetched surely qualifies.
Other big ticket items sold at the auction, housed at Manhattan's Hard Rock Cafe, included a pair of John Lennon's sunglasses and a 1964 Texan Model Epiphone guitar that was signed and hand-painted by Paul McCartney. The shades went for $30,000, while McCartney's donation took in $68,000.
In fact, signed guitars appeared to be the most popular items with bidders. The audience, both at the Hard Rock Cafe and online, purchased instruments from celebrities as diverse as one signed by most of the cast of "The Sopranos," to another from Les Paul himself. One of Bob Dylan's old instruments went for $160,000.
The most expensive buy of the night, however, was a 1966 red Fender Mustang guitar that belonged to Jimi Hendrix. The instrument was expected to bring in $80,000, but after a frenzied bidding war that brought the crowd to a roaring applause, the auctioneer drove the price to $400,000 before pronouncing the item "sold!"
Some of the U2 items that were on the block included Adam Clayton's bass, which brought in $22,000, and Larry Mullen Jr.'s tom-tom drum, which fetched $19,000. One of the Edge's trademark skull caps -- concert-worn, no less -- was sold for $11,000. A Bono-signed Irish Falcon Gretsch guitar nabbed $180,000.
In between traveling the world with his band, writing a new album and, if recent reports are to be believed, the book and lyrics to a "Spiderman" musical, the Edge doesn't exactly have loads of spare time to organize an auction. But he clearly has the passion. "We appreciate how unique the music culture is down there," he told ABC News. "It's totally unique. There's nothing else like it in the world that comes close," he said.
"You can really point to this area of the United States and say, this is where rock 'n' roll really started…This is where jazz started. I've done incredibly well out of music, and so have a lot of people who have contributed to this auction…We owe these musicians some support, because if it wasn't for that area and those musicians we wouldn't be in the position we're in today. There's a debt there."
It's a debt that The Edge has done his best to pay back. And while no one can erase the memory and the pain felt in the Gulf Coast, at the end of one night, the debt was decreased by $2.4 million.
For more information on Music Rising, or to donate, visit www.musicrising.org.