About that time U2's Bono called Elvis a "White Nigger"

Did you know that Bono once described the singer Elvis as a 'white nigger'?

U2 wrote the song Elvis Ate America in 1995 and released it under the moniker of Passengers. In the song’s lyrics Bono referred to Elvis as a White Nigger.

This was before the internet was mainstream or an every day thing. This was the era where if you had the internet, it was connected by dial up modem and you probably paid by the hour. All this means that it’s easy to see how calling Elvis a white nigger missed the consciousness of media.

You can well imagine what would happen today if U2 dropped such a phrase into a song.

THERE>WOULD>BE>OUTRAGE amongst the keyboard social justice warriors.

It's an interesting use of the so called N-WORD. People are so afraid to use it in the appropriate context. If Bono had of called a black person a nigger, one could understand the outrage. Guns N Roses were accused of racism (amongst other things) for their song 'One In a Million' but one seemed to upset over a drunk Irishman calling Elvis a white nigger? Why is that?

We understand that the Passenger’s Elvis Ate America’s lyrics were part of a 14 minute in length poem called American David that Bono wrote. A few years ago he offered up during a radio interview the following snippet from the larger poem “Elvis, the white nigger / Ate Burger King and just kept getting bigger.”

So why is Bono describing one of the greatest singing icons in history as such? First of all, Bono is not employing an attitude of bigotry or racism. It’s very clear that Bono loves everyone – his work for Africa with people like Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tuto and his support for AIDS victims and debt relief clearly demonstrate he is no racist. 

What he is doing is offering a commentary on Elvis’s musical roots. He was a white man that got the ‘blues’ and that a lot of his music was inspired and borrowed from black music – does anybody remember Elvis’s gospel albums which took both elements from Christian and Church music?

There is also a different meaning of white nigger that Bono may have also been trying to convey. It’s a religious slur used in Northern Ireland to refer to Catholics.  The term was also directed at Irish Catholic’s who had immigrated to America. Bono, being Irish would be keenly aware of this term and so it could be directed Elvis in that sense. 

The only problem with that was Elvis was not an immigrant to America nor was he raised a Catholic at all rather Pentecostal. His religious foundation can be summed up by his own quote “All I want is to know the truth, to know and experience God. I’m a searcher, that’s what I’m all about.”

Bono may have simply used the term to push the envelope a bit and get some attention – similar in a sense as to when he swore when giving a speech about Frank Sinatra at the 1996 Grammy Awards. 

Either way, it's clear that Bono had a deep respect and admiration for Bono - indeed, Elvis Ate America was not first song U2 wrote about Elvis, The Unforgettable Fire of course featured the song Elvis and America.

What references has Bono made to wind in U2 songs?

What references has Bono made to 'wind' in U2 songs?

The critics of U2 and Bono would have fun with mentioning Bono talking about wind as the man does talk about a lot of many things - but here's a serious collection of references that U2 have made to wind in their songs.

When you think about it, the wind is commonly used in songs - think of the Scorpion's Winds of Change as obvious example. The use of wind is typically used to describe a change that is happening to someone or somewhere.

Here's occasions that U2 have referred to making wind in their songs, if you don't take yourself too seriously.


A fan favourite from All That You Can't Leave Behind, The initial draft of the lyrics were written with Bono's daughters Eve and Jordan in mind. The Edge assisted Bono in writing the lyrics and has suggested that they were actually about Bono's emotionally-reserved father, Bob Hewson, who was dying of cancer at the time the song was written. When Bob did die, the lyric 'last of the rock stars' was changed to 'last of the opera star's when sung live, reflecting Bob's past opera career. Ultimately, Kite is a song of hope.

Bullet the Blue Sky

"In the howling wind comes a stinging rain, see it driving nails into souls on the tree of pain" And so opens Bullet the Blue Sky from The Joshua Tree. This line is poetic pain and sets the tone of the whole song. A stinging attack on America's position in foreign politics and especially those of El Salvador in America's quest to stop communism at all costs.


Taken from The Joshua Tree, Exit tells the bleak tale of what I often think of as a desperate cowboy but in reality Bono's inspiration was The lyrics were inspired by Norman Mailer's novel The Executioner's Song, the subject of which was serial killer Gary Gilm. Lyrically, it's a pairing to Bullet the Blue Sky as it refers to a howling wind.

Indian Summer Sky

A cut from The Unforgettable Fire album, Indian Summer sky is considered to be a social commentary on the prison-like atmosphere of city living in a world of natural forces. An actual Indian Summer is is a period of unseasonably warm, dry weather - to which the wind that Bono ask's to blow through so as to give some relief.

Ordinary Love

A sweet lyric about how the wind can lift us up:

"Birds fly high in the summer sky and rest on the breeze.
The same wind will take care of you and I.
We'll build our house in the trees."

Songs of Experience Lyrics by U2

Songs of Experience lyrics by U2

Songs of Experience Lyrics by U2

Songs of Experience is the companion album to the Songs of Innocence album that U2 released to the world for free en-mass via Apple’s Itunes in 2015.

Prior to the release of that album, many U2 fans had expected the album to be called Songs of Ascent. This was based on comments from Bono in the lead up to the release. At the time of the Innocence album and tour, the band repeatedly mentioned they had grand ideas for two albums (or more!). The band has since formally committed to the world at large that the next album will be called Songs of Experience.

And this is fitting as there is a thematic connection here through the works of poet William Blake. Bono has spoken how that body of work inspired his lyrics for both Songs of Innocence and Experience:

"There's a poet called William Blake who had a big influence on me growing up, and he had these two books of poetry -- Songs Of Innocence and Songs Of Experience -- and it gave him a device, really, to be able to write about the past ... gave us a device to be able to write about the past, while at the same time writing about what's going on now.

What was the subject of Blake’s work? It was a collection of poems that reflected where the state of childhood 'innocence' was influenced by the world cutting in on childhood as 'experience. These being influences such as corruption, oppression by religious movements, state domination and the machinations of the dominant classes. 

Hence the lyrics of Songs of Innocence featured a lot of Bono’s experiences as a young lad – the death of his mother being covered in Iris (Hold Me Close) for example. Cedarwood Road is about childhood friends that group up with Bono in the street

Lyrics to U2’s Songs of Experience album

Landlady lyrics by U2

Where The Shadows Fall lyrics by U2

Streets Of Surrender lyrics by Bono

streets of surrender lyrics by Bono

Streets Of Surrender lyrics  by Bono

Bono has written some lyrics for a song he was developing for singer Zucchero.

When asked by a reporter asks if the terrorist attacks in Paris (2015) will inspire a new album or song, and Bono recited these lyrics to what is called Streets of Surrender.

It's quite likely that this will not be an official U2 song, however as Bono recited these lyrics in front of a reporter for a TV segment, they can be considered a public performance, and noteworthy as a lyric by Bono.

Streets of Surrender lyrics

Every man has two cities he needs to be
The one he can touch
And the one he can't see
The one where a stranger's a friend
Every man has got one city of liberty
For me it's Paris, I love it
Every time I get lost down these ancient streets I find myself again

You're free, baby, baby
Free now and forever
It's Christmas time
You can decide to forget or to remember
You're free, baby, baby
I didn't come down here to fight you
I came down these streets of love and pride to surrender
The streets of surrender

I heard a far fetched story
That nobody seems to know
I think it was about that stranger
It was youth, it was love and it was danger
It was winter with that warm it gets before the snow
It chilled my soul
Everybody's crying about some kid
That they found lying on a beach
Born in a manger

You're free, baby, baby
Free now and forever
It's Christmas time
You can decide to forget or to remember
You're free, baby, baby
I didn't come down here to fight ya
I came down these streets of love and pride to surrender
The streets of surrender

U2 songs with angels in the lyrics

What U2 songs feature 'angels' in the lyrics?

What's an angel? Some see them as messengers of God. Others may see them as mystical creatures who look out for Earth dwellers. Some say everybody has a guardian angel.

So what of U2 and their lyrical references to these winged entites? What does Bono think of their place in the world?

Angel of Harlem

We should start with an obvious one, Angel of Harlem. Featuring a wicked guitar rhythm, the song is U2's homage to the jazz legend that was Billie Holiday.  She is the Lady Day the song refers to and her spirit is considered to be the Angel of Harlem.

The song also acknowledges New York City-area landmarks, including JFK airport, WBLS radio and Harlem. It also refers to John Coltrane and A Love Supreme, Birdland club, Miles Davis.

If God will send his angels.

Probably the most obvious song for the point of this essay. One of the few truly good U2 songs from the Pop album, the song was made popular by being on the soundtrack to the City of Angels film that starred Nic Cage and Meg Ryan. This film was a remake of sorts of a Wim Wenders film - which U2 trainspotters may note that Wim is a great fan and friend of U2 and several of their songs have graced the soundtrack to his movies. 

Stay (Faraway, So Close!

Speaking of Wim Wenders, Stay was used in the Wenders film Faraway, So Close!. Originally intended to be a song for Frank Sinatra, Stay features one of the best lyrics Bono has ever written which us sued to some up the story being told in the song "Just the bang and the clatter as an angel runs to ground".

Wim Wenders also directed U2's promotional video for the song. Wim used ideas from his movies to tell the story of U2's members acting as guardian angels over the band who were actually performing the song in the video.

Bullet the Blue Sky

The classic track from The Joshua Tree album, it is a discussion of dirty American politics at play. Featuring the line "Jacob wrestles the angel but the angel was overcome" this is a reference to Genesis from the Christian Bible. At that time Jacob was said to have actually met an angel of God.

The lyric seems to be suggesting that the conflicts Bono is sing about, such as war in El Salavador are beat out God. It's almost the classic, if God exists, why is there evil in the world argument.

There are some other songs too - Deep in the HeartTrip through your wires and Oh, Berlin which was found in the vaults an released as part of the Achtung Baby re-issue.

Finally, while the word angel does not appear in Lucier's Hands  Lucifer himself is said to be a fallen angel. The song is found on the deluxe version of Songs of Innocence.

Instrument Flying lyrics by U2

Instrument Flying lyrics by U2

Civilization lyrics by U2

Civilization lyrics by U2

Red Flag Day lyrics by U2

Red Flag Day lyrics by U2