U2's songs inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.

List of U2's songs inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.

U2's The Unforgettable Fire was their break-through album which gave them a taste of success in America before they went supernova with The Joshua Tree. A key part of that was the first single, Pride which stormed up the charts.

The single struck a minor chord as listeners quickly realised the song was about Martin Luther King, the man who had a dream that America would be come a country where everyone was considered equal.

The album also featured a second song, MLK, which was a poignant end to the album.

These two songs were part of Bono's burgeoning interest in American history and the civil struggles black people face(d). U2 would later explore more of America's 'blues' in Rattle and Hum.

Pride (In the name of love)


This song was a fairly political piece written by Bono about rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. It is one of the U2's most recognized songs and is frequently played live.

Pride was major commercial success for the band and has since come to be regarded as one of the band's best songs. It was named the 378th greatest song by Rolling Stone Magazine on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Pride's lyrical theme was originally intended to be about US President Ronald Reagan's pride in America's military power but Bono was ultimately influenced by Stephen B. Oates's book Let The Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and a biography of Malcolm X.

"MLK"


We trust you get what MLK stands for.

The other song from The Unforgettable Fire album that references the American civil rights proponent.

Sang as a dreamy lullaby of sorts, its lyrics suggest that the following generations will be able to sleep easy following the hard work of Luther.

 I think what Bono is meaning is that they can dream now that Luther's own 'American dream' has in many ways been and continues to be realised.

'The Best Thing About You Is Me' U2 song lyrics

U2's 'The Best Thing About You Is Me' song lyrics from Songs of Experience. 


A song mentioned by Bono as being a contender for making it to the final track list of the new Songs of Experience album. Is it better known as The Best Thing About Me is You, which seems more romantic....

'The Best Thing About You Is Me' song lyrics by U2

Will be published when the song is released as part of the Songs of Experience album.

Some other titles of songs mentioned by Bono for the Songs of Experience album include:
  1. The Little Things that give you away
  2. Red Flag Day
  3. The Showman
  4. Summer of Love

'Summer of Love' song lyrics by U2

U2's Summer of Love song lyrics by U2 from Songs of Experience

U2's Summer of Love song lyrics by U2 from Songs of Experience


A song named by Bono thought to be making an appearance on the Songs of Experience album. 

'Summer of Love' song lyrics by U2

Will be published when the song is released as part of the Songs of Experience album.


Some other titles of songs mentioned by Bono for the Songs of Experience album include: 

'Red Flag Day' lyrics by U2

'Red Flag Day' lyrics by U2

'Red Flag Day' lyrics by U2 from Songs of Experience


Red Flag Day's lyrics have been described by Bono as being inspired by the Syrian the refugee crisis in Europe.

U2's Red Flag Day song lyrics:

Will be published when the song is released as part of the Songs of Experience album.

Some other titles of songs mentioned by Bono include: 

"The Showman" lyrics by U2

U2's The Showman lyrics

U2's The Showman lyrics from Songs of Experience

Bono has said of the song, "It's like something from Rubber Soul," he says. "It's about singers. It's not me." 

Sure it isn't Bono!

The Showman lyrics


Bono has revealed 4 lines from the song:

The showman give you front row to his heart
The shaman prays that his heartache will chart
Making a spectacle of falling apart
Is the heart of the show

Some other titles of songs mentioned by Bono include: 

U2 songs which reference the Troubles of Ireland

Northen Scum beanie worn by The Edge.

U2, Ireland and the IRA - songs that explore 'The Troubles'


‘The Troubles’ is a common name for the Northern Ireland conflict which spanned generations as Ireland nearly destroyed itself as divisions along political and religious lines wrestled with each other’s version of how Ireland should be governed.

In general terms, Catholic Nationalists and Unionist Protestants found themselves engaged in a brutal war where car bombings and ‘knee-cappings’ became the norm. Paramilitary units such as those of the IRA killed with impunity and the British Army became a standard presence in the streets.

Many innocent civilians died as a result of some 1300 bombings, not to forget attacks on British soldiers.

There are no surprises then for guessing why U2 called their third album War.

Larry, Adam, Bono and The Edge all grew up in this era. They were children subjected and exposed to

Edge’s Northern Scum hat

The Edge has said that their songs are are ‘against violence as a tool for politics of any kind’

Let's start with arguably the most famous U2 song about Ireland.

'Sunday Bloody Sunday' from War


The song's lyrics describe the horror felt by Bono’s character of who has been observing  the Troubles. In particular, they are focusing on the 1972 Bloody Sunday incident in Derry where British troops shot and killed unarmed civil rights protesters and bystanders. The lyrics juxtaposed this terrible day in history with the murder of Jesus Christ on the cross. 

The song thus commemorates the slaughter of innocent civilians during the Irish troubles. While not a 'rebel song' it is a call for a rejection of violence.

This song became very popular and helped draw attention to the issues. As the band's popular grew, they used it to campaign against the Irish Republican Army's (IRA) efforts to raise money to fuel continued armed conflict.

This lead to the  IRA sending a threat to U2 that if they continued their campaign, they would be kidnapped. U2 continued anyway and continued to bring attention to the Troubles.

What's very interesting about the IRA getting upset about a single pop song was the fact that the original lyrics contained the line '"Don't talk to me about the rights of the IRA, UDA'. Written by the Edge, the band as a whole felt such lyrics might be too inflammatory and where changed.

This bit of self editing actually made the song better.

As the song became more popular, some listeners interpreted the song's meaning as being a call to draw the Irish people deeper into the sectarian battle. This was clearly an incorrect analysis of the song's lyrics and intent. 

Once that issue was recognised by the band, Bono would often introduce the song with the as not being a 'rebel song'. If you listen to the live version recorded on the Live at Red Rocks album Bono says, "There's been a lot of talk about this next song, this song is not a rebel song, this song is Sunday Bloody Sunday!"

Some people thought the song was actually glorifying the Troubles and calling them deeper into the country's sectarian battle. On many occasions since its release on 1983's War, Bono has made it clear that this is not a "rebel song" or a song of the "revolution," but a song that defiantly waves the white flag for peace. 

The inspiration for this song may also have in part been due to John Lennon releasing his own song in 1972 also called Sunday Bloody Sunday about the Derry slaughter. Lennon's lyrics were full of vitriol (mostly aimed at the British government) and hugely antagonistic.

'Please' from the Pop album


Please was in our opinion, one of the best songs from the Pop album.

This song’s lyrics are blatantly about the troubles in Ireland. As the song slowly builds, Bono paints the picture, coloring the world in terms of religion and war colliding to the point where bombs are left in cars and as they are set up, that are the ‘sermon from the mount'. 
u2 Please single cover of Gerry Adams
Please single cover

The single cover for this song features the pictures of four Northern Irish politicians — Gerry Adams, David Trimble, Ian Paisley, and John Hume in a pointed effort to draw attention to the issues.

This photo was a direct message to the political leaders of the Irish people to ‘get up of their knees’ and hasten the peace process which were grinding along slowly – to which Bono pointedly states ‘October, talk getting nowhere November, December Remember, are we just starting again’.

Bono also cleverly entwines the songs meaning to be ‘about a girl’ – so much so that if you aren’t paying clear attention to his words, you could be duped into thinking the song is simply a love song about an explosive relationship. 

In many ways, Please is the sound of a U2 growing up from their Sunday Bloody Sunday era and offering a more grizzled, even more wizened approach to the issue.

Van Dieman's Land from Rattle and Hum



It's not a direct reference to The Troubles but Van Dieman's Land is an odd song dedicated to a Fenian poet named John Boyle O'Reilly, who was deported to Australia because of his bad poetry or more likely, his political leanings as espoused in the poetry. 

Fenian is a coverall word used to describe the Fenian Brotherhood and Irish Republican Brotherhood and more generally these days as anything Irish.

The song's lyrics were written and sung by U2's The Edge

'Peace on Earth' from All That You Can't Leave Behind


Described by the Edge as "the most bitter song U2 has ever written", Peace on Earth is yet another response by U2 to the Omagah bombing in Northern Ireland on 15 August 1989. The bomb set by a splinter IRD group known as the Real Irish Republican Army killed 29 people and injured a couple of hundred other persons.

The bomb was to express disagreement with the IRD’s formal ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement which was a plan to forge a path to peace.

Bono refers to the names of some of the people killed in the bombing - Sean, Julia, Gareth, Anne, and Breda. He’s once more expressing his disdain for war and asking Jesus to tell those waging it that their real mission is peace on Earth but more than that, the song serves as a tribute to those that died. That they are bigger than the war that was being waged.

'The Troubles' from Songs of Innocence


"The Troubles", was described by Bono as "an uncomfortable song about domestic violence". 

Bono is being somewhat cute with this statement as while domestic violence is often used to describe violence that can occur in the family home, Bono is also probably referring to The Troubles as being the domestic violence of Ireland and the clue to this is the deliberate title of the song.

If the song is seen context with the album it came from, it's very relevant to the actual Troubles. Songs of Innocence was about Bono and his band mates growing up and living during the actual Troubles. To include a song about domestic violence on the album and not have it also be a consideration of the troubles would be disingenuous of Bono.

It will be very interesting to if Bono incorporates any of these issues into his lyrics on Songs of Experience. 

U2 lyrics that explore Jesus, Yahweh and The Good Book

Lyrics from the Bible that U2 use

U2 lyrics that explore Jesus, Yahweh and the Bible


It seems almost obligatory to do a post on U2's spiritual side. They are perhaps the world's most popular Christian band after all!

 I say Christian very loosely though as for some people that kind of connotation can turn them right off  but U2's is most definitely a band that is not shy of exploring their spiritual lyrical side.

Bono, U2's main lyric writer, is a noted musical magpie that steals lines from the Bible to help with his song crafting. Indeed, here's a whole page of bible references Bono has made across the U2 song catalogue.

You could almost put U2's song lyrics into two distinct camps - songs about spirituality and songs about politics (such as nuclear war). You could throw in a third camp about of U2's love songs if you wanted but since when has love not ever been spiritual or a matter of politics?

Jesus is a popular man in U2 songs, along with mentions of Yahweh, the references to the Koran and a few other Saints - so I thought  I'd feature a few U2 song lyrics that show case Bono's spiritual side and give a little insight into what I think the lyrics mean and perhaps give a little context on the genesis of some of them...

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For


Many people suddenly found themselves to be U2 fans in the late 80s when The Joshua Tree album started topping charts around the world.

Helping lead the charge was I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For which is the gold standard if you are looking for a U2 song that focuses on a spiritual yearning. 

Stealing the line from the Bible's 1 Corinthians 13:1: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal."

Bono sung  "I have spoken with the tongue of angels" thus heralding to the world where he was coming from yet he then signalled his mischievous side with the following lyric that he had also 'held the hand of the Devil'.

Wake Up Dead Man


In tough times people often turn to their spiritual advisor for support - Wake Up Dead Man is Bono trying to get a direct line with Jesus to come and fix "the fucked up world'.

Originally written during the Zooropa recording sessions, the final version ended up on Pop as an effective album closer.

Fun aside, Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me also came from the Zooropa recording sessions and asks a question of Jesus.

Yahweh


A beautiful track from U2's How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, Yahweh's lyrics are a reflection of Bono's faith (as the son of a Catholic father and an Anglican mother) and points to the differences in the power that he believes between God and mankind. 

The word 'yahweh' has traditionally been by transliterated from the word Jehovah. Jehovah is often described as "the proper name of God in the Old Testament".

Larry, Bono, Edge and Adam, hold the bike while I get on?

Sunday Bloody Sunday


Ostensibly a song about the political troubles that have face the people of Ireland, its inspiration was a couple of events where soldiers shot civilians in Northen Ireland - the lyrics capture the moment crisply by invoking a cross fire between religion and the military (and by extension the State) and the sad consequences when both collide. 

Until the End of the World


This has proved to be an incredibly popular song from U2's Achtung Baby and has been played on just about every tour U2 have done since that album was released in 1991.

It is semi legendary in U2 fan circles for being a fictional conversation between Jesus and Judas following the betrayal in the garden of Gethsemane. The lyrics hint that Judas regretted his actions and committed suicide.

Tommorrow


A classic earnest lyric from Bono. The October album was definitely Bono on 'God Watch' -  exploring his thoughts around his mother's death and the spectre of meeting Jesus.

Stranger in a Strange Land


The entire lyrics of the song appear to be making an allusion to the Emmaus story from the Bible's Luke 24, where the newly risen from the dead Jesus appears to two disciples as a complete stranger, but miraculously cannot be recognized until he offers bread to the two disciples who have invited him into their abode.


It's hard to discern the actual message of this song. The lyrics possibly suggest the character is living in a world where they need some help and they need some angels to come and sort things out.

The line "where is the hope, and where is the faith, and the love?" hints at a lost soul that needs some guidance in light of a world they are concerned about such one where the cartoon network leads into the news and the blind lead the blondes.

The song featured on the City of Angels soundtrack and was a fairly popular single from the Pop album.

Salome


Salome is inspired the story of the death of John the Baptist which was from the gospel of Mark.

Supposedly a seductive dancer (in the modern day she'd be known as a stripper) Salome's super gyrations convinced the King to grant her a wish to which she asked for the head of John.

Pretty random story and sounds like something that got lost in translation when the Bible got rewritten. It's either that or Oscar Wilde had an over active imagination.

These eight songs where only a taste of the many songs that Bono has imbued with lyrics that refer to the Bible or have looked into an 'ecumenical' matter of sorts - Gloria for example could probably have a whole essay written about it.

What other songs do you think show U2's spiritual side? What do they mean for you?

What is Bono's 'Dream Out Loud' Lyric all about?


What is Bono's 'Dream Out Loud' Lyric all about?


Keen listeners to U2 might have heard Bono sing the lyric 'dream out loud' on a few U2 songs.

Here's a brief run down on what those songs are.

Lucky fans who attended the Love Town Tour in the late 80's might have head Bono first ad lib the line into the live set.

A couple of years later after U2 dreamt it all up again, Achtung Baby's Acrobat featured the lyrics:

"And you can dream
So dream out loud
And don't let the bastards grind you down"

In this case dreaming out loud would appear to be the exercise of getting on with getting your dreams and schemes accomplished.

The coda in the title track of "Zooropa" repeated "dream out loud" as a kind of mantra, which Bono supposedly included as a direct reference to "Acrobat". Given the Zooropa album is often considered a cousin or companion album to Achtung Baby, it's a nice little link that Bono made.

In the Pop era 'dream out loud' was spoken by Bono in the PopMart: Live from Mexico City video.

Finally, dream out load was was also used in the b-side to Beautiful Day in the song "Always'

"Get down off your holy cloud,
always God will not deal with the proud, always
Well if you dream then dream out loud, always
Eternally yours, always"

I think that's it - any other references in his lyrics that Bono has made?

Bono's deeply personal song lyrics about Mothers and Fathers



U2 songs about Mothers and Fathers


All good song writers tap their family tree for lyrical inspiration now and then.

There's been plenty of popular songs that feature lyrics about parents and their children.

A classic example is Cat Steven's Father and Son.

It's with no great surprise then that Bono has chosen to reveal insights to his feeling about his family in a few of U2's songs.

Here's some thoughts about a selected few...

Mofo


Mofo was sixth single flogged from the supposedly terrible Pop, album the lyrics in part refer to Bono's beloved mother, whom he lost at the age of fourteen.


Mothers of the Disappeared


The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, is a unique organization of Argentine women who have become human rights activists in order to achieve a common goal. For over three long decades, the Mothers have fought for the right to re-unite with their abducted children. It was this work that inspired Bono's lyrics.

Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own


The lyric was written by Bono as a tribute to his father, Bob Hewson, who died in 2001.

Bono sang this at his funeral.

In the video for the song it was prefaced with the following from Bono:

 "My father worked in the post office by day and sang opera by night. We lived on the north side of Dublin in a place called Cedarwood Road. He had a lot of attitude. He gave some to me - and a voice. I wish I'd known him better."

On Your Own song shares similar parental sentiments as found in Kite from the All That You Can't Leave Behind album.

Tommorrow


The October album was definitely Bono on channeling and challenging his spiritual side - Tomorrow sees him exploring his thoughts around his mother's death and the spectre of her possibly meeting Jesus.


A song from the Grammy Award winning album, Zooropa, The first verse of this the First Time hints sentiments of falling in love for the first time or perhaps truly, madly, deeply falling for someone.

The lyric "I have a lover, a lover like no other" suggests the later perhaps is true.

The second verse refers to the love of a brother who would do anything for his sibling - the word brother could easily stand in for friend here as well. 

The final verse talks of the love between a father and son that perhaps has gone sour.

Collectively these three different settings make for a great story and makes you wonder what kind of person is telling this story and how do those elements relate to one another?

Indeed, there's almost a hint of the Prodigal Son story surrounding the entire fabric of the song. 

I believe in Father Christmas


Written by Greg Lake, I Believe in Father Christmas with a view to making a critque about how Christmas had changed from being a celebration of peace on earth and goodwill to all men, into one huge and disgusting orgy or shopping.

Want to know more about some other U2 lyrics? Check out 10 U2 Love Songs.

Dear Bono, why is Everything I Know Wrong? What do you mean?


Dear Bono, why is everything I know wrong? or 10 Questions to ask Bono!


If I had some kind of miracle opportunity to sit down with U2's Bono I'm not sure where I'd start.

Perhaps we'd start with some red wine, I'd compliment him on his efforts to reduce third world debt and make a joke about George Bush or Trump.

I'd then hit him with these 10 questions about U2, their lyrics and get him to explain why he thinks everything I know is wrong.

10 Questions to ask Bono

  1. What does Salmon Rushie think of the almost surprise success of The Ground Beneath her Feet?
  2. Family is important. What's the most important song in the U2 catalog where the lyrics consider family? It's probably the whole of Songs of Innocence right?
  3. What is the worst lyric you have ever written that was recorded. Is it Salome?
  4. Discuss the lyric 'Dream Out Loud'. Why have you written it into three U2 songs?
  5. Do you ever hear 'lepers in your head'?
  6. If U2 had it's own version Fight Club, what would its rules be? And if anyone in the band had to be Robert Paulson, who would it be?
  7. When I was young and impressionable I had a poster on my wall that featured a Zoo TV concert and its said 'Every Thing You Know is Wrong'. To me as a 17 year old teenager that made perfect sense. As a thirty something with a mortgage, I wondering if should have paid more attention in English class. Bono, how do you know everything I know is wrong?
  8. Have you ever punched The Edge?
  9. Have you ever thrown up on stage?
  10. Does it amuse you that the remix of Even Better Then The Real Thing charted higher than the original version?