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.


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.

'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.

'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 (Much More Better) 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." Which sounds fair as most U2 lyrics are about subjects other than the band (Bono has written a lot about his mom and dad though!)

Sure it isn't Bono! There's no way U2 can pull out some Rubber Soul magic at this point in their career, they've already had Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree success! Right?

Bono also made a tellingly contradictory comment on the lyrical meaning of the song  in an interview he gave to Rolling Stone Magazine, prior to the release of the Song of Experience album,:

"There's a song called "The Showman" which is a letter to our audience, it's kind of about performers and how you shouldn't trust them too much. It's about me, haha."

Which just like the line in the song about trusting singers, you can't trust Bono when he is waxing lyrical!

The Showman (Much More Better) 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

I lie for a living, I love to let on but you make it true when you sing along?

Some other titles of songs mentioned by Bono include: 
You're The Best Thing About Me was the first single to be released from the Songs of Experience album.

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.


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.


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 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 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.


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?

10 songs that show Bono's lyrical qualities

10 songs that show Bono's lyrical qualities
What rhymes with achtung?

10 songs that show Bono's lyrical qualities

The one thing that truly stands out for me when thinking about the brilliance of U2 is not their songs, the drums, or riffs.

Nor is it the hype and hyperbole of one of the world's most popular bands.

It's simply Bono's lyrics.

Bono has written the vast majority of U2's lyrics and in many of them you can find some true gems of penmanship, little sparkles of lyrical bliss that took a good song and put it into the territory of musical greatness.

I suggest that while some non U2 fans take any chance to diss Bono, they would be really grumpy buggers if they denied that Bono was a great lyricist.

Like a good poet, Bono's lyrics feature a whole range of subjects - love and loss, drugs, faith, faith in drugs, gods, Elvis and other monsters and of course, politics and its prisoners.

This work leaves ample room for an inquiry into U2's lyrics, especially when The Edge chips in the odd song.

So what are Bono's best lyrical moments and qualities? 

What's his inspiration for putting pen to paper?

What makes Bono's lyrics so well received by millions of listeners and readers around the world?

I can't speak for anyone else but I thought I could share 10 U2 songs which I think highlight Bono's mastery of his craft.

Some things are simply clever word plays, others are stories of delight and irony - a thing which Bono and the boys were very heavy on in the 1990's.

Trabants on stage anyone?

10 songs that show Bono's lyrical qualities


Perhaps second only to With Or Without you in terms of popularity, it is arguably U2's finest song and I believe the lyrics are what make this so - I think this is because it's one of those songs where the lyrics can mean anything and everything to anyone.

At work last week a manager did a pop quiz and asked what this song was about. The answers varied from 'it's about a gay couple' or 'two torn lovers'.

I think Bono's actually on record in the U2 by U2 book as One being a song about a couple that's breaking up.

But that doesn't matter as its words are universal and have been taken to heart by so many U2 fans - indeed some have even had it as their wedding song which I'm sure would be a delicious irony for Bono. 

The Wanderer

"They say they want the kingdom but they don't want God in it".

I think that's Bono perfectly capturing the wishes of so many of us.

We want the nice things, but aren't prepared to put in the effort.

Or something.

For me, The Wanderer always seemed like some post apocalyptic dream - and it's perhaps a sign of a great song where it allows you to shape your own thoughts and fantasies around it (well when Bono mentions the 'atomic sky', that's nice nudge).

Indeed, the whole of Zooropa's lyrics seem to take me to a strange other world, where in some places it's OK to feel numb or taste the lemon but spit out antifreeze.

Original of the Species

The title is suggestive of what's to come in this song, a play on Darwin's epic work about evolution - the song's lyrics are possibly a father looking at his daughter's own evolution from - child to woman.

The second half is more likely Bono singing to his wife (and the message in the first half could also before her) - either way both, themes are heartwarming.

If God Will Send His Angels

'Blind leading the blond' is perhaps my favourite U2 lyric ever. It's just a cleverly simply play on words.

Bono does that trick a fair bit in the Pop album - an almost too cute example is from The Playboy Mansion which opens with the lyric "If Coke is a mystery, and Micheal Jackson, history...".

It was a nice play on the failing career of Jackson and a play on the name of his Greatest Hits album.

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Bono defiantly wears this song's lyrics on his sleeve.

A song about soldiers shooting civilians in Northern 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.

Featuring a fine use of  a marching drum beat by Larry Mullen, the song's chorus is a defining moment for Bono - it was one of U2's first truly popular 'classic' songs and it many ways this song defined U2 as a band that could carry some political weight.

U2 would return to this theme with "Please" and "The Troubles".

Until the End of the World

"In my dream I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows, they learned to swim
Surrounding me, going down on me
Spilling over the brim

Waves of regret and waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy
You, you said you'd wait
'Til the end of the world"

Simply one of Bono's finest song writing moments.

Water is commonly used as a metaphor life yet here's Bono drowning in his sorrows.

The song can be seen as a obvious story about how Judas betrayed Jesus and thus seen as one of those "U2 going on about God and spiritually" type songs but as with all good lyrics they can mean anything.

I tend to see this one more of a dramatic break up between two lovers where the relationship perhaps has been bit one sided.

The Wanderer

"They say they want the kingdom but they don't want God in it". I think that's Bono perfectly capturing the wishes of so many of us.

We want the nice things, but aren't prepared to put in the effort.

For me, The Wanderer always seemed like some post apocalyptic dream - and it's perhaps a sign of a great song where it allows you to shape your own thoughts and fantasies around it (well when Bono mentions the 'atomic sky', that's nice nudge).

Indeed, the whole of Zooropa's lyrics seem to take me to a  strange other world, where in some places it's OK to feel numb or taste the lemon but spit out antifreeze.

U2 playing live onstage

Not a hugely popular song on release as a single but I think time has shown that Please was a fine song from U2's Pop album.

Lyrically it was a political plea, invoking the captains of Irish politics to sort their messes out.

The listener would perhaps know the song had political connotations if they had seen the cover which featured Gerry Adams and other elected leaders - however this stanza effectively leaves no stone unturned as Bono thows a rock in the air to hit home the issues:

Your Catholic blues, your convent shoes
Your stick-on tattoos, now they're making the news
Your holy war, your northern star
Your sermon on the mount from the boot of your car

Strong stuff from an album many people were quick to write off.

One could be forgiven for thinking that Get on Your Boots was simply a throw away song by U2 ( indeed one wonders why they released it as the first single from No Line on the Horizon when Magnificent probably would have given them a hit single) however the lyrics of this song run deep.

Almost a stream of consciousness, tripping through it's seemingly nonsensical words but when Bono writes "I don’t want to talk about the wars between the nations" he's saying everything or just burying his head in the sand?

This is Bono's finest love letter he has ever written.

The closing from Rattle and Hum is simply a man tell a woman how he loves her - it's perhaps not the happiest song with undertones suggesting things may have gone awry - indeed the tremendous coda at the end suggests a passionate love affair being ripped apart by uncaring forces.

A good lyric deserves a fine musical backing and All I Want is You has it in spades.


So that was my attempt to highlight some of the fine lyrical qualities and charms that Bono and U2 have to offer.

Of course with any interpretation of songs, the whole exercise is a subjective journey, indeed a musical journey that could have stopped at a completely different set of songs.

Bono is a bit of a lyrical magpie.

He steals lines from the bible and riffs on the work of others (such as when he tried to write a sequel of sorts to John Lennon's 'God') to make his point. But he does that and gets his unique messages across to the listener very well.

If someone hasn't already printed a book featuring all of U2's lyrics, they surely will as they serve as some fine literature in their own right. Throw in some politcal rallying and a little love making and there's a best seller book of poetry on your hands....

What are your favourite lyrical moments from U2?

How many Grammy Awards have U2 won?

list of U2's Grammy Ward winning songs

What number of Grammy Awards has U2 won?

When you're a band that makes music as good as U2, the rewards and accolades soon start to come your way. So much so, that the moment you hit big, you also hit big with Grammy Awards.

The most coveted of all music prizes, the Grammy Awards are the true measure of success. If they give one to Michael Jackson, you should want one too.

And funnily enough, U2 have won more Grammy's than Wacko Jacko who took 13.

How many? In total, it's 22.

Here's a list of all the Grammy Awards U2 have won, most recent to first.  


Album Of The Year
How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb

Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own

Best Rock Song
City Of Blinding Lights

Best Rock Album
How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb

Song Of The Year
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own


Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal

Best Rock Song

Best Short Form Music Video


Record Of The Year
Walk On

Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal
Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of

Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal

Best Rock Album
All That You Can't Leave Behind


Record Of The Year
Beautiful Day

Song Of The Year
Beautiful Day

Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal
Beautiful Day


Best Music Video, Long Form


Best Alternative Music Album


Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal
Achtung Baby


Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal

Best Performance Music Video
Where The Streets Have No Name


Album Of The Year
The Joshua Tree

U2 have also won a Golden Globe Award for their song, 'The Hands that built America' which was used on the soundtrack to Martin Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York film.

U2 have been nominated for two Oscars for Best Original song being The Hands That Built America and also for 'Ordinary Love'. The latter song was inspired by Nelson Mandela and was included on the Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. movie. Neither song won the gong!

How many number one albums has U2 had?

List of U2 number one studio albums

List of U2's number one studio albums 

When you look back at U2's career thus far you can really get an appreciation for all their albums. Starting out as unknown band from Ireland, album by album U2 grew in popularity in the UK and after relentless touring in America U2 made it big with the number one album, The Joshua Tree.

They then have a clear 'middle period' where they went a bit experimental and then returning to their more classic roots beginning with All That You Can't Leave Behind.

So how many number one albums have U2 had?

There are several ways of cutting this as their are so many countries that U2 had number ones in (does a NZ #1 count if you're an American?) so lets do it first by the United Kingdom and then America.

List of U2 number one studio albums from the United Kingdom

So U2 have had 9 number one studio albums on the UK charts. That's not the most though. The Beatles, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie and the Rolling Stones have done as good or better.

Incredibly, Achtung Baby only hit number 2 on the charts. Songs of Innocence made it to number 6 - a very strong showing because U2 released it for free to I-tunes as part of a distribution deal with Apple.

The Joshua Tree has been U2's best selling album, moving approximately 2.8 million copies, making it the 36th most popular selling album of all time. The most popular? Queen's Greatest Hits.

If you were wondering about singles hitting the Top of the Pops, U2 have had 7 UK number ones.
  So, crossing the Atlantic, lets look at how U2's albums have fared in the American Billboard charts.

How many America number one albums has U2 had?

Here's the list of albums that cracked the top of Billboard:
In total U2 have had 8 American number one albums. U2 have a long way to go if they want to catch the Beatles who have had a staggering 19 number one albums! 

If you are wondering about Original Soundtracks Vol 1, don't fret. It's not an official U2 album at all and it's more properly considered a side project with Brian Eno and a supporting list of singers such as Pavarotti. 

It didn't trouble the world wide charts too much either - the highest charting point was number 9 in New Zealand! It made it to 12 in the UK and 76 on the US Billboard charts.