Bono's deeply personal song lyrics about Mothers and Fathers

U2 songs with themes about Mothers and Fathers

All good songwriters 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 and Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin.

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

Bono, U2's enigmatic frontman, frequently threads the theme of motherhood into his lyrics, often drawing from his own experience of losing his mother at a young age. This personal tragedy has infused U2's music with an undercurrent of longing, loss, and the search for feminine strength and comfort. In songs like "I Will Follow" from their debut album "Boy," Bono explores the profound impact of his mother's death, conveying both the pain of loss and the enduring influence she had on his life. 

The song captures a sense of devotion and a deep emotional connection that transcends physical absence. 

His ability to weave these deeply personal narratives into the band's music speaks to the universal nature of loss and the enduring power of a mother's influence, making these songs resonate with listeners on a deeply emotional level.

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


Mofo was the 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. Bono would later refer to his mother again in Iris (Hold Me Close) from Songs of Innocence.

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.

The song is a poignant reflection on the universal pain of mothers who have lost their children to political violence. Bono's use of maternal themes in his lyrics not only provides a window into his personal grief and healing but also serves as a homage to the strength and resilience of mothers everywhere. 
sometimes you can't make it on your own

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 channelling 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 The First Time hints at 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 latter 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. 

Dirty Day from the same album features a line from Bono of which is Dad used to say "I don't know you and you don't know the half of it", "No blood is thicker than ink", "Nothing's as simple as you think", and "It won't last kissing time."

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.

Songs of...  parents

U2's journey through their last two albums, "Songs of Innocence" (2014) and "Songs of Experience" (2017), offers a profound narrative arc that encapsulates themes of youth, maturation, loss, and reflection. These albums are not just collections of songs but a diptych, where each complements and contrasts with the other, mirroring William Blake's thematic exploration in his poems "Songs of Innocence and of Experience." U2's exploration in these albums is deeply personal, reflecting their own lives, the environment they grew up in, and the poignant experiences of losing parents.

"Songs of Innocence," released in 2014, serves as a retrospective journey into the band's youth in Dublin. The album is an introspective examination of their early life experiences, touching on their upbringing in Ireland's tumultuous sociopolitical landscape. Songs like "Cedarwood Road" and "Iris (Hold Me Close)" are particularly illustrative of this theme. "Iris," named after Bono's mother who passed away when he was just 14, is an emotional centerpiece of the album. 

It's not just a tribute, but a conduit through which Bono explores the lasting impact of that loss and how it shaped his worldview and artistry. Similarly, "Cedarwood Road," named after the street Bono grew up on, is a reflection on his childhood environment, offering insights into the formative experiences that influenced the band members' lives and the socio-political undercurrents of Ireland that they were exposed to.

In contrast, "Songs of Experience," released three years later, is a more contemplative work, looking at life from the vantage point of maturity. This album reflects on themes of mortality, legacy, and the wisdom gained through experience. It's a continuation and a response to the innocence depicted in the previous album. Songs like "The Little Things That Give You Away" and "13 (There is a Light)" demonstrate a more reflective and philosophical approach. The former delves into the complexities of life and relationships, acknowledging the small details that can have profound impacts. "13 (There is a Light)" can be seen as a thematic sequel to "Song for Someone" from "Songs of Innocence," offering a message of hope and resilience, a light that continues to shine despite life's challenges and losses, including the loss of parents.

The lyrical journey in these albums is not just a personal reflection for U2 but also serves as a universal exploration of human experiences. The band effectively weaves their personal narratives with broader themes, making these albums not only a reflection of their journey but also relatable to anyone who has experienced the innocence of youth and the wisdom that comes with age and experience. The portrayal of Ireland, not just as a physical location but as a canvas of their formative years, adds a rich, cultural layer to their narrative, embedding their personal stories within the larger tapestry of Irish history and social dynamics.

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

'Song For Someone' song lyrics by U2

Song For Someone lyrics by U2

Song for Someone is a song from U2's album, Songs of Innocence.

It is one of the more 'soft' songs on the album but features a big rousing chorus and is one of the best tracks from the album.

Produced by Ryan Tedder and Flood (Flood, you may recall did production duties on the Grammy Award winning Zooropa and was around in The Joshua Tree era).

The meaning of the song is that it is a love song written by Bono for his wife Ali (refer The Sweetest Thing).

song for someone lyrics by U2

Song for Someone lyrics:

You got a face not spoiled by beauty
I have some scars from where I’ve been
You’ve got eyes that can see right through me
You’re not afraid of anything you’ve seen
I was told that I would feel nothing the first time
I don’t know how these cuts heal
But in you I found a rhyme

If there is a light
You can’t always see
And there is a world
We can’t always be
If there is a dark
That we shouldn’t doubt
And there is a light
Don’t let it go out

And this is a song
A song for someone
This is a song
A song for someone

You let me into a conversation
A conversation only we could make
You break and enter my imagination
Whatever’s in there
It’s yours to take
I was told I’d feel nothing the first time
You were slow to heal
But this could be the night

If there is a light
You can’t always see
And there is a world
We can’t always be
If there is a dark
Within and without
And there is a light
Don’t let it go out

And this is a song
A song for someone
This is a song
A song for someone

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

And I’m a long way
From your hill of Calvary
And I’m a long way
From where I was and where I need to be
If there is a light
You can’t always see
There is a world
We can’t always be
If there is a kiss
I stole from your mouth
And there is a light
Don’t let it go out

Here's an impressive video that goes with the song. Featuring future Star Wars actor, Woody Allen and his daughter Zoe it follows the tale of a man being released from prison.

The song is an introspective piece that showcases the band's talent for blending personal storytelling with universal themes. This song, like many others on the album, is rooted in the band's early experiences, yet it resonates with broader themes of love, hope, vulnerability, and the transformative power of music.

At its heart, "Song for Someone" is a love song, but its simplicity belies a deeper exploration of the complexities of relationships and emotional connection. The lyrics, "You got a face not spoiled by beauty, I have some scars from where I've been," suggest a relationship grounded in reality and acceptance, one that acknowledges imperfections and past hardships. This line reflects a maturity in understanding love, moving away from idealized notions to a more grounded, realistic appreciation of human connection.

The song also delves into the theme of hope and the redemptive power of love. The chorus, "If there is a light, you can’t always see, and there is a world, we can’t always be, If there is a dark, that we shouldn’t doubt, and there is a light, don’t let it go out," serves as a metaphorical beacon of hope. It suggests that even in moments of darkness or uncertainty, the presence of love (the light) offers guidance and reassurance. This message is particularly poignant considering the band's history, as they have often used their music to offer solace and inspiration in times of personal and collective trials.

Vulnerability is another key theme in "Song for Someone." The openness in the lyrics, where Bono sings about revealing his inner self to someone else, is a powerful statement about the strength found in vulnerability. It challenges the conventional notion that vulnerability is a weakness, instead portraying it as a crucial component of deep, meaningful relationships.

The transformative power of music itself is subtly woven into the song. As the title suggests, this is a "song for someone," implying a personal dedication or message conveyed through music. This theme resonates with the larger narrative of "Songs of Innocence," where music is depicted as a powerful medium for expression, connection, and processing experiences.

Check out the lyrics to The Miracle which is also from Songs of Innocence.

U2 songs that reference nuclear bombs and other horrors

U2 are known for their political views and agitation to get policy change but whereas like a band like Rage Against the Machine would be all in your face – U2 are just as obvious but less angry – their last tour featured members of Amnesty International coming out on stage during Walk On – a song dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burman political prisoner and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

U2's engagement with themes of nuclear war and weapon disarmament, particularly evident during the tense era of the Cold War, underscores their commitment to addressing global concerns through their music. The band's approach to these themes is a reflection of the prevailing anxieties and debates surrounding nuclear proliferation and the potential for catastrophic conflict. 

U2's lyrics often weave a narrative that captures the fear and existential threat posed by nuclear weapons, serving as a voice for peace and disarmament in a world brimming with geopolitical tensions.

u2 protesting nuclear power plant

The band's exploration of these themes is more than just a commentary on global politics; it's an emotional plea for sanity and survival in the nuclear age. Their songs communicate the urgency of disarmament and the need to redirect human efforts towards peace and cooperation. This messaging is particularly resonant given the band's rise to prominence during a time when the threat of nuclear war loomed large in public consciousness. 

U2 also once famously protested against the Sellafeild nuclear plant by colluding with Greenpeace to stage an event on a beach near the site that was contaminated with radiation as the result of the power plant’s activities.

As far as I can figure the earliest U2 song lyrics that refers to atomic bombs is from the non album single, Celebration where Bono sarcastically shares that he believes in the following three things:

“I believe in the third world war
I believe in the atomic bomb
I believe in the powers that be but they won't overpower me”

That was as far back as 1982.

Seconds from the popular War album is another early U2 songs to make direct references to atomic bombs

“And they're doing the atomic bomb
Do they know where the dance comes from
Yes, they're doing the atomic bomb
They want you to sing along

Bono said to the NME music magazine in 1983 of the song:

 "There is a line in 'Seconds' about a fanatic assembling a nuclear device in an apartment in Times Square, New York, but it could be anywhere. We are now entering the age of nuclear terrorism where a group of fanatics could have the capabilities of bringing a bomb into a city and holding millions of people to ransom."

The Unforgettable Fire was released in 1984 in a time when the world was worrying itself sick about the arms race between the US and the Russians. Bono was inspired by a collection of paintings collectively known as The Unforgettable Fire which was a reference to atomic bombs being dropped in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Ngagasaki. 

Says the Edge of the art display (in the book U2: Into the Heart: The Stories Behind Every Song) "the image of that purging quality, coupled with the insight it gave into the horror of nuclear holocaust, stuck in Bono's mind".

It is perhaps ironic that the lyrics to song The Unforgettable Fire do not reference anything nuclear or atomic!

The Wanderer, featuring country and western legend Johnny Cash from the Zooropa album was definitely suggestive of being set in a post apocalyptic world set under an 'atomic sky'. Lyrically it featured a character that appeared to be struggling to find some kind of spiritual identity.

Another U2 album title also referred to atomic bombs in a most direct fashion – How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb was a popular album that had a bonus track Fast Cars which gave the answer to the album’s question – one dismantles an atomic bomb with love.

Through these songs, U2 not only raises awareness about the dangers of nuclear weapons and the need for disarmament but also encourages their listeners to contemplate the moral and ethical implications of war. Their approach to these themes is not didactic; rather, it invites reflection and dialogue, contributing to a broader discourse on peace and global security. U2's songs about nuclear war and disarmament underscore the band's role as not just musicians but also as global citizens deeply invested in the pursuit of a more peaceful world.

U2's ability to articulate the collective fears and hopes of their generation, and to advocate for a world free of nuclear weapons, demonstrates their role not just as entertainers, but as global activists using their platform to inspire change and provoke thought on critical issues. Their contribution to the discourse on nuclear disarmament highlights the power of music as a tool for social and political engagement, resonating with audiences worldwide and lending a voice to the movement for global peace.

Are there any other U2 lyrics that refer to nuclear issues?

Check out this other article that discusses Bono's lyric writing abilities