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.