“Pride (In the Name of Love) [Live]” by U2
(Words: Bono, Music: U2, Album: Rattle and Hum, Island Records 1988)
Early morning, April 4
A shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
The could not take your pride
For many, these words are the most memorable of all of U2’s lyrics and for me, they immediately leap to mind when I think of the band so it is only fitting that today, April 4, I discuss this song. While not my favorite U2 song, it is a good starting point for my relationship with the band.
In the 80s, I grew up with U2. I don’t mean that I was always a big fan and they had a tremendous influence on me the entire decade, but that as I expanded my interests, I began to appreciate them more. For a long time, I couldn’t figure out what the big deal about U2 was: they didn’t have long hair and their songs didn’t even have guitar solos. I listened to my uncle’s Under a Blood Red Sky album over and over and, at the time, got to see the entire concert video on MTV what seemed like every other weekend and got to see the live video for “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” (which Bono assures us is not a rebel song) seemingly every hour. Someone on MTV was making us listen to U2 a lot, so there had to be a reason. Eventually, they became popular and mainstream enough to make it onto virtually every radio station and I remember being glad to hear “With or Without You” or “Where the Streets Have No Name” while riding in the back of the car with my parents on our trips between Buffalo and Erie. I found that I began to appreciate the subtleties of The Joshua Tree and eventually the diversity and passion on Rattle and Hum. I went back and listened to their older albums I had previously dismissed and rediscovered gems like “New Year’s Day” and “I Will Follow.” I counted myself a U2 fan.
But something else happened along the way. U2 began to educate me on American Civil Rights and the Irish Civil War at the same time. As I dug deeper into their work, I began to wonder why this politically charged band from Ireland would be singing about MLK when no one else was. What did he have to do with the Ireland they sang about in “Sunday Bloody Sunday”? At some point, I finally realized that they weren’t singing about individual incidents or people, but about the struggle for freedom which so many people in the world have had. They were singing, most importantly, about bringing people together through their similarities instead of keeping them apart because of their differences. Their most famous “protest” song, “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” refers to two separate incidents between the British and Irish known as Bloody Sunday (1920 and 1972) but they also would have been aware of another Bloody Sunday involving a Civil Rights March organized by King in 1965. Despite the horrific images in that song, the overlying message is reflected in the line “We can live as one.” And that unifying spirit is the most important thing I learned from U2 in the 80s, but I wouldn’t have begun to think about it without “Pride (In the Name of Love).”
On a final note, I chose the live version because of the singalong with the fans which seems to advance the theme of unity throughout their works.