Today (Jan. 20), we remember the life and legacy of late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose contributions to the social and political sphere of the United States are innumerable. And over the years, the global musical sphere has become filled with songs inspired by or dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
If listeners have any doubt that Martin Luther King Jr. is the subject of "Pride (In the Name of Love)," Bono's lyrics three minutes in drive the point home: "Early morning, April 4/Shot rings out in the Memphis sky/Free at last, they took your life/They could not take your pride." However, history buffs will note that the song, which was the lead single off U2's 1984 album "The Unforgettable Fire," contains a factual error -- MLK's assassination took place in the early evening, rather than the early morning. But that didn't matter to music fans -- the Edge's guitar jangle at the beginning of "Pride (In the Name of Love)" is one of the most recognizable riffs of the era.
Bono speaks about those throughout history who have died because they preached of the equality of all men and practiced nonviolence as the only way to achieve their goal of having this equality universally recognized.
“Pride (In the Name of Love)” U2-1984 One man come in the name of love One man come and go One man come here to justify One man to overthrow In the name of love! One man in the name of love In the name of love! What more? In the name of love! One man caught on a barbed wire fence One man he resists One man washed on an empty beach One man betrayed with a kiss In the name of love! What more in the name of love? In the name of love! What more? In the name of love! …Nobody like you …There’s nobody like you… Mmm…mmm…mmm… Early morning, April 4 Shot rings out in the Memphis sky Free at last, they took your life They could not take your pride In the name of love! What more in the name of love? In the name of love! What more in the name of love? In the name of love! What more in the name of love…
MLK is the primary example of nonviolent resistance as the only way to bring about changes in civil rights. However, there are allusions to others; Christ for example.
The song is about singular "people" (including Christ as man) that lived their life with pride. Not in a boastful way, but with the pride a person has when their thoughts and actions are motivated by they understand and full awareness of the dignity and sanctity of ALL human life.
The song is a tribute, illustration, or reminder to us, of martyrs to this ideal. It speaks to how they lived their life with an inner Pride in all of humanity and that this Pride is really an expression of God's love for all of humanity. These people did what they did because they were trying to spread this message of God's love for all of mankind.
This began as a song about US president Ronald Reagan. Bono had lyrics written condemning Reagan for an arrogant pride that led to nuclear escalation, but it just was not working. "I remembered a wise old man who said to me, don't try and fight darkness with light, just make the light shine brighter," Bono told NME. "I was giving Reagan too much importance, then I thought Martin Luther King, there's a man. We build the positive rather than fighting with the finger."
King was killed on a Memphis motel balcony on April 4, 1968. Bono sings "early morning, April 4," but King was actually killed in the evening. Bono has acknowledged the mistake and sometimes sings it as "early evening, April 4."
Chrissie Hynde (lead singer of The Pretenders) sang backup. She was married to Jim Kerr of Simple Minds at the time and was thanked on the album as "Mrs. Christine Kerr."