When I first noticed U2, it wasn’t the lyrics that hooked me, it was the raw, post-punk sound they created. Generally, when I listen to music, it’s the beat and the sounds that hook me. A mood has to be created regardless of the lyrics.
Years later I continue to experience epiphanies over the lyrics of a song I’ve loved since the 70’s. Perspectives change and something wakes up. You hear something you haven't heard before. That's the beauty of these lyrics and the beauty of the growth of the band. Over the years as they grew up, we were also growing up. We began to have different, more worldly experiences and we related to all of it within the lyrics. It wasn’t until much later that I began to appreciate the poetry of Bono. I’ve come to prefer metaphor over straight story-telling. Metaphor leaves and air of interpretation to the listener.
Several fans left comments on my last piece about how U2’s music has helped them in hard times, inspired them, and made a difference in their lives. When people have this kind of relationship with music, that makes it relevant. I know for me, things started changing when I began randomly focusing on these lyrics from Summer Rain:
It’s not why you’re running, it’s where you’re going
It’s not what you’re dreaming, but what you’re gonna do
It’s not where your born, it’s where you belong
It’s not how weak, but what will make you strong
Perhaps I was having a bit of a spiritual crisis at that time, but these words suddenly made everything alright. I now had permission to feel the way I’ve been feeling for a number of years. These lyrics defined for me, a turning point that got me off my ass. Something suddenly became crystal clear. I posted these lyrics in my work area and read them every day. And they ring true for everyone whether we know it or not. Society's pressure vs. your dreams and intentions.
I remember the days when I would run to the local music store for the latest release. I would pick up that new (vinyl) album, hoping the lyrics were printed on the album’s sleeve. I would sit and play the record from beginning to end, singing the lyrics over and over and over again. I hadn’t felt that way in a long time but when “Ordinary Love” was released, I found myself inserting my ear buds with that old, excited, passionate feeling about U2’s music. In classic fanatical form, I set the disc to repeat and listened a few times in succession, singing the lyrics until I knew it by heart. It was mostly a repetitive, memory response; not until recently (last 5-10 years) was it about the lyrics.
We can't fall any further
If we can't feel ordinary love
And we cannot reach any higher
If we can't deal with ordinary love
Then it struck me: talk about relevancy! Isn’t this the modern day struggle? Isn’t this one of the fundamental problems humanity faces; that we are so far away from Love we can’t get any lower and we can’t reach for any more if we have no love for ourselves or others.
We can find something relevant in every U2 song.
I’m at a place called Vertigo
Lights go down and all I know
That you give me something…
I can feel your love teaching me how
Your love is teaching me how to kneel, kneel
For me, it’s about that thing or that person of whom you can’t get enough. You’re brought to your knees; it’s dizzying, it makes you crazy. This is your addiction; this is your religion.
We interpret meaning based on our own situations and experiences; therein lies the relevancy of this band. Lyrics and music have the power to change lives and thus, change the world. As long as U2 continues to write songs that touch the human condition, will they remain relevant. All the talk about the irrelevancy of this band can and should be buried.
What U2 lyrics have impacted/shaped your life? Share them here...