I came to U2 later in life.

Back in the day, my musical tastes tended towards post-punk, indie and hardcore.  To me, U2 was white-hat jock territory.  Then again, I’m completely ahistorical in my musical influences — I thought “Mrs. Robinson” was a Lemonheads song the first time I heard it and, to my cultural Philistine ears, there was no discernible difference between the Beatles and the Monkees.  Sad, I know.

My wife, who has made me a better man in so many ways, introduced me to U2 (and the Beatles, Nick Drake, Simon & Garfunkel and many other seminal artists.  I can’t get her to like Depeche Mode, though.  Yet.).  She is smart and cool.

Tonight, we watched Rattle & Hum together. At several points, I was deeply moved; in particular, watching the band travel to Harlem to record “Where the Streets Have No Name” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” [edit: See, I don’t know anything about U2. My wife pointed out that I wrote about the wrong song.  Smart, cool and a great editor!] with a local gospel choir and seeing Bono passionately, prophetically even, denounce violence as a means to peace (especially glamorizing violence as some noble endeavor) during a live show.

Listening to music today (particularly much of what passes for praise & worship music), I realized how far ahead of their time they were.  The Edge, pedal hopping like an electrician, basically invented a new form of rock music.  I must say, though, I think I could play the bass lines Adam Clayton lays down.  I think he has the best job in the world.  Can you imagine their practices?  “Okay, Adam, you play eighth notes through the whole song.  Again. And many of them will be open notes, so you won’t even have to hold the notes with your left hand.”  But I digress…

It was extremely interesting to watch Bono interact with BB King.  As Bono was explaining the song “When Love Comes to Town” he seemed genuinely nervous about getting King’s approval.  At one point, King says to Bono that he is awfully young to be writing such heavy lyrics.  Seriously.  As a lyricist, Bono is pretty amazing.

After the film, the channel we were watching showed a couple of U2 videos, including “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own.”  At the start of the video, there’s a brief but powerful note from Bono explaining the background of this song:

My father Bob 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 Quad. He had a lot of attitude.  He gave some to me — and a voice. I wish I’d known him better.

Understanding the context and reading the lyrics (the closed captioning was on) took this song to a different place for me.  I guess I figured it was a love song.  But, as plaintive cry from a loving son to a long gone father (even before his death), this song began to weigh something inside of me.  There’s beauty and sorrow all locked up together in the soaring bridge, which is captured perfectly as the curtain lifts to reveal the performance house behind the band:

I know that we don’t talk
I’m sick of it all
Can you hear me when I sing,
You’re the reason I sing
You’re the reason why the opera is in me

Watch for yourself below:

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