Despite our polar opposite political views, my friend, John, and I share a common love for random trivia facts. In any given conversation, we can offer a lesser-known bit of knowledge related to the topic at hand, like the time when John gave a brief history lesson behind the music of U2’s Pride (In the Name of Love).
Like many starched conservatives, John is a huge Ronald Reagan fan and prides himself with all historical facts related to President Reagan. Remarkably, John is a walking World Book Encyclopedia when it comes to anything historical, American or World. Wikipedia has nothing on him. Therefore, I rarely ever challenge him on anything historical, particularly after I’ve had a few drinks.
But this one night about a month ago, I called bullshit balderdash to his Bono story. According to John, Bono originally wrote Pride (In the Name of Love) about Ronald Reagan’s love for America.
Being a huge U2 fan and having always admired Bono’s humanitarian efforts, this information struck me as odd and I gave him a glance reflecting my disbelief since it sounded like an urban legend. And just to annoy him, I told him I would consult Wikipedia and Snopes later.
After extensive research, John was somewhat right much to my chagrin. I hate it when that happens.
Upon my research, I discovered that Bono indeed write Pride (In the Name of Love) about Ronald Reagan’s desire for America to become a nuclear power. However after reading, Let the Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Stephen B. Oates, Bono decided to dedicate the song to Dr. King.
“I originally wrote Pride about Ronald Reagan,” Bono explained. “Reagan and the ambivalent attitude in America. It was originally meant as the sort of pride that won’t back down, that wants to build nuclear arsenals. But that wasn’t working. I remember a wise old man said to me, “Don’t try and fight darkness with light, just make the light shine brighter.” I was giving Reagan too much importance. Then I thought of Martin Luther King; there’s a man. We build the positive rather than fighting with the finger.” (1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time, the Artists, Stories and Secrets Behind Them, Tony Creswell 2006)
With pressure from the producers to finish the album The Unforgettable Fire, the lyrics for Pride were overlooked and one historical fact left uncorrected. In Pride, Bono sings “early morning, April 4,” but Dr. King was assassinated in the evening. When U2 performs the song live, Bono acknowledges the mistake and sings it as “early evening, April 4.”
Despite being one of U2’s most popular and acclaimed hits, Bono felt the song never truly developed to its potential in his mind.
“I looked at how glorious that song was and thought: ‘What the fuck is that all about?’ It’s just a load of vowel sounds ganging up on a great man. It is emotionally very articulate – if you didn’t speak English. – Bono
With Bono’s guttural sounds and a brief history lesson, I had been schooled.