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Old 08-21-2006, 08:43 AM   #1
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Why U2 Always Inspires*

By Justin Sims
2006.08



Be honest, if Bono wasn't talking world leaders ears off, organizing groups of celebrities to do commercials, combining talents with other artists, doing more interviews on mainstream shows like "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," "Larry King Live" and even appearing on the sometimes-controversial Fox News show "The O'Reilly Factor," not to mention screaming, shouting, telling the audience to contact their Congress and praying at U2 concerts about the troubles in Africa, would a lot of the people that come to this site (including myself) be involved with The One Campaign in some way or the other? Would we even know what The One Campaign was? Would there even be a One Campaign without Bono?

And since it was basically unheard of in American politics and nowhere to be seen in the newspaper headlines or on the CNN's and Fox News Channel's of the world until Bono started going to the White House having serious talks with President Clinton and then even crossing the political spectrum and trying to tug on the heartstrings of George W. Bush and members of Congress and then informing them that something needed to be done about Africa, would any of us really even be familiar with the unspeakable AIDS pandemic, unfair trade and poverty that goes on in Africa to this day?

My guess is that if it wasn't for Bono, the Africa situation would still be "out of sight, out of mind" with the majority of us.

Some people aren't going to read a paper everyday (or even every week at that) or turn on the radio or TV to see what's happening in the world and they definitely wouldn't be bookmarking any news sites in their web browser. This is where listening to U2 can make people actually more aware of their world surroundings.

Not that the African emergency, as Bono has dubbed it, is the first worldly issue the fab four of Ireland have endorsed. The fact is that U2 has always tried to inform its audience and inspire them to make a difference.

I could list every social cause U2 has been involved with but it would take too long. Causes like Amnesty International, Greenpeace and Stop Sellafield have all been brought to listeners' attention by U2. Look at the inside of most album covers and you'll find information on how to contact these causes and where to go to learn more information.

Go to a U2 concert and just expect to see booths where you can support The One Campaign, Amnesty International, etc., and of course, listen to Bono preach like Martin Luther King and still be able to throw an F-bomb in somewhere and make it seem completely necessary for the motivation of the listener to do something.

I don't have to tell you but U2 isn't like other rock bands. Sure, there are the sexual references, lyrics dealing with violence and songs with raw anger with crunching echoing guitar riffs, pulsating basslines and strenuous-paced drumbeats. The difference is that the members of U2 aren't mad because their heart was broken by an 18-year-old girl 50 years ago and are still bitter about it. They're mad because their heart has been broken by governments that don't care about its people suffering, mad because there's nuclear waste about to be dumped in the Irish Sea, mad because a whole continent's suffering has been widely ignored while rich countries do little to help.

The person casually paying attention may see all these causes U2 has endorsed and be skeptical of its intentions. They may throw their hands up in the air in disgust and say "Bono's not even from America. How can he tell us to spend more money on Africa?"

Bono's perfectly aware of this thinking and has stated an Irish rock star telling the United States and other big, wealthy countries to spend more money should be openly mocked. But whatever the mocking he receives, he says he's prepared to take it for a cause he believes will define a generation.

The bottom line is that U2 cares and shows it through its songs and performances.

U2's best songs bring light to the darkest areas of the human heart and make you completely aware that the world is a dark, terrifying place sometimes but that in the darkness, the light from U2's music gets only brighter, filming up hope, comfort and love where there was bitterness, anger, hate and loss through songs like "With or Without You," "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of," "Grace," "One," "Pride." I don't have to say that the list goes on to you, though.

Of course, the members of U2—coming as a shock to some people—are human beings, too. Bono isn't afraid to get angry and shows that anger with live performance such as "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "Wake up Dead Man," "Bad," "Love and Peace or Else" and "Bullet the Blue Sky." But the anger isn't selfish; they represent the thoughts of millions of people in the world who have lost loved ones through terrorist attacks, war, poverty, addiction and suffering. While many accept bad things will happen, U2 screams "no more."

There isn't any shyness about telling you the members of U2 believe in God, either. However, they show their belief in a way that isn't manipulative. They show their faith, their love and their questions to God through their songs, yet their songs are for everyone. Even if you aren't a believer, U2 pats you on the back like a non-judgmental friend who just wants to be there for you and without religious affiliation, possibly shows what God is truly about better than some church people ever could.

The music speaks to the true condition of the human spirit. Unlike some Christian artists whose songs speak of only love, joy and hope while almost completely ignoring the worldly negative things and of course, only appealing to the Christian crowds by calling themselves "Christian artists," U2 songs admit there's something wrong, reject a dreamer's mentality by actually trying to change things even when they aren't playing music, screams to you that you aren't alone, that much more is possible than you think and that your voice can help change the world.

Then there's moments when absolutely nothing needs to be sung. The notes that Edge plays at the beginning of "Where the Streets Have no Name" seem to come through the speakers like teardrops from someone who is at their most vulnerable, at the very limit of all they can take and by the time Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr., kick in the bass and drums, are in full realization that through any sort of loss, hurt, anger and despair can come the hope, love, joy and peace that everyone—everyone—can have just by believing in something bigger than themselves.
And while the songs do ask more of you and challenge the listener to ask these hard questions to yourself, Bono has been completely open about his own shortcomings and isn't going to quit cussing, drinking or just being a smart ass because whatever it is that makes U2 have the unique sound and feel that they have, one thing the band seems to agree on is that it's bigger than the band, bigger than record contracts, bigger than charts, and definitely bigger than the idea that the world is the way it is, and there's not a damn thing anyone can do about it.

While it would be natural for U2 to represent where they come from on the political spectrum, the left, they've made it completely clear that U2 isn't a political party but more of a human rights party. Bono has called on both Republicans and Democrats in Washington and conservatives and liberals around the world to come together for The One Campaign. Here's the thing that's even more amazing: since Bono doesn't have the wearing-flowers-in-your-hair attitude and actually can bring facts, statistics and a talent for inspiring people and passionately expressing his views to the table, people in Washington, the members of the Senate, members of the House of Representatives, the president of the United States, and others have actually listened and acted because the lead singer of the best and biggest band in the world rallied you, me, and anyone else who would listen at U2 concerts, TV shows, etc. to give a voice to a cause that gives a whole continent the opportunity for a much better life.

And while there's lots of work to be done still, I'm convinced that not only is it possible to end world poverty, but that it will end. My doubts have taken a backseat to my faith in large part because I listen to U2.

How long U2 will sing new songs remains to be seen and, hopefully, it will be just as long as a band like the Rolling Stones has done. Only with U2, it's Adam, Bono, Edge and Larry or not at all. And that's what has made U2 special since its first album in 1980, that's what makes the band inspiring. Four high school friends that have been able to keep their friendship together and still be one of the best bands ever. They write songs about the toughest issues we face in the world, they back organizations that give human beings more rights, that make the environment a safer place, that give musicians in hurricane-torn cities something to sing about and bring justice to civilizations that are treated completely unfairly. They're unafraid of making fun of themselves or the ridiculous nature of what it means to be rich and famous. They've been able to keep a sense of humor, a sense of being relevant over 20 years of being in the music scene and despite the way some people treat them, they know they aren't gods. They're people. Like you. Like me. And that's the most inspiring thing of all, the fact that they've been able to literally help change the world and bring their fans with them because they bring the message that together, anything can be overcome, nothing is impossible and, as naive as it may sound to some people, the future can bring better times for all of us.
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Old 08-21-2006, 11:05 AM   #2
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AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 08-21-2006, 11:52 PM   #3
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Excellent
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Old 08-22-2006, 11:38 PM   #4
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:-)

BEST article EVER. exactly what i've been trying to tell all my friends, now I'm just gonna paraphase you...lol
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Old 08-23-2006, 01:07 AM   #5
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Brilliant article! Good job!
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Old 08-23-2006, 08:52 AM   #6
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Excellent article! Very well written.

And while a lot of people feel it necessary to insert their own political opinions into everything and bash the other side, I was very impressed by the effort you made to stay politically fair and unbiased and keep the discussion just about the band.

Well done!
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Old 08-23-2006, 08:57 AM   #7
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Wonderful article. I teach English in Brazil and will use this to help people understand more about what makes U2 so special.

You basically said everything I would have like to have said myself.
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Old 08-23-2006, 11:37 AM   #8
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Great Writing!!!!
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Old 08-23-2006, 08:37 PM   #9
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Excellent article.
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Old 08-25-2006, 03:49 PM   #10
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Nice article, but I was well aware of the horrible poverty and AIDS problems in Africa before Bono ever started speaking of it. What Bono has done, however, is actually DO something about it. Hey, I love the man as much as anybody, but let's not deify him as the sole reason we all recognize the problems there. The poverty, starvation and AIDS epidemics in Africa were already well-documented by others before Bono ever started speaking up about it. Instead praise him for what he is actually doing for those poor people. That $15 Billion for AIDS he somehow squeezed out of the heartless extremist republican president and congress speaks more about Bono than anything else he has done in Africa. That feat in and of itself was simply amazing.
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Old 08-26-2006, 02:13 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by cypress
Nice article, but I was well aware of the horrible poverty and AIDS problems in Africa before Bono ever started speaking of it. What Bono has done, however, is actually DO something about it. Hey, I love the man as much as anybody, but let's not deify him as the sole reason we all recognize the problems there. The poverty, starvation and AIDS epidemics in Africa were already well-documented by others before Bono ever started speaking up about it. Instead praise him for what he is actually doing for those poor people. That $15 Billion for AIDS he somehow squeezed out of the heartless extremist republican president and congress speaks more about Bono than anything else he has done in Africa. That feat in and of itself was simply amazing.
I don't believe he is the sole reason, but I do believe he played a big part in getting it into the minds of the public, and of course, as you mentioned, the government.

As for the article - what a fantastic way to express many of the things that make U2 so great and sets them apart from other bands. great job
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Old 08-29-2006, 04:46 AM   #12
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Bravo!
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Old 09-08-2006, 01:03 AM   #13
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nicely done. i loved it
that was great!
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Old 09-10-2006, 03:15 AM   #14
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Sounds familiar

Great column. Reminds me of one of those long winded U2 conversations that have taken place many a times. This was one of my favorite quotes overall:

Quote:
The difference is that the members of U2 aren't mad because their heart was broken by an 18-year-old girl 50 years ago and are still bitter about it. They're mad because their heart has been broken by governments that don't care about its people suffering, mad because there's nuclear waste about to be dumped in the Irish Sea, mad because a whole continent's suffering has been widely ignored while rich countries do little to help.
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