The Passengers were a collaboration between U2 and Brian Eno. U2 considered it a side project, so they used a different name.
Italian Opera singer Luciano Pavarotti sang on this with Bono. Pavarotti enters this song at two minutes and 53 seconds singing an Italian language libretto written by Bono. The Irishman claimed that he was impersonating his opera buff father singing in the bath impersonating Pavarotti.
The song is about how the people of Sarajevo deal with war. Proceeds from the single went to the War Child charity.
On U2's Zoo TV tour, Bono would often phone people from the stage and have a chat while the audience listened in. On one stop, he called Pavarotti. After that, the opera singer bugged Bono to include him in a song. Bono recalled in Q Magazine August 2008: "A great emotional arm-twister, a hard man to turn down. He'd call our housekeeper Theresa in Dublin once a week and say, 'Is the song finished yet?' She would say I was away and he would say, 'Tell God to give me a phone call,' and put down the phone with a big laugh."
U2 performed this for the first time on September 5, 1995 in Modena, Italy, at the Pavarotti and Friends concert. It was broadcast live on Italian TV.
This song was inspired by film-maker Bill Carter's 1994 documentary Miss Sarajevo, about a beauty pageant staged in the Bosnian capital at a time when it was under siege from Serbian forces.
Brian Eno played an unusual keyed instrument called an Omnichord
on this track.
This was one of the "list songs" that Bono had taken to writing during the period, built around a single place such as "The Fly" ("It's no secret…"). In this instance the lyric was centered around the line "Is there a time…"
U2 released a new live version from their 2005 tour on the single of "All Because Of You."