The lyrics were inspired by Bono's experience with Jubilee 2000, a benefit urging politicians to drop the Third World Debt. Bono describes the song as about "a man who has lost everything, but finds joy in what he still has."
U2 wrote this in stages. It changed drastically when Bono came up with the "Beautiful Day" lyric and the idea for the backing vocals. They knew it was a hit when their label boss Jimmy Iovine told them so. As Iovine tells it, the group was disappointed with their 1997 album Pop, and told Jimmy they didn't want to release another album until he told them they had a hit single. Iovine, who produced their Rattle and Hum album, make frequent trips to Europe to check in on U2 while they were recording the album, and when they played him "Beautiful Day," he declared it the hit. It was released as the first track and first single on All That You Can't Leave Behind, which fared much better than Pop.
The Edge recalled the recording of this tune to Mojo Magazine July 2010: "(The song) had come through various different incarnations and though we'd always felt it had something it was kind of hard to see where it was going. Really, the moment it got exciting was when Bono hit on the lyric: 'It's a beautiful day.' It seems in some ways such a banal sort of lyric, but combined with the music something wild happened and we all recognized it. Then Brian (Eno) contribution was that fantastically Euro kick drum opening and keyboard line, and that gave us the clue as to where it should go next."
This was featured in television coverage of the 2000 Olympics from Australia. It was used in a nightly video recap called "Images Of The Games." NBC made a donation to The Special Olympics in exchange for the rights to use it.
This song was one of the first major releases made available for download. Fans could stream the song from U2.com before it was released.
A live performance was taped for British TV show Top Of The Pops on the rooftop of a hotel in Ireland that Bono and The Edge own. They also taped a performance of "Elevation" that day.
This evolved out of a punk rock song U2 were working on called "Always," which was eventually used as the B-side to "Beautiful Day." "Always" was included on a 2002 album of rarities called U2 7, which was distributed through Target stores.
The video was first shown at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sep. 7, 2000. The clip was filmed at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Bono recalls in U2 by U2: "The video for 'Beautiful Day' was shot on the runway, which I couldn't believe we got permission for. The Concorde had recently crashed and they were very sensitive about the runway. But it was a beautiful day, literally. I had a character in mind, who was just a little half-cocked, a kind of uber-Bono. My favorite scene, which was done spontaneously, was getting on the luggage rack and being taken through that black hole where the bags go. Everyone wants to go through the hole, don't they?"
In England, this went to #1 its first week. It beat out a duet by Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue which was expected to claim the top spot.
When this went to #1 in the UK, Bono told BBC Radio One: "This tastes very sweet. You think to yourself, you're a rock band, you don't need the pop charts, but you do need the pop charts. Singles are what makes rock sharp, and we've not been great at singles. I can't tell you how excited we feel, we've been around for a while and to hear this song on the radio, it feels very special."
Bertrand - Paris, France
This won 2000 Grammys for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Rock Performance By Duo Or Group. The album was released after the 2000 cutoff date and was not eligible for awards, but this was because it was released as a single before the date. The next year, U2 won four more Grammys.
When accepting the Grammy awards for this song, The Edge wore a jersey with the number 3 as a tribute to Dale Earnhardt, a race car driver who died the weekend earlier in the Daytona 500.
U2 performed this at halftime of the 2002 Super Bowl after it won an online poll, beating out "Desire," "Pride" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Unlike the year before, when Aerosmith was joined by Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and Nelly, U2 had the halftime show to themselves.
Clips of this song are used as the theme music for The Premiership
, a weekly TV show in the UK which shows that covers all the English Permier League football (soccer) games.
Andy - Halifax, England
This was used extensively by Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign.
This song was played at the end of a Smallville
episode entitled "Nicodemus," where Clark takes Lana up on the windmill and shows her the Metropolis horizon line.
Dawson - Draper, UT
Kurt Nilsen from Norway won the 2003 World Idol
competition singing this song. World Idol
brought together winners for the Idol competitions in various countries to compete against each other. 2003 was the only year it took place, and Nilsen beat 10 other contestants, including Kelly Clarkson, who placed second.
Christer - Jessheim, Norway
American Idol winner Lee DeWyze covered this for his coronation song. He said of his choice in a press conference: "I like that song a lot; it's a really good song. Is it something that is necessarily in my genre? No. There were songs on the table, and I went with the one I thought would represent the moment the best." His cover debuted at #24 on the Hot 100.
REM's Michael Stipe is a fan. "I love that song," he said. "It makes me angry that I didn't write it."
"The lyric expresses amazement, really, that whatever situation you find yourself in, as uncomfortable and upsetting as they can be, if you're alive and you are awake, then you have perspective on it," Bono explains in the band's book U2 by U2. "I was influenced by an Australian preacher I know called John Smith, who was a pastor for the Hell's Angels at one point and who is a very eloquent speaker with a brilliant mind. I remember him talking to me about how depression is a nerve end. Pain is evidence of life because it reminds you there are things in your life that aren't right. So you should be thankful for it really and celebrate that there is so much to live for."
The album cover was also shot at the Charles de Gaulle airport, the same locale as the music video, tying in with Bono's fascination with airports. "Airports are the first thing you see when you come into a city," he explains. "When you come into the Roissy terminal, with its kind of velvet concrete, you see the difference design makes to people's life. It's an ode to an airport. And it fits with the title perfectly. What's the destination? The future. And then, just because advertising pays, I thought I'd put God's phone number up in the airport's digital clock. J33.3. That's Jeremiah 33:3. The Scripture is 'Call unto Me and I will answer you.' It's celestial telephony."
Electron Love Theory, Saloa Farah, and the Christian artist Nichole Nordeman are among those who have covered this song. In a Songfacts said, Nordeman explained: "'Beautiful Day' just cries out for what's ahead. What's next. The light peering over the hill. The dawn. The crack in the heavy drapes. Don't let it get away."