Bono's mother, Iris Hewson, died in 1974 when the singer was 14 after suffering a brain aneurysm at her own father's funeral. He recounts on this song how the loss of his mother at such a young age shaped his life. "Forty years ago, my mother fell at her own father's funeral, and I never spoke with her again," he told Rolling Stone. "Rage always follows grief, and I had a lot of it, and I still have, but I channeled it into music and I still do. I have very few memories of my mother, and I put a few of them in a song called 'Iris.'"
Bono penned two songs in the early 1980s about the passing of his mother, "I Will Follow
" and "Tomorrow
." The 1997 Pop
" also contains references to her.
The song contains a name-check for Kraftwerk's Man Machine album ("It was you made me your man/Machine"). Bono explained to Dave Fanning during a RTE Songs of Innocence special: "My mother died just as I was discovering girls. One of the girls I was discovering was Ali... she arrived at Mount Temple in the same month. The first lover's gift I gave Ali was a Kraftwerk album called Man Machine. So I referred to that."
Songs Of Innocence was released, by sheer coincidence, forty years to the day that Iris died. Said Bono: "Sometimes the things that have the most powerful influence over you are from way back. You're looking at the night sky and those beautiful stars - a lot of them are gone, even though you're still in their light. The idea that [Songs of Innocence] went out the same day, 40 years after she left us, is kind of magic."