by U2

Album: The Unforgettable Fire (1984)
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  • This hymnal tune is the last track on The Unforgettable Fire, and like another track on the set, "Pride (In The Name Of Love)," the song is about Martin Luther King, Jr. After learning about the civil rights leader during a stop in Chicago in 1983, the band felt that his message of peaceful protest was more important than ever, and they wanted to honor that message on the album.
  • As in "Pride," Martin Luther King is not mentioned by name in the lyrics. Using his initials as the title of this song made it clear that the song was about him and his ideals.
  • This became a live favorite for U2, getting played on most stops of both their Unforgettable Fire and Joshua Tree tours, and getting revived in 2009 for their 360° tour. Lights in the venues were typically dimmed for the song.
  • The director Richard Kelly hoped to end the film Donnie Darko with this song, but he couldn't afford the rights. He ended up using a Gary Jules cover of Tears For Fears' "Mad World."
  • In the band's 2005 autobiography U2 by U2, Bono wrote: "In the scriptures they talk about the blood crying from the ground. And with 'MLK' you have just that, the blood crying from the ground - but not for revenge, for understanding. I had a conversation with Bob Dylan at that time. He said, 'We associate three kings with Memphis. Elvis, the King, of course. The great B.B. King. But then there's Martin Luther King. Where's his Graceland, where's his monument? The city had plans to tear down the motel outside of which he was murdered. That struck a chord with me."

Comments: 15

  • Chris from Germany The last song on that album and I like it but I have to cry a lot of when it ends. Interestingly the end of this song sounds like the beginning of Where The Streets Have No Name.
  • Sean from Sharon, Ma, UsThe song was famously included in U2's halftime show at Super Bowl XXXVI, which was sung as a projector showed the names of the almost 3,000 people that had died in the September 11th attacks only months before.
  • Maddie from Rochester, NyThis song was mentioned in the book "The Perks of Being A Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky
  • Trish from Lake Woegegon, MnI, too, sang this to my children as a lullaby. Of course, when you name you oldest son Paul, are you really going to sing anything else? (And if I have to explain why he's named Paul, why are you reading this???)

    But no, my second son's name isn't Dave. It's Stephen, after Stephen Hawking and Stephen J. Gould. Paul is the musical one, Stephen the science geek. Guess I got that right!
  • Heather from Los Angeles, CaI lived in Birmingham Alabama for a while and every summer there were thunderclouds and rain. Rain falling like a curtain of water. Perhaps that is the rain he is referring to. Martin Luther King and Birmingham being sort of forever linked.
  • Acrobat from Adelaide, AustraliaA man.. who vacuums... my God his wife is a lucky woman...
  • Kevin from West Of Ireland, IrelandFrom the West of Ireland, have listened to U2 most of my life. find it one of their most moving songs. use it as a lullaby for my kids.. it works!
  • Angela from Hagerstown, MdBono came up with this song while vaccuuming, hence the weird, ambient background sound.
  • Elson from Los Angeles, CaWhen I bought U2's "Unforgettable Fire," I got the cassette version. The printing on the cassette was so small, for the longest time, I thought this song was called, "Milk."
  • Ale from Necochea, ArgentinaI think that the lyrics and the beautiful and harmonic chords contained in the song make a'capella choirs the best versions... I had the chance of hearing an Argentinian small choir called "Cavernet" making a sort of improvised version at a small gig in a cafe at BA... most people were there beacause of the admiration of the most "refined" songs they make, but me (U2 fan), left the place completly overwhelmed, still hearing the voices of those guys, and bono's voice and somehow, the whole world joining them..... sadly an overrated U2 beautiful composition.
    Not "Energetic"?? BOF
  • Mike from Covina, CaThey did play this at the Superbowl in January but was cut in the 5 minute delay because it wasn't "energetic".
  • Richard from St. Louis, Mothe did play this song at the superbowl, along with where the streets have no name and beautiful day
  • Lukus from Knoxville, TnI believe the song that Thomas is referring to is "where the streets have no name"...
  • Jordan from North Bend, WaThis song was covered by the King's Singers (an a'capella choir) on their album "Good Vibrations."
  • Thomas from Pittsburgh, PaThey played this song during the halftime show of the Super Bowl in January, 2002, as a list of the victims of the 9-11 attacks began to scroll behind the stage.
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