Mothers Of The Disappeared
by U2

Album: The Joshua Tree (1987)
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • As he explains when introducing this song in concert, Bono wrote this when he made a trip to El Salvador in the middle of the civil war in the '80s. In San Salvador, he met with the Comadres, who were a group of women also known as the "mothers of the disappeared." These women had lost their children, who were taken in the night by death squads, leaving the mothers unsure if their children were alive or dead. He then stayed with a group of guerillas in the middle of the mountains in the north of the country, where he was inspired to write "Bullet The Blue Sky," another single from The Joshua Tree album. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexis - San Salvador, El Salvador
  • This song ties in with U2's work with Amnesty International. In 1986, they participated in six concerts as part of the Amnesty International Conspiracy Of Hope tour. Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed, Brian Adams, and Sting were also on the tour with U2.
  • On February 5, 1998, U2 played in Buenos Aires with The Mothers of the Disappeared onstage with pictures of their missing children. After performing the song, the women draped scarves around Bono's neck and the crowd sang the Argentine National Anthem. This was the first time the band played the song in concert since 1987.
  • At some concerts, U2 would lead into this with a song called "El Pueblo Vencera," which is Spanish for "A People United." Bono would often implore the crowd to sing with him.
  • In the book U2 by U2, Bono says he wrote this on his mother-in-law's Spanish guitar "for these beautiful women with pictures of their missing sons and daughters."
  • The track is a hymn to those who had been vanished at the hands of regimes in Central and South America. "It's kind of ominous," Adam Clayton told Mojo of the song in 2017. "But there's an optimism in the melody that we can survive these dark forces, as well as an acknowledgement that those dark forces are demonic in these situations."
  • The album was U2's second outing with producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, the latter coming off the success of Peter Gabriel's So album. The added acclaim of The Joshua Tree, a worldwide #1 hit, made Lanois a hot commodity among other high profile artists. Aside from his continued work with U2 (partnered with Brian Eno), he produced albums Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, and Willie Nelson, among others. The buzz also gave him the nudge to release his debut solo album, Acadie, in 1989.
  • Recalling his memories of the tune on the album's 20th anniversary box set, Bono noted: "I remember [Daniel Lanois], when we were finishing 'Mothers of the Disappeared,' losing his mind and performing at the mixing desk like he was Mozart at the piano, head blown back in an imaginary breeze, and it was pouring down with rain outside the studio and I was singing about how 'in the rain we see their tears,' the tears of those who have been disappeared. And when you listen to that mix you can actually hear the rain outside. It was magical really."

Comments: 10

  • Jair Stangler from BrasilDid a mistake in another comment. U2 realy played this song in feb 6 and 7 1998, but I was watching show of feb 6 and no, they were not on stage and I'm not sure anymore if they were on stage on feb 7 (found images of 6, but not 7... probably they weren't). Memory fail. Anyway, they dedicated the song to the mothers in this 2 nights two and exposed their images on the screen. In Chile, there were mothers on stage. Then, Bono made spoke directly to Pinochet, asking him to tell the mothers where them children was and some of the mothers presented their children, the last one saying "I demand justice", very touching.
  • Jair Stangler from BrasilActually, they played this song in Buenos Aires in 1998, not 1989, and not just in February 5, but also 6 and 7 (I was there this two nights in BA, so beautiful). Somedays after, Feb 11, they played "Mothers" in Santiago too... very, very touching. There are other things that need to correct here, but I think that others here already pointed everything... El Pueblo Vencerá! Arriba los que luchan!
  • Shawn from Frostburg, MdThis song is quite dark and eerie but absolutely fantastic at the same time.
  • Alexis from San Salvador, El SalvadorIn this rare video Bono explained his visit to El Salvador:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQGNSmWt5K8

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhVDGBC31gc
  • Niall from Limerick, IrelandI think this song contains some of Bono's best and most heartfelt lyrics. A really brilliant simple song. Perfect finish to The Joshua Tree.
  • Mark from Austin, TxSting's song "We Dance Alone" is about the Mothers, too, right?
  • Mary from Medina, Nyincredibly underrated song,i love this one..awesome song
  • Ale from Necochea, ArgentinaI forgot... the crowd didn't sing the Argentine National Anthem: Bono started singing "El pueblo Vencer" what means "People will defeat", and the crowd followed him. And the scarves were, actually, white tissues.
  • Ale from Necochea, ArgentinaActually, they were more than 30.000 people, not just "thousands".
  • Ale from Necochea, ArgentinaThe "Mothers" are called "Mothers of Plaza de Mayo", Plaza de Mayo is the most centric quarter of Buenos Aires, and was bombed by militar rebels while they were litterally tearing democratic government down. The mothers took the quarter's name because that's where they demonstrated and still do.
    There are also the "grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo".
    The investigation comition organized by them both found lots of missing peole, who where babies during the military procces and thought to be orphans.
    They've also investigated those evil military chiefs and generals, which led to lots of explanations.
    They even discovered the USA's influence, to help the military run over the government established by people.... USA's secretary of state thought latinamerican's governments were becoming hmmmmm too comunist, maybe. And so they recluted and encouraged latinamerican armies to make revolts in every country thought to be communist.... for instance, Chile's military strike was one of the bloodiests, and U2 sang in One tree Hill about Jara, a mutilated and murdered sort of comunist singer from Chile. They cut his hands and threw a guitar at him, encouraging him to sing, eventhough, he grabbed the guitar and used it as a drum while singing. He was killed after that...
    Artists were probably the favourite "targets" for the military pigs.

    (And in the world a heart of darkness
    A fire zone
    Where poets speak their heart
    Then bleed for it
    Jara sang, his song a weapon
    In the hands of love
    You know his blood still cries
    From the ground)

    And this song, "Mothers of the dissapeared" I mean, is probably a very good reason to explain the love and respect argentinians have for U2.... I still cant belive they're not coming in the Vertigo Tour!!!!!
    Bye.
    BTW - I'm sorry, my english may be too poor, hope you got it.
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