U2 penned this soaring anthem specifically for the biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which tells the story of the South African activist's early life and imprisonment. U2's relationship with the revered leader goes back to 1985 when Bono was part of Little Steven Van Zandt's 1985 Artists United Against Apartheid collaboration, which brought attention to his plight. Three years later the band recorded the song "Silver And Gold," which was inspired by the then still imprisoned Mandela. Bono went on to work on behalf of Mandela's 46664 AIDS charity, even co-writing the organisation's theme song with the Clash singer Joe Strummer.
Harvey Weinstein, whose production company TWC is behind the movie, said: "When I asked U2 to consider writing a song for Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, it was the fastest 'yes' I have ever received. I think they did a brilliant job honouring the man and the leader they have known for over 20 years."
The song was the first new U2 tune to be heard since 2010's "Soon," off the 360° at the Rose Bowl DVD set.
This won Best Original Song at the 2014 Golden Globes. Bono talked about the band's long association with Nelson Mandela and how he changed their lives during the acceptance speech: "This really is personal, very very personal," he said. "This man turned our life upside down, right side up. A man who refused to hate but he thought love would do a better job. We wrote a love song because its kind of what's extraordinary about the film. It's a dysfunctional love story."
When U2 received a call from studio executive Harvey Weinstein asking them to solicit a song for Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, the band were hard at work on their thirteenth studio album. "When we got the call from Harvey to say, 'It's happening, are you in?,' it was like, 'Oh man, really? Now?'" guitarist The Edge recalled to Billboard magazine. "But we just had to do it, with the history that we have with the man and the cause."
"It was hard to stop what we were doing," drummer Larry Mullen Jr. added. "We were on a roll-it was clear where we were going. And a decision was made to abandon ship, more or less, to focus on this."
To create the song, U2 obsessively tinkered and faltered before coming up with the end product. "We had three or four goes at it to get it right," Bono told Billboard magazine. "The lyrics changed course for me after reading his love letters to Winnie. Maybe the reason they asked us was to do a kind of 'Pride (In The Name Of Love)' moment, but it just did not seem correct. The only place in his life he felt that he was the loser in the conflict, that his enemies had prevailed, was in his marriage. He just couldn't make that work, and the most important part of that film is the love story."