This is a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. An exhibit dedicated to the civil rights leader was on display at the Chicago Peace Museum in 1983 when the band visited.
Bono is speaking about those throughout history who have died because they preached of the equality of all men and practiced nonviolence as the only way to achieve their goal of having this equality universally recognized.
MLK is the primary example of nonviolent resistance as the only way to bring about changes in civil rights. But there are allusions to others; Christ for example.
The song is about singular "people" (including Christ as man) that lived their life with pride. Not in a boastful way, but with the pride a person has when their thoughts and actions are motivated by their understanding and full awareness of the dignity and sanctity of ALL human life.
The song is a tribute or illustration or reminder to us, of martyrs to this ideal. It speaks to how they lived their life with an inner Pride in all of humanity and that this Pride is really an expression of God's love for all of humanity. These people did what they did because they were trying to spread this message of God's love for all of mankind.
This began as a song about US president Ronald Reagan. Bono had lyrics written condemning Reagan for an arrogant pride that led to nuclear escalation, but it just wasn't working. "I remembered a wise old man who said to me, don't try and fight darkness with light, just make the light shine brighter," Bono told NME. "I was giving Reagan too much importance, then I thought Martin Luther King, there's a man. We build the positive rather than fighting with the finger."
King was killed on a Memphis motel balcony on April 4, 1968. Bono sings "early morning, April 4," but King was actually shot at 6:01 p.m. local time. Bono has acknowledged the mistake and sometimes sings it as "early evening, April 4."
Chrissie Hynde (lead singer of The Pretenders) sang backup. She was married to Jim Kerr of Simple Minds at the time and was thanked on the album as "Mrs. Christine Kerr."
The band got the idea for this at a soundcheck in Hawaii on their 1983 US tour. The engineers recorded all U2's soundchecks for this very purpose.
The recording process was very difficult. They experimented with many unworthy takes before scrapping it, taking a break, and nailing it after starting from scratch.
At the Chicago museum where they saw the Martin Luther King exhibit, there was also a display about victims of the Hiroshima bombing called "The Unforgettable Fire," which would inspire the track of the same name and provide the album title.
This was released as a single a month before the album. It was their first Top 40 hit in the US.
When this came out, Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King, invited the band to the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta. They made their visit during their 1984 US tour.
This was a perfect song for the stadiums they were playing. They would stop playing toward the end and let the crowd sing the last chorus.
The last song on The Unforgettable Fire is "MLK," another tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.
Ewan McGregor sings a line of this in the "Elephant Love Medley" section of the movie Moulin Rouge. Bono also appears on the soundtrack, singing "Children Of The Revolution" with Gavin Friday. That song was written by Marc Bolan and originally recorded by his band, T-Rex.
Part of this was used on the 200th episode of The Simpsons, "Trash Of The Titans." On the show, U2 played some of this at a concert in Springfield. The song was also used in an episode of Miami Vice on the two-hour premiere the second season.
In the '80s, Bono said this was "The most successful pop song we've ever written." He added, "You can see there is a certain craft to the songwriting. I use the word "Pop" in the best possible sense; pop for me is an easily understood thing, you listen to it and you comprehend it almost immediately. You relate to it instinctively. A lot of the album isn't like that at all."
The Edge (Q magazine, December 1998): "Because of the situation in our country nonviolent struggle was such an inspiring concept. Even so when Bono told me he wanted to write about King. At first I said, 'Woah, that's not what we're about.' Then he came in and sang the song and it felt right, it was great. When that happens there's no argument. It just was."
Suggestion credit: Bertrand - Paris, France, for above 3
This song appeared in the movie Elizabethtown when Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) is visiting the site of Martin Luther King Jr's assassination.
Suggestion credit: Steph - Rumson, NJ
In 2010, Dierks Bentley recorded this for his 2010 Bluegrass album Up on the Ridge. His take on the song was nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration With Vocals.
U2 began their Joshua Tree Tour in Tempe, Arizona, where the governor was opposed to Martin Luther King Day being made a US federal holiday. By the time the band headed back to Tempe to close out the tour, they were receiving death threats for supporting the proposed holiday. Things took a serious turn before their gig at Sun Devil Stadium when someone claimed he would shoot Bono on stage if he sang the King-inspired song. Bono recalls in the band's book U2 by U2: "One night the FBI said: 'Look, it's quite serious. He says he has a ticket. He said he's armed. An he said if you sing 'Pride (In The Name Of Love),' he's going to shoot you.' So we played the show, the FBI were around, everyone was a little unnerved. You just didn't know, could he be in the building? Up in the rafters? On the roof? During 'Pride,' I was singing the third verse, 'Early morning April 4, a shot rings out in a Memphis sky.' I just closed my eyes and sang. And when I opened my eyes, Adam was standing in front of me."
Chris from Germany Their first Top 40 hit in the USA and still one of the best songs of all time. The album contains a second song about MLK called MLK! It got so much airplay on MTV at that time and is still one of those typical 80s videos. The original video was made by Anton Corbijn but was rejected by MTV by good reasons.
Felicity from BrisbaneMafia even hides the true identities of the original U2 members - Sphector Keyriakous, Gary (Vinicent). This song is about Mafia and their mass-slaughtering and takeover of planet Earth. The line about “When fact is fiction and TV reality” is the truth that Mafia pretends every day isn’t the truth eg. World Wars (mass slaughtering of innocent human beings by transformed aliens), and that criminals get locked up, that evil aliens aren’t taking over (well already have) and how they pretend that they aren’t evil and appear to not break laws or kill others (mafia and non-mafia) etc., etc., and the movies and tv shows that hold all the truth for everyone to see!!!! “To claim the victory Jesus won” refers to what Mafia has been led to believe by the Devil (creator of evil aliens who look like humans or who are transformed to look like humans, etc., etc..) to be the case – that is that Jesus died to forgive their sins, and they will still go to Heaven. As I’ve advised Mafia recently, this is not the truth – it was just another con of BB’s (the Devil’s). Also, BB led Mafia to believe that if they had a ‘good’ clone this would save them in God’s eyes. The truth is, Goldief despises you to the hilt – he can’t stand the pretence and hates you and your evil more than anything. You are polluting his beautiful Planet Earth – you need to end your clones asap! Jesie dying on the cross was just another joke to serve BB for entertainment and energy. Jesie was killed by Mafia. Mafia are all going to Helios (Hell), unless they are themselves a victim of Mafia and have been forced to kill/commit crimes. Of course, if Mafia help a victim, they may score some points with Goldief (God). Everything Mafia individuals do is ‘recorded’ for when they die – at that point they either go straight to Helios, or the Grim Reaper attends and decides whether they go to Goldief in Heaven (1 of 3 layers), or Helios (Hell) 1 of another 3 layers, or in-between layer. A Goldief person would have angels/cherubs escorting them straight to the White Room in heaven, where they are assessed for the appropriate layer they belong in. The in-between layer is similar to Underground which Mafia people are familiar with – not very nice, but there are restaurants and nightclubs, etc.. It is much better than Helios, where they burn in hot lava eternally – the bottom layer is the worst, and is where the most evil Mafia people reside. Suck s--t and Good luck! If you want any consideration for where you personally end up eternally – Pay-up Mafia! Let the truth be known, and send us cheques! Don’t say I (‘Klitty’) didn’t warn you – I can see BB laughing at you in my mind! "Check it out - I'm still breathing". (One of my infinite songs).
Kyle from Portage, MiThis song is about Jesus Christ, who came and died in the name of love and for the sake of our salvation, and all of His followers who died for spreading that love to the world. Martin Luther King Jr., whom the entire third verse is about, is one of those followers. The word "pride" in the title is not the selfish, egotistical kind of pride. It is the pride defined as "the better or most superior part of something". When Bono sings, "they could not take your pride," about Martin Luther King, he means that, even though they took King's life, they could not destroy what he stood for or what made him great. What makes every "man" in the song great is the love God showed to the world through him.
Dryattz from Atlanta, GaWhen I first heard this fine song, I was ambivalent about U2, especially Bono, and considered them rather insincere. So, when I caught the line "they took your life, they could not take your pride," I interpreted it somewhat differently than most: substitute "tolerate" for "take." My friends all took it to mean "remove," as if King's pride survived his murder. Over the years, I've come to regard this as more of Bono's brilliant cynicism: I believe "take" is a double-entendre, with both meanings implied. (Perhaps this has been obvious to some, but no one with whom I've discussed this song has realized the possible double meanings before.)
Deethewriter from Saint Petersburg, Russia FederationDuring U2's 2005 The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction Bono, not surprisingly, told a few stories as part of his acceptance speech. He said that in 1987, the FBI warned him not to perform one night, when the group was campaigning to establish Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday as a national holiday, because there had been credible threats against him. He refused the advice, even though he knew he might die at the show. When it came to the spoken third verse in "Pride (In The Name Of Love)," Bono said he found out just what he meant to one of his bandmates: "I close my eyes, and when I look up, I see Adam Clayton standing in front of me, holding his bass like only Adam Clayton can hold his bass. And y'know, there's people in this room who'd tell you they'd take a bullet for you, but Adam Clayton would've taken a bullet for me. And I guess that's what it's like to be in a truly great rock n' roll band."
David from Orlando, FlThis was a killer riff when this song came out, but how many variations on this one trick pony have we heard from the Edge since then?
Shawn from Frostburg, MdDecent song but WAY WAY WAY over played and over rated. . Just like the band Rush and their song Tom Saywer. This song is synonomous with U2 but they have composed songs way better than this one.
Jeff from Austin, TxA TRUE CLASSIC! From the opening chords to the atmospheric solo to the final thundering chorus. Definitely one of the top 20 songs ever.
Dave from Plympton, MaAnyone who likes this song... I highly recommend checking out the A capella version done by The Hyannis Sound, it's amazing!
Bodil from Sydney, AustraliaI'm doing this for a project at school and i think it's all about trying your hardest to achive a personal goal and standing up for what you believe in no matter what anyone else thinks. Don't be scared even though someone died doing the same thing as you just go ahead and try your hardest. You can always achive great things no matter what size, colour, shape, nationality or backroung. Everyody has a chance to shine.
Angelo from New York, NyGreat opening riff
B from EdinboroughIn response to Wes's Comment: It's not pride in the context of snobbish pride, it's pride in the sense of standing up for what you believe in. And if Jesus didn't do that I don't know who else did. THAT'S what Bono means when he talks about pride...the pride which lives in all of us if we let it. This song is about bringing that pride out and using it for good like Martin Luther King did. Bono is a Christian, and wouldn't go against the Christian teachings in his songs. I agree with John about the "Free at last" line.
Dawson from Draper, UtMy mom's favorite song ever.
Cristin from Boston, MaI would think that you'd have to have some sense of pride in what you are in order to fight for that cause. you wouldn't represent yourself, as mlk jr. did, for something you weren't proud of. i say, well said, bono.
Louise from Durhami love this song. xx
Pete from Nowra, Australiaone of the greatest songs of all time ..truly inspirational...Martin Luther King..what a guy
Grant from Annandale, VaJessie--it can absolutely mean that. The song can certainly be construed to highlight the similarites between Dr. King and Jesus. and Wes, you're really digging hard for something to criticize with that.
Lisa from Port Of Spain, OtherI always imagined he was referring to black pride, this is after all why we demanded to be treated equally.
Jessie from Staten Island, United States"one man betrayed with a kiss" - Jesus? I knew the rest was about MLK Jr. But, I really thought that line was about Jesus.
Wes from Springfield, VaA good song, but it bugs me that in context, U2 is stating that pride is commendable. Martin Luther King was a minister; Christianity teaches that humility is good and pride is bad. "Free at last/they took your life/They could not take your pride." Would MLK really want to have pride as his legacy? Granted, some pride is probably necessary to make non-violent resistance work, but... well... I just think that Bono is missing the boat with the prideful aspects of this one.
John from Levittown, NyI defy anyone to not get the chills when Bono sings the Free At Last part.A phenomenal song
Amy Friel from Barrie, CanadaI think that this song was used in the "Elephant Love Medley" to give it further dimension. By calling your attention to romantic love, and then diverting it to another topic (in this case, self-sacrafice), U2 attempts to broaden the cultural definition of love itself. This is a common tactic in their music. Musical blasphemy? Take a look at the meanings behind "New Years Day" and "Until The End Of The World" before you condemn another interpretation.
Ale from Necochea, ArgentinaFirst of all, excuse me if there are some mistakes in the retoric here, I'm not english, english's not my mother language.... try to understand and if you can't just mail me and we'll figure it out! :D ( email@example.com )
To Jeremy, you are right too.... but you should also know (if you so much need sarcasm to live) that it's not just Eirik who says that it was unfair to do that with the lyrics. BTW - I'm not pro or against!!! I just..... talk.
Obviously, in legal terms, they're Bono's songs, he's got the rights and there's nothing we can do about it. But on the other hand, there are philosophical and artistic ideas that refuse to let bono own those songs. And they're not just improvisated thoughts made by people who are angry about smtgh, like Eric. For these people, whatever you create, was commanded to be created by SOMETHING OR SOMEONE or whatever. The artist, just makes a sensitive fact of the ideal fact (idea if you want)he got from SOMETHING OR SOMEONE. And therefore, the fact (song, sculpture, etc)no longer belongs to the artist, but to the SOMETHING SOMEONE. And if we keep on thinking, the SOMETHING SOMEONE is totally universal, and involves somehow, the whole universe, or at least all the beings able to change idea into fact, which would be the humankind. SO, dear Jeremy it is so probable that Pride (In The Name Of Love)no longer belongs to Bono, or U2 or the Elephant, but belongs to the humankind......... I might be wrong, but this is not a totally stupid point of view.
BTW - Get some info on surrealist art, or abrstract expresionism (hmmm, i hope that's right, by ethe expresionism thing, i meant Jackson Pollock's art, for instance)
Jeremy from Toronto, CanadaTo Erik, you are right, how dare Bono let other people use HIS lyrics, you know the ones HE wrote. I mean, in the movie they don't even make sense...oh wait, yes, they make PERFECT sense. Just because someone else sees a different interpretation of a certain set of words makes them sick? Wow, how one dimensional.
Erik from Davis, CaThe people who did the soundtrack for Moulin Rouge are sick. Sampling a song about one of the greatest heros that ever lived and using it as a love song.............They turned a beautiful tribute in to musical blashphemy just for a filler for the "Elephant Love Medley." I also critizise Bono for letting those guys use it. What is this world coming to?