Both this song and "Summer of Love" reference the Syrian conflict which fueled Europe's devastating refugee crisis. Bono told Mojo the two tracks "have a similar theme about people running for their lives on the same Mediterranean that we're running through the shallows."
U2 had been aiming to get Songs Of Experience out by the end of 2016, but then Brexit and the American elections threw a completely different light on everything, giving previously rejected tracks a new importance. The Edge told The Sun regarding this urgent tune: "It was originally in the pile of songs that didn't make the record but, at beginning of this year, we made it a priority because there was something very powerful in it."
Both this song and "Summer of Love" were inspired in part by Bono and Edge's holiday homes in the Bay of Eze area of the South of France. Bono explained to Q magazine: "Just knowing where you're having your vacation that on the same sea people are fighting for their lives, attaching themselves to bits of wood and rubber tyres."
"(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding" was written by Nick Lowe in 1974. The original version with his group Brinsley Schwarz was kind of somber, but Elvis Costello made it a classic with his 1978 uptempo take.