White as Snow
by U2

Album: No Line on the Horizon (2009)

Songfacts®:

  • This minor-key acoustic folk ballad is about a soldier dying in the snow of Afghanistan, focusing on his last thoughts. Like a number of tracks on No Line on The Horizon, this was written by Bono about a specific character. He explained to The Observer Music Monthly February 2009: "I just got tired of the first-person so I invented all these characters; a traffic cop, a junkie, a soldier serving in Afghanistan."
  • The musical arrangement is based loosely on the ancient Christmas carol, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" which has previously been covered by a number of artists, including Enya and Belle And Sebastian. Co-producer Daniel Lanois explained to The National Post why they borrowed from the hymn: "After my conversation with Bono about future hymns or future spirituals, I did a little studying. In fact, with a friend in Toronto, Lori Anna Reid - she's a great singer from Toronto and she's quite an expert on spirituals. I asked her to fish a few out for me and we had a listening session and that one stood out to me. It's an old church hymn called 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel.' It's not identical, but it's inspired by that, an old public domain melody. I laid down a little piano version of that song, again, chopped it to a tempo. Then I came up with a vocal arrangement. Bono had this 'white as snow; idea. It just slowly came together."
  • This features in the 2009 Jim Sheridan war film Brothers.
  • Bono came up with the idea of focusing on the soldier's last thoughts as he dies from his wounds after reading William Golding's 1956 novel Pincher Martin. The book tells the story of Christopher Hadley "Pincher" Martin, the sole survivor of a military torpedo destroyer which spontaneously sinks in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Comments: 3

  • Danielle from Raleigh, NcBeautiful, beautiful song.
  • Lisa from Plano, TxThis is one of my favorite songs on the new album. On the first listen, I told my son this sound sounded like O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. I had no idea it was actually based on that. This is such a moving and heartfelt piece!
  • Nishit from MumbaiBono's sounds great on this one, and the lyrics have a profound effect on you.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

George Harrison

George HarrisonFact or Fiction

Did Eric Clapton really steal George's wife? What's the George Harrison-Monty Python connection? Set the record straight with our Fact or Fiction quiz.

Joan Armatrading

Joan ArmatradingSongwriter Interviews

The revered singer-songwriter talks inspiration and explains why she put a mahout in "Drop the Pilot."

Tony Banks of Genesis

Tony Banks of GenesisSongwriter Interviews

Genesis' key-man re-examines his solo career and the early days of music video.

Rick Astley

Rick AstleySongwriter Interviews

Rick Astley on "Never Gonna Give You Up," "Cry For Help," and his remarkable resurgence that gave him another #1 UK album.

Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear: Teddy Bears and Teddy Boys in Songs

Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear: Teddy Bears and Teddy Boys in SongsSong Writing

Elvis, Little Richard and Cheryl Cole have all sung about Teddy Bears, but there is also a terrifying Teddy song from 1932 and a touching trucker Teddy tune from 1976.

P.F. Sloan

P.F. SloanSongwriter Interviews

P.F. was a teenager writing hits and playing on tracks for Jan & Dean when he wrote a #1 hit that got him blackballed.