With Or Without You
by U2

Album: The Joshua Tree (1987)
Charted: 4 1


  • In this song, Bono describes a tortured relationship that he can't escape. The lyric can be interpreted many ways; Bono explained that he wanted to write a love song that dealt with real issues.
  • In 1987 Bono explained that everybody in the group knows what the line "And you give yourself away" means: "It's about how I feel in U2 at times - exposed. I'm not going to do many interviews this year. Because there's a cost to my personal life, and a cost to the group as well."

    In 2005 Bono called the refrain most important part of the song because it signifies a release of mental tension, "which is when the 'Aah-aah' comes out. That is what giving yourself away is, musically." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Kristine - Davenport, IA
  • This was U2's breakout hit in America, where they had only modest success until The Joshua Tree album. They had long been stars in their native Ireland, and with their previous album, The Unforgettable Fire, they broke through in the UK, but until "With Or Without You" their biggest US hit was "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" at #33. When they did conquer America, they did so swiftly and thoroughly; "With Or Without You" went to #1, and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" followed to the top spot.
  • The Edge used a distortion device called an "Infinite Guitar" to create the wail. It was invented by Michael Brook, whom The Edge worked with on the soundtrack for a 1986 film called The Captive. Brook created the Infinite Guitar by replacing the pickup on a guitar with a magnetic device that vibrates the strings. Co-producer Daniel Lanois told Mojo magazine January 2008 about the recording of this song: "'For 'With Or Without You' we had the rhythm and the chords then we were testing Michael Brook's Infinite Guitar Invention. I asked Edge just to play a little something with it. He did two takes and those are the ones in the ultimate mix of 'With Or Without You.' Beautiful sounds, stratospheric."
  • The title is a more sincere variation of the "can't live with them, can't live without them" idiom, which is typically used to describe something or someone that is frustrating, but hard to give up.
  • The video, directed by Meiert Avis, is rather artsy, showing the band performing the song in a rather affected manner. It did very well on MTV, where it was nominated for seven Video Music Awards, including Video Of The Year. It won for Viewer's Choice, beating Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer."
  • Bono intended this as part of a trilogy with two other songs that did not make the album, which explains the rather vague imagery. At the time, Bono didn't think it made any sense without the other two songs, but listeners were happy to fill in the gaps with their own interpretations.
  • Bono, who had already been married to Alison Stewart for five years by the time The Joshua Tree was released, described the lyric as "pure torment."

    While on tour in the French Riviera, he wondered if domesticity would stand in the way of being an artist. "I was at least two people: the person who is so responsible, protective and loyal and the vagrant and idler in me who just wants to run from responsibility," he explained in the book U2 by U2. "I thought these tensions were going to destroy me but actually, in truth, it is me. That tension, it turns out, is what makes me as an artist."
  • On the Rattle and Hum tour, Bono added the lyrics at the end... "Yeah, we'll shine like stars in the summer night, We'll shine like stars in the winter night, One heart, One hope, One love." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bill - Johnstown, PA
  • This was the first single that U2 released on CD. The single also appeared in CD Video format and is a rare collectible. About 50 copies were made to demo the Philips CDV system.
  • U2 played this for the first time in Tempe, Arizona on April 4, 1987, the second night of The Joshua Tree tour. Bono mixed in parts of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" during this performance.
  • This was used in the movies Cousins (1989), Blown Away (1994) and Looking for Alibrandi (2000). >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France, for above 3
  • This was a song that caught Bono torn between a life of domesticity and free spirited artistry. "I had some difficult emotional stuff going on," he confessed to Mojo. "I didn't understand at that point the freedom that I would receive from a committed relationship. I was feeling guilty if I was talking to somebody in their record company who was really attractive. I was you know, just everything was at 11. But that's why 'With or Without You' is so operatic and that's OK."
  • This was played on two episodes of the TV series Friends, first towards the middle of the second season (1995, "The One with the List"), then in the middle of the third season (1997, "The One Where Ross And Rachel Take A Break"). It became the anthem of the characters Ross and Rachel, with both scenes coming at pivotal moments in their relationship.
  • The song returned twice to the UK Top 75 within the space of eight months, both due to performances by reality show contestants. In October 2008 following a performance by contestant Diana Vickers on X Factor and again in May 2009 thanks to Shaun Smith's rendition of the song during a semi-final edition of Britain's Got Talent.
  • This was voted best single of 1987 in a Rolling Stone magazine readers poll.
  • The woman who appears fleetingly in the video is Morleigh Steinberg, a dancer who in 1992 joined the band on their Zoo TV tour, belly dancing during the song "Mysterious Ways." She and The Edge got friendly during that tour; they got married in 2002 and had two children together.
  • This plays in one of the closing scenes of the TV series The Americans, which ran 2013-2018. It was used in a section where the family of Russian spies was separating as FBI closed in.
  • In The Office episode "Valentine's Day" (2006), Michael Scott uses this song as background music for his "Faces of Scranton" presentation.
  • The band brought Steve Lillywhite, who produced their first three albums, on board to remix the singles to boost their commercial appeal. On this track, his treatment of the drums was controversial among producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. Lanois told Rolling Stone in 1987: "'With or Without You' was the one that there was the most discussion about, because Brian certainly had a very different idea of how it should go. I had yet another idea, and Steve pushed the mix in a direction that was a little more mainstream in its approach. When the drums came in, they were a little more crash, bang, which is a sound that Steve is known for. Certainly, Brian would have preferred to have the drums be more mysterious and more supportive."
  • In a 1987 interview with Music Technology, Lanois explained the drum sequence was put through an amp "because it sounds more like people playing in a room, rather than a machine." He went on to speak about computer-based equipment, saying: "It's just a toolbox, isn't it? The sequencers, the samplers, the drum boxes. It should be used when it applies. It's a matter of serving the song. For example, if you're looking for a mood of discipline or speed, then a machine can offer you that much easier than live playing. That's why we used a sequencer on the beginning of 'With Or Without You,' we wanted a feeling of discipline. And then when the drums kick in halfway, they mean something."

Comments: 83

  • Arthur from Kent, Washington"This plays in one of the closing scenes of the TV series The Americans, which ran 2013-2018. It was used in a section where the family of Russian spies was separating as FBI closed in."

    I FINALLY listened to this complete, wonderful song while watching/re-watching the last episode of the excellent TV Series "The Americans". This link explains how well it fit the scenes:


    Here is YouTube link for those scenes:


    So, so awesome!
  • Javier from Maryland, MdJust to let everyone know, THIS SONG IS NOT ABOUT GOD. IT DOES NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH GOD. "Bono wrote the lyrics while struggling to reconcile his responsibilities as both a married man and a musician. His wanderlust in belonging to a musical act was often at odds with his domestic life. While writing the lyrics, he realized that neither facet of his life defined him, but rather the tension between the two did. He explains that the final lyric is about "torment" and how repressing desires only makes them stronger". This song is not religious.
  • Sioraf from Macroon, IrelandThis song was sampled on Take Me To The Clouds Above though blink and you'll miss it.
  • Miles from Vancouver, CanadaAnd I should have added too that One Tree Hill almost made me cry when I actually listened to it.
  • Miles from Vancouver, CanadaAre you annoyed to death of this song because of its constant overplay? Well, there is a trick to loving it... I was fed up with U2 in 2004 because they kept putting the same album out. They included all the big hit singles at the top and then just a bunch of filler came afterwards. Even the hit singles started to make nauseous. Then in February 2005, I thought to myself, "Have I ever actually listened to their early stuff closely?" And lo and behold, The Joshua Tree was still on my PC in mp3 format. So I figured I should give the album another try to see if it really was worth the praise it got over the years. (For one thing, I had ISHFWILF on a mix CD that I listened to with my family on a car trip during New Year's Eve and that song somehow captivated me in a way it never did before.) Starting with WTSHNN, I started to feel sucked in, so I decided to keep listening all the way through. Then when this song approached, I realized how gorgeous it was within its album context...and I loved it again. And while some could argue that all songs after the first three are filler, most of them are actually UPLIFTING filler... One Tree Hill never did anything for me, but after ACTUALLY LISTENING to the album, I realized that The Joshua Tree truly is a great album. Matter of fact, it's the only U2 album I really listen to all the way across. If you think like I have, you'll love both the song and the album. And by the way, Michael of Corpus Christi, your comparison of the lyrics to the crucifixion of Christ is a stroke of genius.
  • Michael from Corpus Christi, TxThis song is written as an Apostolic psalm in the style of a Davidic lamentation that cries out to Jesus: I can't live with or without you. It's subject is Christ's passion and death, written from the perspective of the Apostles.

    'See the stone set in your eye'...The resurrected Jesus in the tomb.

    'See the thorn twist in your side'...John and the three Marys witness the piercing of His side at the foot of the cross.

    'Sleight of hand'...Joseph Caiaphas, the High Priest, hands Jesus over to Pontius Pilate on trumped-up charges.

    'and twist of fate'...One of Jesus' own Apostles, Judas, hands Him over to the High Priest.

    'On a bed of nails'...The Cross of Jesus.

    'she makes me wait'...The Apostles despair as their Messiah dies cursed, hanging on a tree (cf, Deuteronomy 21:22-23), not understanding that He would soon rise from the dead. She refers to the Holy Spirit carrying-out the will of Father and Son. (The Holy Spirit, like Wisdom, is referenced by the feminine pronoun within the bible.)

    'Through the storm we reach the shore'...Jesus is with His Apostles when He calmed the storm and they begin to ask one another “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" (Mark 4:35-41; cf, Matthew 14:22-33)

    'You give it all but I want more'...Jesus gave His life for His followers (to restore the Covenant and bring about salvation), but they are not satisfied; they desire to be in His presence.

    'And you give yourself away'...as above; Jesus gave His life to restore the Covenant.

    'My hands are tied, my body bruised'...All of Jesus' Apostles were persecuted and all were killed (except John who was exiled until death on the Island of Patmos) for spreading Jesus' message.

    'She got me with nothing to win and nothing left to lose'...She, once again, refers to the Holy Spirit. The Apostles have nothing to personally gain through their persecution and death (Jesus made their salvation possible through His passion, death, and resurrection) and they have nothing to lose as a result of their baptism; ie, they have died to their old selves and are raised to new life (born-again) in Christ Jesus.

    'And you give yourself away'... So, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles have the courage to give themselves away in imitation of Jesus.

    'I can't live with...you'...In this life we desire to be in God's presence, but due to our fallen nature we can only experience Him imperfectly.

    'I can't live...without you'...It is only through Christ Jesus that we can be raised to new life (ie, heal our fallen nature) and enjoy the hope of eternal life with God in the time to come.

    'I can't live with or without you'...the lamentation of Christians everywhere for two millennia.
  • Daniel from Pembroke Pines, Fl@ Emil in raleigh. That is exactly what this song means to me. i'm glad im not the only one who interprets it that way. I guess thats whats so great about it. With of Without You has a different meaning to everyone who hears it.
  • John from Washington, DcMany of U2's songs are religious or spiritual in nature, but after giving this one some thought, I think it's safe to say it's about being in love with a woman (apparently an ex) who's sleeping with another guy (or guys). Other interpretations are too convoluted. Any guy who has been in this situation knows the feeling, and it's pretty clear that's what it's about.
  • Clare from Derby, United KingdomI am crazy about a guy who cannot commit to me, because he has been badly hurt in previous relationships and is scared to get involved again incase he gets hurt. He loves me too, but we cannot be together. This song could have been written for us! X:'0(
  • Nikki from :los Angeles, CaAfter reading so many of these interpretations of this song, I changed my mind many times before I wrote this. I discovered this song hanging out with my male best friend one night we went on a kind of date. I always loved him from a distance and never had him the way I loved him.... Few years later we ran into each other and from what it seemed he had some feelings like I had and still at this time have had for him...we finally got together and it was beautiful. Sadly it was a fling and he dropped me 2 months later... We stopped talking for 10 years after that.. I searched all over for him still madly in love with him, I know why over all these years goes right along with the song, I can't live with or without him. He found me on of all things facebook... In relationship from Sept. 08 till April 09... He broke it off again. I believe he is not used to someone loving him completely selflessly as I do.. He dated someone else and I prayed he would come back to me and no matter what I would be there and not let go of that prayer in my heart and soul. He eventually did although it took him where he is jail.... now I know he is the man I want to be with. After 17 years I can't live with him or without him. When he is released soon he will be with me. I got a letter from him stating he in there has realized I was the one he can't live with or without. I cannot let this man out of my life no matter what I try. I dedicate this song to him every night on the radio. He wrote in another letter with the words you can't live with me in here(jail) and I can't be without you there. I know he is the one I am supposed to be with... because I can't see myself without him. Thru this with him in jail may be difficult now but my future without him would be even worse.
  • Anonymous from Nj, NjOh, Marcelo! I'm so sorry. I can't imagine how that must have been. She had good taste in music! :)
    Always liked this song. It's nice.
  • Marcelo from São Paulo, BrazilThis was the last song my wife heard before she died at 33 yrs old.
  • Matt from Buffalo, NyThis song can be fit into any interpretation you want. Whether it be about religion or love, the lyrics are vague enough for it to fit your own feelings. This song reminds me of the girl I care most about not because of the lyrics but because I was thinking about her when this song came on. So whenever I hear it I think of her.
  • Gavin from Birmingham, United KingdomI heard this song is about two people who are seemingly perfect for each other and love each other dearly but are of different religions and for that reason cannot be together...

    This could fit in with Protestant/Catholic divide in Northern Ireland that the band elude to in other songs, but I think I read it was about a Mormon girl and a non-religious guy(or possibly a Christian of another denomination)that Bono met in his youth.
    Either way the lyrics make sense when viewed with this explanation.
  • Uzoma from Kano, OtherThanks Jack Lee!
  • Theresa from Murfreesboro, TnThis song is a masterpiece.
  • Jay from San Diego, CaI get the vibe that it's about a failing relationship. He wants something more than she can give but he still cares about her. A bed of nails, being the frustration and pain they feel in bed. Through the storm (been through alot together), we reach the shore, she gives it all but he still isn't satisfied.

  • Shoumo from Calcutta , IndiaPossibly the greatest song ever . It is about a woman you love desperately but cannot be with.And cannot stand bear life without her .It is unbelievably profound. The drum does beat like the heart.
  • Brian from Virginia Beach, VaBill in Johnstown, U2 added that last verse during the Joshua Tree Tour. They did several variations of the verse throughout the Joshua Tree Tour. I have them on bootlegs. The verse you quote is from the last concert of the Joshua Tree Tour which is in the Rattle and Hum Movie.
  • Erik from Davis, CaI have the feeling this song isn't about love, or God, or even about the band. The more I listen to the song, the more I realize it's about death. I remember some of the earlier U2 songs were about the death of Bono's mother when he was in his early teens. The lyrics seem to allude to death and the music seems rather funereal to be about love or God. Personally, I think it was a deeper and more vague song about the death of his mother and how it continued to affect his life at the time. This is definitely not a love song.
  • Lance from Clinton Corners, NyOh, I forgot to mention the guitar - the last 30 seconds of the song is best work by the Edge - I can't stand it when a radio station cuts those riffs!
  • Corey Maller from Roslyn Heights, NyThis is probably one of the greatest songs ever composed. This song really captures U2's unique sound and shows why U2 is one of the most popular bands in the world. Even though the guitar rifts are very simple, they sound amazing. This is actually what the edge is known for. Many of his guitar rifts in other songs are very simple. But the simplicity of the songs are discarded due to the distortion and effects he adds to the guitar. The Edge actually said himself that he trys to play as few notes as possible because it sounds better with his kind of guitar style.
  • Dora from Doha, QatarI absolutely love this song. It's a classic and one of U2's best!
  • Lance from Clinton Corners, NyBy far, the best song ever. This is the song that made me a U2 fan. I really like that while it is meant to be a love song, it can be taken to have meaning for many different situations. "Nothing to win and nothing left to lose" can describe many encounters in life.
  • Emil from Raleigh, NcFor me this this song is about the pain associated with having a crush. It really sux when the feelings are unreturned. If you try to get your crush out of your mind, you feel like you're missins something.
  • Michaela from Brooklyn, NyIn 2005 my Mother gave me an 80s cd collection 'caues I love 80s music.I'm 20.I saw the titel to this song and Ithought to myself then,Why was this song #1?I'm sure it's a boring song!Then,for some reason,I decided to listen to it.I loved it!I like this song alot and the music.Now I know why the song was #1!
  • Bertrand from Paris, FranceU2's track to stardom and then legend status has been an intriguing one, filled with explorations of a variety of styles and approaches. However, this tune, one of many excellent songs from The Joshua Tree, strikes a perfect balance of pop and rock sensibilities. It's catchy, beautiful and hauntingly memorable, and somehow it remains both a document of its era and a timeless classic. Plus, it doesn't hurt that the song has one of the best bass lines in rock history.
  • Hazel from Dublin, IrelandA deadly tune for studying for the Leaving Cert!
  • Simon from Glasgow, Scotlandim going to have this played at my funeral
    The bass line is awesome
  • Danleichty from Rochester, MnThis song is very emotional. When I was 15. I was in a theatre production of the play the Hobbit. I was befriended by a very kind young woman named jennifer. I haven't seen her since the play has ended.{5 years ago}. I think about her alot when I hear this song.
  • Monica from Bluefield, Wvhey jeanette in MD...you read my mind, girl...this song represents the best that 4 fantastic musicians have to offer, and it really is the perfect song...i also dig how the drum sounds like a heartbeat (or is that just me?)
  • Marco from Luleå, Swedenwhy write more than, absolutely fantastic song!!!! ty U2
  • Samantha from Chico, CaFor everyone at one point in their life, they can relate to this amazing song. Wether its about god, or you and another person, this song touches the hearts of many people, and always will. This world is so damn hard sometimes. For me personally this song is about god. Even as a christian i can say that many times in my life i have doubted gods existence, or thought that he did not love me anymore, even when i felt that no one else did. I think that the worst feeling in the world, is to feel alone, and forgotten. I know that every person in the world has felt that. This song for me broke the ice, that we have to live no matter what, even if it is without the one person you love the most, even when you cannot possibly love youself, but you just have to live, with or without, that is amazing.
  • Samantha from Chico, CaHey Natasha I'm from chico cali too.
  • Patrick from Hasbrouck Heights, NjWhat a fantastic song. I think this was, without a doubt, the greatest song of the 80s. I especially love the wailing guitar intro.
  • Sue from London, Canadathis is the first song at my wedding - it's so passionate, the best love song ever writteb
  • Michael from Palm Desert, Cathis is the greatest song ever
  • Jamison from Pittsburgh, Pa'With or Without You' has been my favorite song since 1987. I always assumed it was about a love relationship but a statement by Adam Clayton had me examine a spiritual interpretation. I cannot quote it exactly or name the source but I read on a U2 website a few years ago that Adam said "They (the band)could not believe that their first #1 song was about God".

    So after thinking about this for a year or two I think I may be close to figuring it out. I believe it is a song between God the Father and God the Son (Jesus Christ). "See the stone set in your eye" (A stone was placed the opening of the tomb where Jesus was placed after being crucified) "See the thorn twist in your side, I wait for you" (The crown of thorns piercing Jesus' head, or thorn could be used to describe the sword used to slash the side of Jesus. God is watching this all take place and waiting for Jesus to take his place at His right hand.) "Sleight of hand and twist of fate, on a bed of nails she makes me wait and I wait without you" (Twist of fate, on a bed of nails she (being fate) makes me wait. God is watching his son being tortured and killed.) "Through the storm we reach the shore, you give it all but I want more and I'm waiting for you" (The story of Jesus on the boat with the disciples, when a storm hit and they panicked and did not fully trust Jesus....Jesus devoted his life to doing His Father's Will but God needed more than that, he needed him to literally sacrifice His life). "And you give yourself away" (Jesus did not want to die, but he gave himself away to die in the place of all of us for our sins) "My hands are tied, my body bruised, she's got me with nothing to win and nothing left to lose" (Now this is from Jesus' point of view...his hands are tied, his body is bruised, fate's got him with nothing to win (for himself) and since dying is the ultimate sacrifice he obviously had nothing left to lose.) Now what does "With or Without You" mean? This is where I am confused but I will give my best interpretation. God could not live with Jesus because he came to earth to live among us and to eventually die on the cross for us. Since God loves all of us He provided a way for us to be forgiven of our trepasses through the sacrifice of Christ. This obviously could not happen if Jesus stayed in heaven. God cannot live without Jesus because they are both the same God. Jesus was fully God and fully man. This is deep theology for those of you who are not familiar with the Christian faith and can be very confusing. (I saw Bono on the Charlie Rose talkshow on New Years Eve 2001 and Bono claimed to be a believer and a bit of a theologian. He said he studies theology quite often. Whether this song is about an earthly love relationship or about the ultimate love relationship between God and man, it is beautiful and very deep. I am a pastor so maybe I see U2's songs from a spiritual angle but I do know that faith is a huge part of Bono's life along with the other band members.

    If I could ever meet Bono and have a conversation with him, I think the first thing I would ask if for the meaning of this song. The music and the lyrics are just fantastic and it has had me thinking a great deal. As mentioned before, Bono is hesistant to give the meanings of most songs because he wants us to have our interpretation of the songs so they are special to us.
  • Luis Talete from Lisbon, PortugalDid'nt Bono write this song as memory of the death of his close friend Michael Hutchence?

    Only if he had a prmonition he died 10 years later after Bono wrote the song.
  • Jay from Atlanta, Ga"The greatest love song ever"? Jack needs to listen to more music. And why do people write novels like Carlos? (2 sentences, get in get out). Try telling your girlfriend/spouse you can't live with them and see how far you get.
  • John from Boston, MaRoger, I don't agree that it is "certainly not" a love song. While it isn't the love song that people often percieve at first listen, there's no shock that it can be percieved as being about with love and relationships. It's one of those songs that can mean many things to many people, with none of those meanings really being wrong.
  • Lanto from Swansea, WalesThis gives me goosepimples, only other song to do this is Sunday Bloody Sunday.
  • James from Vancouver, CanadaI get chills every time he goes for the big note
  • Kayla from LondonWhat makes this song so great is that you can interpret it any way you want to. It can mean different things to different people and they're all right. However you take a song, if it means something to you, than thats all that matters. Thats the beauty of art. It doesn't always have to have one meaning.
  • Grace from Fairfax Station, VaThis song is heartbreaking but beautiful at the same time. I think it's about a failing relationship, and I wouldn't try to look for hidden meanings.
  • Tomas from Chicago, IlThe bassline on this song is one of the simplest around, played by many begginers, but nearly impossible to get to sound correct. Its amazing how such a simple line can propel a complex song.
  • Miles from Vancouver, CanadaI've really underestimated this song. I hated it because it was being played far too much on the radio. But if I listen to "The Joshua Tree" as a whole, it's much more enjoyable. That way, I can see what a wonderful song it is lying underneath.
  • Sharyn from Bathurst, AustraliaHamish Cowan sang a version of With or Without You which appeared in the Australian movie 'Looking For Alibrandi.' In the movie, based on the book by Melina Marchetta, Pia Miranda plays Josephine Alibrandi, a 17 year old Italian-Australian who is sitting the HSC. When one of her closest friends kills himself, this song is played at the funeral. Hamish Cowan's version has a more sombre sound to it, and was a fitting song for such a tragic scene.
  • Roger from Los Angeles, CaI laugh that some people think this is a love song. It certainly is not.
  • Jeanette from Elkridge, MdThis song is U2 at their very best. Every part of this song (ie: every instrument) is incredible. The way everything is written, the melody, guitar, drum line, bass line, lyrics etc. I can't get enough of this song especially the version on Rattle and Hum. I would really like to get the audio version of that so can listen to it anywhere and also the version of Bad too.
  • Aylin from Montreal, CanadaInfinite guitar, eh? Whatever...it sounds really good.
  • Peter from Buenos Aires, ArgentinaI just think that this song talks about being unable to live without an answer from your lover, i mean, you just don't mind if it's a no or a yes, you just want her to talk to you. I personnaly felt it like this because it helped me tell my woman how much i loved her, although i knew she did´nt feel the same. I did'nt get her all the same, but it helped me move on. Thanks U2
  • Josh from Tampa, FlAt the time this song was written Bono was struggling with the decision whether or not to stay in U2. There was a bit of disagreement about the band's religious devotion and how it would affect their music and careers. Bono didn't want to forsake his religion to gain a career in music. "I can't live, with or without you" has two meanings..."I can't live with or without God" and "I can't live with or without this band." If I stay in the band, what about my religion, if I leave the band, what about my friends and career. It was a paradox, one which Bono has triumphed in, being able to maintain both....U2 and devotion
  • Jack Lee from Nottingham, EnglandThe greatest love song ever written, Second is Bon Jovi - Always
  • Joe from Houston, TxPaul took the name Bono from a hearing aid company in Dublin called "Bonovox". It was the Edge's idea, and Paul thought it sounded cool.
  • Phillip from San Fransico, TnI once heard that this song was written about Bono's relationship with his bono. I mean think about it, "I can't live with or without you"...sounds like a rosy palm to me.
  • Rob from Castaic, Cathe guitar in this song has the best sound i have ever heard
  • Saralysette from Ashland, OrThis will always be the song to remind me of my first love. It fits us perfectly. It's still my favorite song and I listen to it all the time, just because it is haungtinly beautiful and it can't be overplayed. If he ever reads this he'll know I'm talking about him, cuz no one else seems to see me quite the way he does. We try so hard to get away from each other and we always end up around each other, cuz we cant live with or without each other. He can stop me with just a look, and there's alot of other refrences as well, like dangerously combustible passion and waiting and oh yes, neither of us have won or lost anything, and somehow my feelings always escape me.
  • Carlos from Coral Springs, FlThis song like "running to stand still" is very personal to bono. In an interview with Larry King back in 87, Larry asked him what the song really meant. Bono replied that he didnt want to conceptualize the song, he wanted to let people draw their own conclusions, but he said to him it wasnt about a relationship with another person, but an ongoing struggle he had with heroin at the time he wrote it. But he added that he thought it was an odd song and would not get the popularity and air play it had. So once it became popular, the first conclusion people drew from this song is that it was about a personal relationship. He even later changed his story later and said this about the song.

    Bono: In "With Or Without You" when it says "and you give yourself away and you give yourself away" -- everybody else in the group knows what that means. It's about how I feel in U2 at times -- exposed. I know the group think I'm exposed and the group feel that I give myself away. And funny enough, Lou Reed said to me, 'what you've got is a real gift: don't give it away because people might not place upon it the right value.' And I think that if l do any damage to the group, it's that I'm too open. For instance, in an interview, I don't hold the cards there and play the right one because I either have to do it or not do it. That's why I'm not going to do many interviews this year. Because there's a cost to my personal life and a cost to the group as well.

    (from "The World About Us" by Niall Stokes, Hot Press, March 26, 1988)

    TW: Another thing that we certainly need to do in music is discover new ways to write love songs. "With Or Without You" seems like a new kind of love song to me.

    Bono: Thank you. That's kinda the way I feel about it. I've said it before, but to me there's nothing more radical, there's nothing more revolutionary than two people loving each other. One, 'cause it's so uncommon these days, and two, 'cause it's so difficult to do.

    (from "Timothy White's Rock Stars", radio interview, June 01, 1987)

    Bono: On the "With or Without You" EP there are three songs that all deal with obsession [Walk To The Water, Luminous Times], with that kind of sexuality. I'd like to have done a whole side, a whole record, blue. That EP is something close.

    (from "Luminous Times" by John Hutchinson, Musician, October 01, 1987)

    [...] Bono will argue that "the album is almost incomplete. 'With Or Without You' doesn't really make sense without 'Walk To The Water' or 'Luminous Times.' [...]

    (from "Band On The Run" by Bill Graham, Hot Press, December 17, 1987)

    "With Or Without You" attacked the subject of personal relationships head on. It portrayed the singer as being torn between life without love on the one hand and life in an unworkable relationship on the other. "With or Without You" was the first evidence of Bono, in his role as singer, being on the receiving end of a one-sided partnership and taking an almost masochistic delight in it. Musical history has seen rock 'n' roll strap on its traditional macho trappings and look for a convenient site for conquest in a series of testosterone-fuelled one-night stands. U2 were more interested in the spiritual conflict that preceded them and the mental conflict that followed. They wanted fever. "With or Without You" furthered that direction and investigated the violence of love. Love is the closest emotion to hate, power the closest to submission and sadism the closest to masochism. Bono revealed that "it was interesting to me because I see it in myself and in other people around me. Love is a two-edged sword and I didn't want to write about romance because that doesn't interest me as much as the other side." [...]

    (from "U2 - A Conspiracy of Hope" by Dave Bowler & Bryan Dray, 1993)

    Bono: There's a lot of stuff that goes through your head, and the songs can completely change their meanings. Something like "With or Without You" becomes about your audience. It's wild how a song can change. [...]
  • Tom from St. Louis, MoThis is an incredible song. U2 is at their best in this song! I think that this song speaks to everyone. I believe that the overall message is religious. However, the wonderful thing is that nothing is said clearly enough so the lyrics can be interpreted in many different ways.
  • Natasha from Chico, CaI've always had a special bond with this song,it was #1 on the charts the week i was born, and i loved it even before i knew that i was born when it was #1. Kinda eerie, no? I guess not, since the song is so incredibly awesome. The echos and acoustics are so great. Whenever i hear this song, I see a guy standing out in the pouring rain @ night, waiting for this girl who never comes.
  • Natasha from Chico, CaI always thought that this song was about this guy who's in love with a prostitute, and she just "gives herself away" and there's nothing he can do to save her and make her his.
  • B from Pittsburgh, PaBono wrote this song about his relationship with his mother.
  • Jakob from Barcelona, SpainDuring the October 10, 2001 concert which was webcast from Notre Dame, Bono says "If you were born 10 months after this came out, this is for you", at the start of "With or Without You".

    "With or Without You" was released in March of 1987, and 10 months later would be January 1988. The song did hit the top five in the charts a month after it was released. Nine months after that, children conceived while it was holding strong in the charts would have been born. Many have suggested the dedication was a dedication to any of those children who were in the crowd that night.

    source: u2faqs.com
  • Pete from Nowra, Australiai think i got the wrong song , must be All I want is you?????
  • Pete from Nowra, Australiaso whats the video clip about?? i thought the midget died ,but he was at the funeral????

    so who died????
  • Sam from Dublin, IrelandIan....i can't live with or without you.
  • Vikingwizard from Melbourne, AustraliaI've seen Bono in an interview say that thise song is about the fans, and how they can only be what they are now with them, coz without them they're nothing, and that people have always misinterperated this song as being a love song, but thats ok coz all art is open to interpretation, and how each person percieves it
  • Chris from Lake Mary, FlDamn, Bono is such a genius! I never get tired of listening to U2 for some reason. It seems like those Irish people just have a natural inclination to make great music.
  • Rhett from Melbourne, Australiabrilliant melody. the song that made me aware of who U2 really are.
  • Dominic from Pittsburgh, PaNo, he really wasn't.
  • Gilliann from Dublin, IrelandI love this song, one of my altime faves, my dad used to be bonos best friend :)
  • Shirley from Ocean, NjThis song came out in 1987; Michael Hutchence didn't die until 1997.
  • Adele from Victoria, CanadaThis song was also played in the very last episode of Friends for a Ross and Rachel moment.
  • Justin from Ojai, CaThis song is about a guy who is into a girl way more than she is into him. He is the patient nice guy on the side, tortured by her interest in men other than himself. Despite the pain she causes him, he cannot let go and remains a victim to her insensitivities. In the end, he has "Nothing to win, and nothing left to lose."
  • Honeybunny from Kkkkkk, United StatesDid'nt Bono write this song as memory of the death of his close friend Michael Hutchensine???
  • Alatriel from Lothlorien, Otherthis is one of the only u2 songs that doesn't suck.
  • Marco from Los Angeles, CaI always thought it was about Ireland
  • Shawn from Loganville, GaThis is really one of the best songs ever!! I used to hate U2, but then I heard this song on Friends. The lyrics and music in this song fit perfect together. I can always relate to this song in so many ways! Awesome song!
  • Terri Lynn from Heart's Desire, Canadathis song is so powerful... and it can reach out to so many people. there are countless people who can relate to a scenerio like this one. The sound projected is one that almost haunts the soul... unbelievably touching.
  • Dawn from Toronto, CanadaThis is the only song in the whole world that can make me cry in an instant. To me, it's about two people, who are destined to be with each other, but can't. She gives him all the love that she has, but it's not enough for him. He waits and waits and it gets to the point that he can't go any further with their relationship, but he can't get out of it either - he doesn't want to. They both love each other so much, but but they know that they shouldn't be together. I feel this way about my best friend/ex-boyfriend...I can't be with him, but I can't be without him.
  • Ian from Weymouth, EnglandAnother religious one here, a theme which ran through the Joshua and Achtung albums. 'She' is believed to be a methaphor for God and the song is apparently about the disciples undying belief in Jesus returning after death. Song starts with crucifixion, mentions walking on water and ends with Jesus 'giving himself away' by knowing he would be crucified if arrested.
  • Erik from Davis, CaBono has never said what this song was truly about.
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