U2: “Pride (In the Name of Love)”

See image credit below.

See image credit below.

It’s 1985. My sister, Julia, and I are in the cab of a rental truck, driving up I-55 in Illinois. We’re en route from our hometown of St. Louis to Madison, Wisconsin, where I am about to start a PhD program. Julia has been supplying the tunes, pulling out one cassette tape after another. Depeche Mode. The Cure. Ministry.

Then – bam! – she puts in a tape, and it’s a revelation to me.

One man come in the name of love
One man come and go

What is this music, this song, this band?

Of course, it was the Irish band, U2 – and I’ve been hooked on their music ever since. But no song does it for me like “Pride (In the Name of Love),” the band’s homage to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Well do I remember hearing “Pride” played over and over on the jukebox in the University of Wisconsin’s Memorial Student Union. I’d buy my lunch in the Rathskeller, then rock out as “Pride” played yet again. It always made my soul soar – and I still love to hear it.

“Pride” – released in 1984, just a few months before Julia played it for me – was U2’s first Top 40 hit in the United States and is still one of their most popular songs.

It tells the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the man who, like Christ, came in the name of love. The band had seen an exhibit about Dr. King at the Chicago Peace Museum in 1983 and wanted to write a song in his honor.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get their history quite right. The lyric “Early morning, April 4 / Shot rings out in a Memphis sky” gets an essential point wrong: King was shot in the evening on April 4, 1968. Bono has said he regrets that error; in fact, he sometimes corrects the lyric in live performance, singing “Early evening, April 4.”

No matter. “Pride” stands as a song you can rock to and a song you can learn to. So taken with the song was Coretta Scott King, MLK’s widow, that she invited U2 to play at the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta.

Lead singer Bono described “Pride” as “the most successful Pop song we’ve ever written. 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.” And U2 guitarist The Edge said, “Because of the situation in our country non-violent struggle was such an inspiring concept. Even so when Bono told me 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.”

The 12-inch vinyl release of “Pride” included the following quote from Dr. King, one of my enduring favorites:

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.

I give “Pride” a listen every year on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day – and I hope you’ll take a listen today as well. As one commentator says, U2 “unleash[ed] their unique brand of rock and roll emotion and their audience received the message of love’s unstoppable force with as much clarity as if they were listening to King’s stirring oratory.”

Want this powerful song in your collection – and a CD of other great songs to boot? Check out their 1984 album, The Unforgettable Fire, named after another display at the Chicago Peace Museum about victims of the Hiroshima bombing.

Join me this week on Pinterest as I pin images and resources related to U2. Take a look around at all my boards – or go straight to “My Favorite Songs” board for U2 treats.

And don’t forget to leave a comment on this post! If you subscribe to the weekly StoryWeb email and leave a comment here, you’ll be entered into a monthly drawing to win a StoryWeb T-shirt.

Watch:You can read the full lyrics here, but nothing beats seeing and hearing U2 perform it. Here’s a 4-minute video where they do just that! (Isn’t Bono just the coolest? And The Edge is rocking it, too!)

Image credit: “Pride (In the Name of Love) (U2 single) coverart” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pride_(In_the_Name_of_Love)_(U2_single)_coverart.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Pride_(In_the_Name_of_Love)_(U2_single)_coverart.jpg.