The band formed at Mount Temple Comprehensive School when the members were teenagers with limited musical proficiency. Within four years, they signed to Island Records and released their debut album Boy. By the mid-1980s, they became a top international act. They were more successful as live performers than they were at selling records, until their 1987 breakthrough album The Joshua Tree, which, according to Rolling Stone, elevated the band's stature "from heroes to superstars". Reacting to a sense of musical stagnation and a late-1980s critical backlash against their earnest image and musical direction, the group reinvented themselves with their 1991 hit album Achtung Baby and the accompanying Zoo TV Tour. U2 integrated dance, industrial, and alternative rock influences into their sound and performances, and embraced a more ironic and self-deprecating image. Similar experimentation continued for the remainder of the 1990s with reduced levels of success. U2 regained critical and commercial favour after their 2000 record All That You Can't Leave Behind. On it and the group's subsequent releases, they pursued a more conventional sound while maintaining influences from their earlier musical explorations.
U2 have released 12 studio albums and are among the best-selling groups in popular music. They have won 22 Grammy Awards, more than any other band, and they have sold more than 150 million records. In 2005, the band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Rolling Stone ranked U2 at number 22 in its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time". Throughout their career, as a band and as individuals, they have campaigned for human rights and philanthropic causes, including Amnesty International, the ONE/DATA campaigns, Product Red, and The Edge's Music Rising.
The band formed in Dublin on 25 September 1976. Larry Mullen, Jr., then a 14-year-old student at Mount Temple Comprehensive School, posted a note on the school's notice board in search of musicians for a new band—six people responded. Setting up in his kitchen, Mullen was on drums, with Paul Hewson (Bono) on lead vocals; David Evans (The Edge) and his older brother Dik Evans on guitar; Adam Clayton, a friend of the Evans brothers on bass guitar; and initially Ivan McCormick and Peter Martin, two other friends of Mullen. Mullen later described it as "'The Larry Mullen Band' for about ten minutes, then Bono walked in and blew any chance I had of being in charge." Soon after, the group settled on the name "Feedback" because it was one of the few technical terms they knew. Martin did not return after the first practice, and McCormick left the group within a few weeks. Most of the group's initial material consisted of cover songs, which the band admitted was not their forté. Some of the earliest influences on the band were emerging punk rock acts, such as The Jam, The Clash, The Buzzcocks, and The Sex Pistols. The popularity of punk rock convinced the group that musical proficiency was not a prerequisite to being successful.
"We couldn't believe it. I was completely
shocked. We weren't of an age to go out partying as such but I
don't think anyone slept that night.... Really, it was just a great
affirmation to win that competition, even though I've no idea how
good we were or what the competition was really like. But to win
at that point was incredibly important for morale and everyone's
belief in the whole project."
In March 1977, the band changed their name to "The Hype". Dik Evans, who was older and by this time at college, was becoming the odd man out. The rest of the band was leaning towards the idea of a four-piece ensemble and he was "phased out" in March 1978. During a farewell concert in the Presbyterian Church Hall in Howth, which featured The Hype playing covers, Dik ceremoniously walked offstage. The remaining four band members completed the concert playing original material as "U2". Steve Averill, a punk rock musician and family friend of Clayton's, had suggested six potential names from which the band chose "U2" for its ambiguity and open-ended interpretations, and because it was the name that they disliked the least.
On Saint Patrick's Day in 1978, U2 won a talent
show in Limerick, Ireland. The prize consisted of £500 and studio
time to record a demo which would be heard by CBS Ireland. This
win was an important milestone and affirmation for the fledgling
band. U2 recorded their first demo tape at Keystone Studios
in Dublin in May 1978. Hot Press magazine was influential in
shaping the band's future; in May, Paul McGuinness, who had earlier
been introduced to the band by the publication's journalist Bill
Graham, agreed to be U2's manager. The group's first release,
an Ireland-only EP entitled Three, was released in September 1979
and was their first Irish chart success. In December 1979,
U2 performed in London for their first shows outside Ireland, although
they failed to get much attention from audiences or critics.
In February 1980, their second single "Another Day" was released on the CBS label, but again only for the Irish market.
Island Records signed U2 in March 1980, and in May, the band released "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" as their first international single. The band's debut album, Boy, followed in October. Produced by Steve Lillywhite, it received generally positive reviews. Although Bono's unfocused lyrics seemed improvised, they expressed a common theme: the dreams and frustrations of adolescence. The album included the band's first United States hit single, "I Will Follow". Boy's release was followed by the Boy Tour, U2's first tour of continental Europe and the United States. Despite being unpolished, these early live performances demonstrated U2's potential, as critics noted that Bono was a "charismatic" and "passionate" showman.
The band's second album, October, was released
in 1981 and contained overtly spiritual themes. During the album's
recording sessions, Bono and The Edge considered quitting the band
due to perceived spiritual conflicts. Bono, The Edge, and Mullen
had joined a Christian group in Dublin called the "Shalom Fellowship", which led them to question the relationship between the Christian faith and
the rock and roll lifestyle. Bono and Edge took time off between
tours and decided to leave Shalom in favour of continuing with
the band. Recording was further complicated when a briefcase containing
lyrics for several working songs was stolen from backstage during
the band's performance at a nightclub in Portland, Oregon.
The album received mixed reviews and limited radio play. Low sales
outside the UK put pressure on their contract with Island and focused
the band on improvement.
Resolving their doubts of the October period,
U2 released War in 1983. A record where the band "turned pacifism itself into a crusade", War's sincerity and "rugged" guitar was intentionally at odds with the "cooler" synthpop of the time. The album included the politically charged "Sunday Bloody Sunday", where Bono had lyrically tried to contrast the events of Bloody Sunday with
Easter Sunday. Rolling Stone magazine wrote that the song showed
the band was capable of deep and meaningful songwriting. War was
U2's first album to feature the photography of Anton Corbijn, who
remains U2's principal photographer and has had a major influence
on their vision and public image. U2's first commercial success,
War debuted at number one in the UK, and its first single, "New Year's Day", was the band's first hit outside Ireland or the UK.
On the subsequent War Tour, the band performed
sold-out concerts in mainland Europe and the US. The sight of Bono
waving a white flag during performances of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" became the tour's iconic image. U2 recorded the Under a Blood Red Sky live
album on this tour, as well as the Live at Red Rocks concert film,
both of which received extensive play on the radio and MTV, expanding
the band's audience and showcasing their prowess as a live act.
Their record deal with Island Records was coming to an end, and
in 1984 the band signed a more lucrative extension. They negotiated
the return of their copyrights (so that they owned the rights to
their own songs), an increase in their royalty rate, and a general
improvement in terms, at the expense of a larger initial payment.
"We knew the world was ready to receive
the heirs to The Who. All we had to do was to keep doing what we
were doing and we would become the biggest band since Led Zeppelin,
without a doubt. But something just didn't feel right. We felt
we had more dimension than just the next big anything, we had something
unique to offer."
The Unforgettable Fire was released in 1984. Ambient and abstract, it was at the time the band's most marked change in direction. The band feared that following the overt rock of the War album and tour, they were in danger of becoming another "shrill", "sloganeering arena-rock band". Thus, experimentation was sought, as Adam Clayton recalls, "We were looking for something that was a bit more serious, more arty." The Edge admired the ambient and "weird works" of Brian Eno, who, along with his engineer Daniel Lanois, eventually agreed to produce the record.
The Unforgettable Fire has a rich and orchestrated
sound. Under Lanois' direction, Mullen's drumming became looser,
funkier, and more subtle and Clayton's bass became more subliminal;
the rhythm section no longer intruded, but flowed in support of
the songs. Complementing the sonic atmospherics, the album's
lyrics are open to many interpretations, providing what the band
called a "very visual feel". Due to a tight recording schedule, however, Bono felt songs like "Bad" and "Pride (In the Name of Love)" were incomplete "sketches". "Pride (In the Name of Love)", about Martin Luther King, Jr., was the album's first single and became the
band's biggest hit to that point, including being their first to
enter the US top 40.
Much of The Unforgettable Fire Tour moved into indoor arenas as U2 began to win their long battle to build their audience. The complex textures of the new studio-recorded tracks, such as "The Unforgettable Fire" and "Bad", were problematic to translate to live performances. One solution was programmed sequencers, which the band had previously been reluctant to use, but are now used in the majority of the band's performances. Songs on the album had been criticised as being "unfinished", "fuzzy", and "unfocused", but were better received by critics when played on stage.
U2 participated in the Live Aid concert for Ethiopian
famine relief at Wembley Stadium in July 1985. U2's performance
in front of 82,000 fans was a pivotal point in the band's career.
During a 14-minute performance of the song "Bad", Bono leapt down off the stage to embrace and dance with a fan, showing a television
audience of millions the personal connection that Bono could make
with audiences. In 1985, Rolling Stone magazine called U2 the "Band of the '80s", saying that "for a growing number of rock-and-roll fans, U2 have become the band that matters
most, maybe even the only band that matters".
"The wild beauty, cultural richness,
spiritual vacancy and ferocious violence of America are explored
to compelling effect in virtually every aspect of The Joshua Tree—in
the title and the cover art, the blues and country borrowings evident
in the music ... Indeed, Bono says that 'dismantling the mythology
of America' is an important part of The Joshua Tree's artistic
Realising that "U2 had
no tradition" and that their knowledge of music from before their childhood was limited, the
group delved into American and Irish roots music. Friendships
with Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and Keith Richards motivated the
band to explore blues, folk, and gospel music and focused Bono
on his skills as a songwriter and lyricist. For their fifth
album, The Joshua Tree, the band wanted to build on The Unforgettable
Fire's textures, but instead of out-of-focus experimentation, they
sought a harder-hitting sound that used the limitation of strict
song structures. U2 interrupted their 1986 album sessions to
serve as a headline act on Amnesty International's A Conspiracy
of Hope tour. Rather than being a distraction, the tour added extra
intensity and power to their new material. In 1986, Bono travelled
to San Salvador and Nicaragua and saw first-hand the distress of
peasants bullied in internal conflicts that were subject to American
political intervention. The experience became a central influence
on the new music.
The Joshua Tree was released in March 1987. The album juxtaposes antipathy towards America against the group's deep fascination with the country, its open spaces, freedom, and its ideals. The band wanted music with a sense of location and a "cinematic" quality, and the record's music and lyrics draw on imagery created by American writers whose works the band had been reading. The Joshua Tree became the fastest-selling album in British chart history, and was number one for nine weeks in the United States. The first two singles, "With or Without You" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", quickly became the group's first number-one hits in the US. They became the fourth rock band to be featured on the cover of Time magazine, which declared U2 "Rock's Hottest Ticket". The album won U2 their first two Grammy Awards, and it brought the band a new level of success. Many publications, including Rolling Stone, have cited it as one of rock's greatest. The Joshua Tree Tour was the first tour on which the band played shows in stadiums, alongside smaller arena shows.
The documentary Rattle and Hum featured footage
recorded from The Joshua Tree Tour, and the accompanying double
album of the same name included nine studio tracks and six live
U2 performances. Released in October 1988, the album and film were
intended as a tribute to American music, and included recordings
at Sun Studios in Memphis and performances with Bob Dylan and B.
B. King. Rattle and Hum performed modestly at the box office and
received mixed reviews from both film and music critics; one
Rolling Stone editor spoke of the album's "excitement", another described it as "bombastic and misguided". The film's director, Phil Joanou, described it as "an overly pretentious look at U2". Most of the album's new material was played on 1989's Lovetown Tour, which
visited Australia, Japan and Europe, because the band wanted to
avoid the American backlash. In addition, they had grown dissatisfied
with their live performances; Mullen recalled that "We were the biggest, but we weren't the best". With a sense of musical stagnation, Bono said to fans on one of the last
dates of the tour that it was "the end of something for U2" and that they had to "go away and [...] just dream it all up again".
"Buzzwords on this record were trashy,
throwaway, dark, sexy, and industrial (all good) and earnest, polite,
sweet, righteous, rockist and linear (all bad). It was good if
a song took you on a journey or made you think your hifi was broken,
bad if it reminded you of recording studios or U2..."
Stung by the criticism of Rattle and Hum, the band made a calculated change in musical and thematic direction for their seventh studio album, Achtung Baby; the shift was one of their most dramatic since The Unforgettable Fire. Seeking inspiration on the eve of German reunification, they began work on the album in East Berlin in October 1990 with producers Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno.
The sessions were fraught with conflict, as the
band argued over their musical direction and the quality of their
material. While Clayton and Mullen preferred a sound similar to
U2's previous work, Bono and The Edge were inspired by industrial
music and European electronic dance music and advocated a change.
After weeks of tension and slow progress, the group made a breakthrough
with the improvised writing of the song "One". They returned to Dublin in 1991, where morale improved and the majority
of the album was completed.
In November 1991, U2 released Achtung Baby. Sonically,
it incorporated alternative rock, dance, and industrial music influences
of the time, and the band referred to the album's musical departure
as "four men chopping down the Joshua Tree". Thematically, it was a more introspective and personal record; it was darker,
yet at times more flippant than the band's previous work. Commercially
and critically, it has been one of the band's most successful albums.
It produced the hit singles "The Fly", "Mysterious Ways", and "One", and it was a crucial part of the band's early 1990s reinvention. Like The
Joshua Tree, many publications have cited the record as one of
Like Achtung Baby, the 1992–1993 Zoo TV Tour was an unequivocal break with the band's past. In contrast to the austere stage setups of previous U2 tours, Zoo TV was an elaborate multimedia event. It satirised the pervasive nature of television and its blurring of news, entertainment, and home shopping by attempting to instill "sensory overload" in its audience. The stage featured large video screens that showed visual effects, random video clips from pop culture, and flashing text phrases. Whereas U2 were known for their earnest performances in the 1980s, the group's Zoo TV performances were intentionally ironic and self-deprecating; on stage, Bono performed as several over-the-top characters, including "The Fly", "Mirror Ball Man", and "MacPhisto". Prank phone calls were made to President Bush, the United Nations, and others. Live satellite uplinks to war-torn Sarajevo caused controversy.
Quickly recorded during a break in the Zoo TV
tour in mid-1993, the Zooropa album continued many of the themes
from Achtung Baby and the Zoo TV Tour. Initially intended as an
EP, the band expanded Zooropa into a full-length LP album. It was
an even greater departure from the style of their earlier recordings,
incorporating further dance influences and other electronic effects.
Johnny Cash sang the lead vocals on "The Wanderer". Most of the songs were played at least once during the 1993 leg of the tour,
which visited Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan; half the
album's tracks became fixtures in the setlist.
In 1995, U2 released an experimental album called Original Soundtracks 1. Brian Eno, producer of three previous U2 albums, contributed as a full partner, including writing and performing. For this reason and due to the record's highly experimental nature, the band chose to release it under the moniker "Passengers" to distinguish it from U2's conventional albums. Mullen said of the album, "There's a thin line between interesting music and self-indulgence. We crossed it on the Passengers record." It was commercially unnoticed by U2 standards and it received generally poor reviews. However, the single "Miss Sarajevo" featuring Luciano Pavarotti, which Bono cites as one of his favourite U2 songs, was successful.
"It's not enough to write a great lyric;
it's not enough to have a good idea or a great hook, lots of things
have to come together and then you have to have the ability to
discipline and screen. We should give this album to a re-mixer,
go back to what was originally intended..."
On 1997's Pop, U2 continued experimenting; tape
loops, programming, rhythm sequencing, and sampling provided much
of the album with heavy, funky dance rhythms. Released in March,
the album debuted at number one in 35 countries and drew mainly
positive reviews. Rolling Stone, for example, stated that U2
had "defied the odds and made some of the greatest music of their lives". Others felt that the album was a major disappointment and sales were poor
compared to previous U2 releases. The band was hurried into
completing the album in time for the impending pre-booked tour,
and Bono admitted that the album "didn't communicate the way it was intended to".
The subsequent tour, PopMart, commenced in April
1997. Like Zoo TV, it poked fun at pop culture and was intended
to send a sarcastic message to those accusing U2 of commercialism.
The stage included a 100-foot (30 m) tall golden yellow arch (reminiscent
of the McDonald's logo), a 150-foot (46 m) long video screen, and
a 40-foot (12 m) tall mirrorball lemon. U2's "big shtick" failed, however, to satisfy many who were seemingly confused by the band's new
kitsch image and elaborate sets. The postponement of Pop's
release date in order to complete the album meant rehearsal time
for the tour was severely reduced, and performances in early shows
suffered. A highlight of the tour was a concert in Sarajevo
where U2 were the first major group to perform there following
the Bosnian War. Mullen described the concert as "an experience I will never forget for the rest of my life, and if I had to spend
20 years in the band just to play that show, and have done that,
I think it would have been worthwhile." One month following the conclusion of the PopMart Tour, U2 appeared on the
200th episode of The Simpsons, "Trash of the Titans", in which Homer Simpson disrupted the band on stage during a PopMart concert.
Following the comparatively poor reception of Pop, U2 declared they were "reapplying for the job ... [of] the best band in the world", and they have since pursued a more conventional rock sound mixed with the influences of their 1990s musical explorations. All That You Can't Leave Behind was released in October 2000 and was produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. For many of those not won over by the band's 1990s music, it was considered a return to grace; Rolling Stone called it U2's "third masterpiece" alongside The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. The album debuted at number one in 22 countries and its worldwide hit single, "Beautiful Day" earned three Grammy Awards. The album's other three singles also won Grammy Awards.
For the Elevation Tour, U2 performed in a scaled-down
setting, returning to arenas after nearly a decade of stadium productions.
A heart-shaped stage and ramp permitted greater proximity to the
audience. Following the September 11 attacks, the new album gained
added resonance, and in October, U2 performed at Madison
Square Garden in New York City. Bono and The Edge later said these
New York City shows were among their most memorable and emotional
performances. In early 2002, U2 performed during halftime
of Super Bowl XXXVI, which SI.com ranked as the best halftime
show in Super Bowl history.
The band's next studio album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, was released in November 2004. The band were looking for a harder-hitting rock sound than All That You Can't Leave Behind. Thematically, Bono stated that "A lot of the songs are paeans to naiveté, a rejection of knowingness." The first single, "Vertigo", was featured on an internationally aired television commercial for the Apple iPod, and a U2 iPod and an iTunes U2 box set were released as part of a promotion with Apple. The album debuted at number one in the US, where the first week's sales doubled that of All That You Can't Leave Behind and set a record for the band. Claiming it as a contender as one of U2's three best albums, Bono said, "There are no weak songs. But as an album, the whole isn't greater than the sum of its parts, and it fucking annoys me." The Vertigo Tour featured a setlist that varied more across dates than any U2 tour since the Lovetown Tour, and it included songs not played since the early 1980s. Like the Elevation Tour, the Vertigo Tour was a commercial success. The album and its singles won Grammy Awards in all eight categories in which U2 were nominated. In 2005, Bruce Springsteen inducted U2 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A 3-D concert film, U2 3D, filmed at nine concerts during the Latin American and Australian legs of the Vertigo Tour was released on 23 January 2008.
In August 2006, the band incorporated its publishing
business in The Netherlands following the capping of Irish artists'
tax exemption at €250,000. The Edge stated that businesses
often seek to minimise their tax burdens. The move was criticised
in the Irish parliament. The band said the criticism
was unfair, stating that approximately 95% of their business took
place outside of Ireland, that they were taxed globally because
of this, and that they were all "personal investors and employers in the country". In March 2008, U2 signed a 12-year deal with Live Nation worth an estimated
$100 million (£50 million),[not in citation given] which includes
Live Nation controlling the band's merchandise, sponsoring, and
their official website.
U2's twelfth album, No Line on the Horizon, was released in February 2009. Intended as a more experimental work than their previous two albums, it was produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, who share songwriting credits with the band. The band had worked on new songs with producer Rick Rubin in 2006, but the material was shelved. In June 2007 the band began writing and recording with Eno and Lanois. Recording continued through 2008 in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and in Fez, Morocco, where the band explored North African music. The album was completed in December 2008 and received generally positive reviews, including their first five-star Rolling Stone review. Critics, however, noted it was not as experimental as expected. The album debuted at number one in over 30 countries, but the album's sales have been comparatively low by U2 standards and it did not contain a hit single.
The group commenced the U2 360° Tour in 2009. The shows feature the largest concert stage structure ever and a 360-degree staging/audience configuration that allows fans to surround the stage from all sides. The tour visited European and North American stadiums in 2009, with additional shows in Europe in 2010. The band finished off 2010 with shows in Australia and New Zealand and additional shows are planned for South Africa, South America and North America in 2011. U2's scheduled headline appearance at the Glastonbury Festival 2010 was cancelled and the 2010 North American leg of the tour postponed following a serious injury to Bono's back.
In 2009, Rolling Stone named U2 one of eight "Artists
of the Decade". The group's tours ranked them second in total concert grosses for the
decade after The Rolling Stones, although U2 had a significantly
higher attendance figure than the Stones. They were the only band
in the top 25 touring acts of the 2000s to sell out every show
Since their inception, U2 have developed and maintained a distinctly recognisable sound, with emphasis on melodic instrumentals and expressive, larger-than-life vocals. This approach is rooted partly in the early influence of record producer Steve Lillywhite at a time when the band was not known for musical proficiency. The Edge has consistently used a rhythmic echo and a signature delay to craft his guitar work, coupled with an Irish-influenced drone played against his syncopated melodies that ultimately yields a well-defined ambient, chiming sound. Bono has nurtured his falsetto operatic voice and has exhibited a notable lyrical bent towards social, political, and personal subject matter while maintaining a grandiose scale in his songwriting. In addition, The Edge has described U2 as a fundamentally live band.
Despite these broad consistencies, U2 have introduced
brand new elements into their musical repertoire with each new
album. U2's early sound was influenced by bands such as Television
and Joy Division, and has been described as containing a "sense of exhilaration" that resulted from The Edge's "radiant chords" and Bono's "ardent vocals". U2's sound began with post-punk roots and minimalistic and uncomplicated
instrumentals heard on Boy and October, but evolved through War
to include aspects of rock anthem, funk, and dance rhythms to become
more versatile and aggressive. Boy and War were labelled "muscular and assertive" by Rolling Stone, influenced in large part by Lillywhite's producing. The
Unforgettable Fire, which began with The Edge playing more keyboards
than guitars, as well as follow-up The Joshua Tree, had Brian Eno
and Daniel Lanois at the production helm. With their influence,
both albums achieved a "diverse texture". The songs from The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum placed more emphasis
on Lanois-inspired rhythm as they mixed distinct and varied styles
of gospel and blues music, which stemmed from the band's burgeoning
fascination with America's culture, people and places. In the 1990s,
U2 reinvented themselves as they began using synthesisers, distortion,
and electronic beats derived from alternative rock, industrial
music, dance, and hip-hop on Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop.
The 2000s had U2 returning to a stripped-down sound, with a more
traditional rhythm and less obvious use of synthesisers and effects.[citation
Social and political commentary, often embellished with Christian and spiritual imagery, are a major aspect of U2's lyrical content. Songs such as "Sunday Bloody Sunday", "Silver and Gold", and "Mothers of the Disappeared" were motivated by current events of the time. The former was written about the troubles in Northern Ireland, while the latter concerns the struggle of COMADRES—the Mothers of the Disappeared—a group of women whose children were killed or "disappeared" by the government during the Salvadoran Civil War.
Bono's personal conflicts and turmoil inspired family colour songs like "Mofo", "Tomorrow" and "Kite". An emotional yearning or pleading frequently appears as a lyrical theme, in tracks such as "Yahweh", "Peace on Earth", and "Please". Much of U2's songwriting and music is also motivated by contemplations of loss and anguish, coupled with hopefulness and resiliency, themes that are central to The Joshua Tree. Some of these lyrical ideas have been amplified by Bono and the band's personal experiences during their youth in Ireland, as well as Bono's campaigning and activism later in his life. U2 have used tours such as Zoo TV and PopMart to caricature social trends, such as media overload and consumerism, respectively.
While the band and its fans often affirm the political
nature of their music, U2's lyrics and music have been criticised
as apolitical because of their vagueness and "fuzzy imagery", and a lack of any specific references to actual people or characters.
The band cites The Who, The Clash, Ramones,
The Beatles, Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees,
Elvis Presley, and Patti Smith as influences. Van Morrison
has been cited by Bono as an influence and his influence on
U2 is pointed out by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Other
musicians and bands such as Radiohead, Snow Patrol, The
Fray, OneRepublic, Coldplay, This Allure, The
Academy Is..., The Killers, Your Vegas, and Angels & Airwaves have in turn been influenced by the work of U2. U2 have also worked
and/or had influential relationships with artists including Johnny
Cash, Green Day, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, B.B. King, Lou
Reed, Luciano Pavarotti, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Wim Wenders,
R.E.M., Salman Rushdie, and Anton Corbijn.
Since the early 1980s, the members of U2—as a band and individually—have collaborated with other musicians, artists, celebrities, and politicians to address issues concerning poverty, disease, and social injustice.
In 1984, Bono and Adam Clayton participated in Band Aid to raise money for Ethiopian famine relief. This initiative produced the hit charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?", which would be the first among several collaborations between U2 and Bob Geldof. In July 1985, U2 played Live Aid, a follow-up to Band Aid's efforts. Bono and his wife Ali, invited by World Vision, later visited Ethiopia where they witnessed the famine first hand. Bono would later say this laid the groundwork for his Africa campaigning and some of his songwriting.
In 1986, U2 participated in the A Conspiracy of Hope tour in support of Amnesty International and in Self Aid for unemployment in Ireland. The same year, Bono and Ali Hewson also visited Nicaragua and El Salvador at the invitation of the Sanctuary movement, and saw the effects of the El Salvador Civil War. These 1986 events greatly influenced The Joshua Tree album, which was being recorded at the time.
In 1992, the band participated in the "Stop Sellafield" concert with Greenpeace during their Zoo TV tour. Events in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war inspired the song "Miss Sarajevo", which premiered at a September 1995 Pavarotti and Friends show, and which Bono and the Edge performed at War Child. A promise made in 1993 was kept when the band played in Sarajevo as part of 1997's PopMart Tour. In 1998, they performed in Belfast days prior to the vote on the Good Friday Agreement, bringing Northern Irish political leaders David Trimble and John Hume on stage to promote the agreement. Later that year, all proceeds from the release of the "Sweetest Thing" single went towards supporting the Chernobyl Children's Project.
In 2001, the band dedicated "Walk On" to Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. In late 2003, Bono and the Edge participated in the South Africa HIV/AIDS awareness 46664 series of concerts hosted by Nelson Mandela. The band played 2005's Live 8 concert in London. The band and manager Paul McGuinness were awarded Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award for their work in promoting human rights.
Since 2000, Bono's campaigning has included Jubilee 2000 with Bob Geldof, Muhammad Ali, and others to promote the cancellation of third world debt during the Great Jubilee. In January 2002, Bono co-founded the multinational NGO, DATA, with the aim of improving the social, political, and financial state of Africa. He continued his campaigns for debt and HIV/AIDS relief into June 2002 by making high-profile visits to Africa.
Product Red, a 2006 for-profit brand seeking to raise money for the Global Fund, was founded, in part, by Bono. The ONE Campaign, originally the US counterpart of Make Poverty History, was shaped by his efforts and vision.
In late 2005, following Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, The Edge helped introduce Music Rising, an initiative to raise funds for musicians who lost their instruments in the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast. In 2006, U2 collaborated with punk rock band Green Day to record a remake of the song "The Saints Are Coming" by The Skids to benefit Music Rising.
U2 and Bono's social activism have not been without
its critics, however. Several authors and activists who publish
in politically left journals such as CounterPunch have decried
Bono's support of political figures such as Paul Wolfowitz,
as well as his "essential paternalism". Other news sources have more generally questioned the efficacy of Bono's
campaign to relieve debt and provide assistance to Africa.
Tax and development campaigners have also criticised the band's
move from Ireland to the Netherlands to reduce its tax bill.
The members of U2 have undertaken a number of side projects, sometimes in collaboration with some of their bandmates. In 1985, Bono recorded the song "In a Lifetime" with the Irish band Clannad. The Edge recorded a solo soundtrack album for the film Captive in 1986, which included a vocal performance by Sinéad O'Connor that predates her own debut album by a year. Bono and The Edge wrote the song "She's a Mystery to Me" for Roy Orbison, which was featured on his 1989 album Mystery Girl. In 1990, Bono and The Edge provided the soundtrack to Royal Shakespeare Company London stage version of A Clockwork Orange (only one track was ever released, on the b-side to "The Fly" single). That same year, Mullen co-wrote and produced a song for the Irish International soccer team in Italia '90, called "Put 'Em Under Pressure", which topped the Irish charts. Together with The Edge, Bono wrote the song "GoldenEye" for the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye, which was performed by Tina Turner. Clayton and Mullen reworked the title track of the movie Mission: Impossible in 1996. Bono loaned his voice to "Joy" on Mick Jagger's 2001 album Goddess in the Doorway. Bono also recorded a spare, nearly spoken-word version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" for the Tower of Song compilation in 1995. Additionally, in 1998, Bono collaborated with Kirk Franklin and Crystal Lewis (along with controversial mainstream artists R. Kelly and Mary J. Blige) for a successful gospel song called "Lean on Me".
Aside from musical collaborations, U2 have worked with several authors. American author William S. Burroughs had a guest appearance in U2's video for "Last Night on Earth" shortly before he died. His poem "A Thanksgiving Prayer" was used as video footage during the band's Zoo TV Tour. Other collaborators include William Gibson and Allen Ginsberg. In early 2000, the band recorded three songs for The Million Dollar Hotel movie soundtrack, including "The Ground Beneath Her Feet", which was co-written by Salman Rushdie and motivated by his book of the same name.
Most recently, Bono appeared and performed The
Beatles songs in the movie Across the Universe (2007). Bono and
The Edge also wrote the music and lyrics for the Broadway musical
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Additionally, The Edge created the
theme song for Season 1 and 2 of the animated television series
U2 first received Grammy Awards for The Joshua Tree in 1988, and have won 22 in total, from 34 nominations, more than any other band. These include Best Rock Duo or Group, Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Rock Album. The British Phonographic Industry has awarded U2 seven BRIT Awards, five of these being for Best International Group. In Ireland, U2 have won 14 Meteor Awards since the awards began in 2001. Other awards include one AMA, four VMAs, ten Q Awards, two Juno Awards, three NME Awards, and a Golden Globe Award. The band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in early 2005. In 2006, all four members of the band received ASCAP awards for writing the songs, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", and "Vertigo".
U2 have sold more than 150 million records, placing
them amongst the best-selling music artists of all-time. The
Joshua Tree ranks as one of the best-selling albums in the US,
having shipped 10 million units, and it is also among the
best-selling albums worldwide with sales of 25 million copies.
Rolling Stone ranked U2 at number 22 in its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time", while ranking Bono the 32nd greatest singer and The Edge the 24th greatest
guitarist. In 2010, eight of U2's songs appeared on Rolling
Stone's updated list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time", with "One" ranking the highest at number 36. Five of the group's twelve studio albums
were ranked on Rolling Stone's 2003 list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time"—The Joshua Tree placed the highest at number 26.
* Boy (1980)
Kemet & Maat
: before Judaism, Christianity and Islam