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"I don't know if we've made a great record or not, but it is our record. It's us standing there naked, if you will." — Edge, on All That You Can't Leave Behind

The Edge Biography (Dave Evans) - @U2

by Aaron Govern

David "The Edge" Howell Evans
Born: August 8, 1961
Instrument: Guitars, piano, keyboards, vocals and background vocals

Edge concert vertigo

David Howell Evans, aka “The Edge” (or simply “Edge”), was born in a maternity hospital in Barking, Essex, in East London, to parents of Welsh descent (Llanelli), Gwenda and Garvin Evans. In 1962, when he was 1 year old, the family — which included his younger sister Gillian (Gill) and older brother Richard (Dik) — moved to Malahide, Dublin. There, he grew up as a quiet and very intelligent kid. He performed well in school, first at St. Andrew's National Primary School and then at Mount Temple Comprehensive School, where he met the boys who would be his future bandmates. His initial ambition was to attend university with a future career as a doctor or engineer.

When Edge was 7, his mother bought him a Spanish guitar, and he and Dik practiced endlessly on the instrument. Dik significantly influenced Edge’s desire to play guitar.

In fall 1976, Albert Bradshaw, the music teacher at Mount Temple, informed Edge that fellow student Larry Mullen had placed a note on the school’s bulletin board asking anyone who was interested in forming a band to contact him. Edge was the first to respond, and went to the first meeting in Larry's house with Dik.

The Edge displayed guitar skills well beyond his age, and the chemistry among the group was obvious from their initial get-together in Larry’s kitchen. 

Early in the band's career, the members of U2, together with various childhood friends (some of whom created the avant-garde group Virgin Prunes), were members of their own gang, known as Lypton Village, in which nearly all members were given an alternative name.

The other members renamed David Evans “Inchicore” before settling on his well-known moniker “The Edge.” The nickname was inspired in the beginning by his sharp facial features, but also applied to his sharp mind and the way he observed things from “the edge.”

Edge's commitment to the band grew to such an extent that when he finished school in the summer of 1977, he told his parents wanted to take a year off to see where the band and their music would take him.

Along with Bono and Larry, The Edge began attending prayer group meetings in the late 1970s as part of the Shalom Fellowship. The young men in search of spirituality and answers to big questions were torn between their Christian ideals and rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. Larry and Bono quickly chose the band, but The Edge was so uncertain, he almost left U2 during the October tour. Eventually he took Bono's advice to follow his heart, and after a period of soul-searching, chose the band as well. The Edge soon realized he didn't have any trouble reconciling his beliefs with his music and lifestyle; it was other people who did. In his words: "There was no problem. It was other people's problems."

On July 12, 1983, Edge married Aislinn O'Sullivan in Enniskerry, Wicklow, Ireland. They remained together for seven years and had three daughters: Hollie (born July 4, 1984), Arran (born Oct. 15, 1985) and Blue Angel (born June 26,1989). They separated in 1990 and divorced in 1996.

Edge started dating Morleigh Steinberg, the belly dancer and choreographer from the Zoo TV Tour, in 1993. The two married in a civil ceremony on June 17, 2002, in a Dublin Registry office, with Bono serving as Edge’s best man; this was followed on June 23, 2002 with friends and family at a spiritual ceremony set in beautiful gardens in Eze-sur-Mer on the French Riviera. Edge and Morleigh have a daughter, Sian (born Oct. 7, 1997), and son, Levi (born Oct. 1, 1999).

The Edge's unmistakable guitar sound — clean, sharp and incisive — is part of U2's overall trademark sound. He has been called an "anti-guitar hero" because of his aversion to the indulgent, showy style based on intense soloing of many contemporaries, preferring instead to play in a technically undemanding and low-key — yet original — way. He is renowned for being a guitarist more concerned with sounds, texture and innovation than flashy techniques.

In his initial recordings on U2’s early Ireland-only CBS singles such as “Another Day,” Edge formulated a simple but effective guitar sound. In the studio, producer Steve Lillywhite helped Edge expand on his style for the Boy album. Edge’s unique mix of a minimalist approach with the heavy use of delay and echo allowed him to explore different textures on songs such as “An Cat Dubh/Into The Heart.”

Over the years, Edge has developed his sound with a plethora of guitar effects and pedals. Along with his guitar technician Dallas Schoo, Edge has invested in vintage guitars, amplifiers and electronics to help create new atmospheric sounds and styles. In the studio, he even played bass guitar, filling in on the song “40” when Adam Clayton was unavailable during the final day of recording the War album.

Edge is also a fine piano and keyboard player, and has lent his vocal talents to several U2 songs, first singing lead on "Seconds" from the War album. He later took the lead on songs such as "Van Diemen's Land" and "Numb," and sang a solo version of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" during the PopMart Tour. He also released a solo album, Captive, the soundtrack to the film of the same name, in 1986. 

Edge arguably created some of his best-known riffs and melodies for U2’s album Achtung Baby, particularly on such songs as “The Fly,” “Even Better Than The Real Thing” and “Mysterious Ways.” He continued experimenting on 1993’s Zooropa and 1997’s Pop.

For U2’s 2000 album All That You Can't Leave Behind, Edge left behind the experimental electro and dance rhythms he had explored on the previous three albums and returned to the more mainstream rock guitar sound of the band's earliest recordings. He continued this trend on 2004's How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, in keeping with U2's post-1990s ethos of stripping away all artifice from their music.

In 2009, for No Line On The Horizon, Edge mixed up past sounds and complemented them with gentler and softer textures, displayed on tracks such as “Moment Of Surrender” and “Cedars Of Lebanon.”

Moving on to 2014’s Songs Of Innocence and 2017’s Songs Of Experience, Edge continued with his trademark sounds. And in keeping with the themes of the albums, he also attempted to blend the sounds of his youth, incorporating genres of music that influenced him and the band, as well as the sounds of influential guitarists like Rory Gallagher, John McGeogh, Pete Shelly and Colin Newman.

Although all the band members have long been individual supporters of such organizations as Greenpeace and Amnesty International, in 2005 The Edge took the lead in creating his own public philanthropy profile. In response to Hurricane Katrina in the U.S., which devastated New Orleans, Edge co-founded the charity Music Rising with Bob Ezrin and Henry Juszkiewicz, aiming to restore the Gulf Coast's musical culture by replacing instruments lost during the disaster. The charity's mission is "Rebuilding the Gulf Region note by note." Since then, The Edge has also publicly supported the New York Food Bank and Mencap, and The Angiogenesis Foundation, of which he became a board member in 2011.

Edge occasionally writes lyrics for U2 on his own or with Bono. He’s also a key player during recording sessions — developing and revisiting riffs, often presenting then in demo form to the full band. Edge has adopted the unofficial title of “Music Director” and looks after a number of unreleased recordings and rehearsal tapes, some of which have been released on anniversary editions of albums. He’s also directed much of the remastering of anniversary albums.

Edge is a significant collaborator with other musical acts, writing numerous songs (in conjunction with Bono) for other artists such as Tina Turner, Roy Orbison and Willie Nelson. In 1989 he developed a musical score for the Royal Shakespeare’s Company stage adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, and in 2013 he composed the music for the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark.

Edge has also been a guest collaborator or guitarist on dozens of records, starting as early as 1979, when he played on tracks released in Ireland for a band called The Teen Commandments on the Irish compilation albums Vinyl Verdict and Just For Kicks, which also featured U2’s “Stories For Boys.” His next significant collaboration was with Jah Wobble and Holger Czukay on the 1983 mini-album Snake Charmer.

Edge has played or contributed to more than 70 albums by various artists in almost every musical genre. In 2008, he was one of three guitarists — with Jimmy Page and Jack White — to be featured in the documentary film It Might Be Loud, which explores the musical styles of these very different but influential musicians.

The Edge continues, at all levels of his playing, to resist rock 'n' roll clichés. His unconventional attitude toward his craft is perhaps best summed up by the following admission: "I suppose ultimately I'm interested in music. I'm a musician. I'm not a gunslinger. That's the difference between what I do and what a lot of guitar heroes do."

 

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Adam Clayton, bass
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Bono, vocals
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Larry Mullen Jr., drums
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The Edge, guitar