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"Politicians don't turn me on, politics doesn't turn me on, the way music does." — Bono

Our Letters To U2: Part III

Pop Bono Kelly

Our final set of fan letters to U2 is here! In Part III, our staffers write about "The Little Things That Give You Away," "Yahweh" and "New Year's Day."

 

U2

“The Little Things That Give You Away”

 

Dear U2,

“Little” really isn’t your style, is it? (The Claw, anyone?) More like grandiose, extravagant, bombastic or even pretentious. But “little”? Nah. You’re the biggest band in the world, after all, led by a big sound and an even bigger heart.

But you’ve been around long enough to know that “the devil is in the details.” You got to be the biggest by doing the small things right. And there’s no better example than the epic crescendo in “The Little Things That Give You Away.”

How do you do it? After all these years and all those timeless songs in your catalogue, it was reasonable to assume that my Top 10 U2 Songs list would be set in stone. But then here comes “The Little Things That Give You Away” in 2017, shattering my expectations and daftly barreling its way onto that list as if it’s 1987.

Anyway... the crescendo...

My goodness. An exercise in subtlety. Layering that feels and sounds so natural yet is blindingly dramatic. More often than not I can’t finish the song without tears in my eyes. And Larry, you’ve only gotten better as you’ve gotten older. I can see, feel and hear the shattering painted glass at the end. Just awesome.

Thank you for this song. It feels like “Little Things” was written for me. I hear it and feel like my approach to your music is validated. The song resonates with me on all the levels and for all the reasons.

Your fan,

Chris

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U2

“Yahweh”

 

Dear Bono, Edge, Larry and Adam,

I first heard this song when I was about 11, driving home from the grocery store with my family in our Suburban. My parents are not avid music-listeners, but they do love U2. How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb was probably the first U2 album either of them had bought since the 90s (like you, they were busy that decade, but with raising a family as opposed to rock ’n’ roll tours). It was the first U2 album I heard. I know Bomb was met with criticism from some of your fans, but I credit it as the album that made me fall in love with U2. 

“Take this soul, stranded in some skin and bones 

Take this soul, and make it sing”

My mother is very spiritual, and I loved hearing her interpretations of your theology, Bono, that you scattered throughout Bomb. I can still remember her holding mini-Ted Talks in the front seat of the car, asking her kids, “Do you know how you dismantle an atomic bomb?” “With love?” I ventured. “By never building one in the first place,” she smiled. But she, like you, Bono, had the most to say about “Yahweh.” 

“Take this mouth, so quick to criticize

Take this mouth, give it a kiss”

Yahweh, the Hebrew name for God. So sacred it should not be spoken by humans. These concepts fascinated me, along with my mother’s readings of the lyrics. More than any other song you have written, “Yahweh” is a prayer, asking God to take an imperfect person—shoeless, stained, stranded, angry, critical—and help them become more kind and loving. This transformation can be painful or seem hopeless. To become this better version of yourself, the old person and heart of what you were might even need to be destroyed.

“Take this heart, take this heart

Take this heart, and make it break”

The beautiful simplicity of these final lines, this plaintive request, never fails to move me. Yet “Yahweh” is not a sad or painful song. It is hopeful, earnest, honest. The soaring guitar of the first few seconds always lifts me up. It brings to mind memories of riding in the Suburban with my family, belting out the words, staying in the car minutes after we’d arrived home so we could finish the song.

Thank you for this. “Yahweh” is not only a prayer that gives me hope for the future. It’s also a reminder of precious moments spent with my family. It makes my soul sing.

Your fan,

Allie McClaskey

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U2

"New Year’s Day"

 

Dear Bono,

How do I thank you for a 40-year musical love affair? An affair that began as an idea and then grabbed hold of my heart, mind and soul and hasn’t let go since? You were like a lover from across the sea that I never saw but always felt. Your siren’s songs still tug on my heart strings and lead to a secret, knowing smile when I hear your voice.

My awakening began with “New Year’s Day.” This beautiful anthem was on heavy rotation on radio stations and in clubs I frequented in Austin, TX where I attended college in the early and mid-1980s. Full of idealism as I entered university, no one was a stranger, and I made fast friends with girls in my dormitory. Every experience was intensely new, and I discovered myself a little bit at a time.

We lived for Thursday nights. We dressed in our finest punk rock attire (think: denim mini skirts, satin ties, low-heeled pumps and sometimes even leg warmers over our pants) and headed to one of Austin’s hottest clubs, Angles, to dance the night away. Angles was our place. Our Lypton Village, if you will. Our refuge from the world for a few hours.

I connected with you through that dancing. As soon as I heard Edge’s distinctive opening keyboard notes and your “Yeeeaahhhh,” I ran to the dance floor and danced with abandon. I closed my eyes and moved to the music, hearing only your voice and internalizing the beat of Larry’s drums and Adam’s brilliant, steady bass line. I danced like we all did in the 80s, knees bouncing and arms swinging to and fro. I twirled. I lost myself in the music. No one else was present in my universe. I let go.

I am a huge fan of War, and “New Year’s Day” carries a serious and urgent message even today. I never tire of it, and I love how you’ve changed the arrangements over the years to adapt to every era in our world’s history.

For me, it was a coming-of-age song. One that is frozen in time and preserves precious memories. Thank you for giving me what was my song of innocence.

Your fan,

Becky

 

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