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"It's in U2's great rhythm section that the band finds its sexuality and its dangerousness." — Bruce Springsteen, at U2's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction

Our Letters To U2: Part I

Bono WOWY Art Kelly

Inspired by Bono's 60 fan letters to musicians for songs he loves, nine members of AtU2 have written fan letters to U2 about the songs we love. Part I includes the first three letters, honoring "Kite," "With Or Without You" and "Zooropa." Part II and Part III will be posted later this week!

 

U2

"Kite" 

Dear Adam, Bono, Edge and Larry,

“I know that this is not goodbye”

I needed to hear those words that night in Kansas City in 2001. I went to the show looking for adventure and escape, both from the weeks of horror after 9/11 and from the grief I felt after the excruciating end of a friendship with a person I cherished.

“Something is about to give

I can feel it coming

I think I know what it is”

The opening summed up how I felt the last time I had seen this old friend—I knew it was going to end badly, but I didn’t want to admit it. At that time, I didn’t know “Kite,” didn’t know the words. I had spent that weekend visiting my friend, going back and forth from his dorm room to the campus bookstore, running up my credit card and trying to keep myself from bursting into tears during the uncomfortable silences and stalled conversations. Then five weeks after that, I was standing at my seat, hearing a song that perfectly explained my emotions over my loss.

Bono, you dedicated the song to your father. But as you played the song, I didn’t hear it as a eulogy for a parent, even though that was how it was intended. I heard it as my friend telling me that I would be okay without him.

“Who’s to say where the wind will take you

Who’s to know what it is will break you”

The four of you were playing, but it was my friend I heard, someone who was very much alive but also very much gone from my life. Through those words, I felt as though he was sending me out into the world, uncertain of how it was going to be but that I would be okay. It was the first time I’d felt any sort of comfort, any sort of hope that I’d get over not having him in my life anymore.

“I wonder what has happened to you

You wonder what has happened to me”

After all this time, I still wonder what has happened to him. I hope he wonders what has happened to me. What I know for sure is that I have never forgotten the words to that song. And every time I hear it, even almost 19 years later, I still feel sad and comforted at the same time, the way I did that night in Kansas City.

Your fan,

Amy

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 U2

"With Or Without You" 

Dear Bono,

This is the only song that has the ability to awaken me during the wee hours and challenge me to sort out its pronouns. Every 22 seconds, my mind cycles through your lyrics and makes substitutions, such as: 

I=Bono, she=music, you=Ali

I=Bono, she=Ali, you=music

I=Bono, she=Ali, you=lover

I=Bono, she=lover, you=Ali

I=Judas, she=God, you=Jesus

I=Jesus, she=God, you=Judas

I=fans, she=music, you=Bono

I=me, she=Bono, you=sleep

Every combination works. How?

Also, how is it possible that you were half my present age when you wrote this? How did you, already married to your high school sweetheart and presumably a stranger to devastating romantic heartbreak, write a song that shepherded me through decades of loneliness, longing and disappointment? 

Thank you for inhabiting and escaping this black beauty of a song 841 times on stage, accompanied by a rhythm section that approximates the sounds of life in the womb and a guitarist who is clearly operating on a different, better level than the rest of us.

It’s a long and strange story, but I can trace the trajectory of my current happiness back to the first time that I saw you on the big screen. Your hands, chin, nose and eyebrows were lit from below. Children hold flashlights under their faces to look scary while telling ghost stories. That same light only made you simultaneously the most beautiful man and woman in the world.

Yeah, you.

How?

Your fan,

Kelly Eddington

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 

 

U2

"Zooropa"

Dear Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry,

In 1993, I had a basement apartment and a temp job that paid almost nothing. It was a stifling summer in New York, and I had never before experienced the level of hassle I endured just walking from the subway to that job. I seemed to be a beacon of helplessness to the men in the street.

I could hear the irony in the line “You’ve got the right shoes to get you through the night,” but even now, I remember the blue-suede slingbacks of another girl in the office—shoes I wanted but couldn’t buy. They were nothing fancy, but I had no extra money at all. Life felt precarious.

I could hear the irony in the advertising slogans that open “Zooropa,” but what hopeful poetry there is in being mild, green and squeaky clean—whether you’re a person, a country, or an entire continent! I may have been struggling, but the world was being made anew through appliance of science.

Just when you think you know where “Zooropa” is going, it takes a deep dive from the spire of a skyscraper, only to zoom upwards again with arms wide open. It takes you up and carries you over the lit-up nightscape of the globe. Zoom. Your shoes are fine. No compass, no map, no reason to get back. Zoom. “Don’t worry baby, it’s gonna be alright—uncertainty can be the guiding light.”

I hear this song as a prayer. It doesn’t ask for anything, but it describes possibilities: the possibility that we all might get out of the basement, out of the mud, and go overground. The girl the “Acrobat” sang to might be free, finally, to dream up the world she wants to live in.

I still sing along to “Zooropa” with great hope and great fear. I sing out loud.

Your fan,

PJ DeGenaro

 

© @U2, 2020