Beauty out of Ugly Things

There are two unrelated things that people learn quickly about me. The first is that you probably shouldn't talk to me early in the morning. And the second is that I love U2.

I've been an unabashed U2 fan for two-thirds of my life. I'm convinced that I'd be in a different career today if I'd made other musical choices in the '80s. U2 played music that you could sing or shout or dance to, but that also identified injustices in the world and asked, "So what do we do about it?" They didn't always answer the question, which wasn't their job, anyway. But I heard it asked. As a teenager, I could claim faith in music easier than I could profess faith in Christ. Now I'm grateful for the dual influences.

Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. have been writing and playing music together since they were teen-agers in Dublin more than 20 years ago. Their debut album, released in the United States in 1980, was appropriately titled Boy. On All That You Can't Leave Behind, their 10th studio album released last fall, Bono sings, "I'm a man, I'm not a child." Passion, belief, struggle, and determined, hard-won optimism-all the things that make for great grown-up music-are in abundance in these 11 well-crafted songs.

"Beautiful Day" opens the album with initially subdued tones and lyrics depicting anything but a beautiful day. No room to rent, the traffic is stuck, a friend has let you down ("someone you could lend a hand in return for grace"). Ah, well. Mullen's drums, Edge's recognizable guitar, and Clayton's bass kick in the rousing chorus anyway, and Bono wails joyfully, "The sky falls and you feel like it's a beautiful day…don't let it get away." Some days all you can do is turn the music up really loud.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 2001
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