Bono talks about new song “Wave of Sorrow”

Bono talks about new song “Wave of Sorrow”

Ever tried to guess what Bono‘s lyrics mean and how he writes them? An interesting clip on their website gives a fascinating glimpse into the singer’s creative process. The group U2 has been re-visiting tracks from “The Joshua Tree”, and in particular an unfinished demo called “Wave of Sorrow“, a song “that was trying to describe experiences that myself and Ali had when we were working in Ethiopia during the famine,” according to Bono. In the extract, he explains what motivated him to write the lyrics, the symbolism he uses – in particular the contrast between the heritage of Ethiopia (Queen of Sheba) and the stark reality today. He then sings along to the track, adding more asides. It’s interesting both for fans of U2 and anyone interested in songwriting, even if U2 are not your favourite band.


What strikes me – yet again – about this extract is Bono’s clear desire to be understood. Anyone that has seen the group in concert knows how communicative he is. This clip shows he applies the same desire to the lyrics. Although the symbolism is quite rich, he wants it to be understood.

Ultimately, I think it is one of the most endearing aspects of the band. Although there is often a strong spiritual aspect to what they do, they are not mysterious or obscure (unlike, for example, R.E.M.). I get the feeling that the band really wants people to “get” what they are doing.

UPDATE: Bono talks about 40 songs

Since this article was originally posted, Bono wrote and released a whole book about the songs he co-wrote for U2. “Surrender: 40 songs, One Story” charts his path as a stand-out lyricist and – ultimately – human being, going from his teenage years to rock star activist and now middle-aged celebrity.

The spoken version has the advantage of featuring Bono’s own dry but often funny rendition of the stories

For my own anecdotes about writing lyrics, choose from some here.

2 thoughts on “Bono talks about new song “Wave of Sorrow”

  1. I love the candid, natural approach Bono has to being interviewed. I love this song Wave of Sorrow… absolutely beautiful… it reaches to the depths of me.. I want to reach out and help… He has a message that he is trying to get out, without offending anyone at the same time. Hard to do… but he is doing a very good job. Bono and his band have been writing songs about the suffering of the poor and weak, injustices all around the world, cruelty unimaginable to most of us… and finally now, he is being heard. Its time…..

    He is so humble, but he has authority.. he understands what he sings about… its like he has experienced it through the people he has seen and come into contact with. He portrays their feelings, their sadness, their joy, their pain, as if it were his own.


  2. I must say that in general Bono is a remarkable lyricist, in that he can reach people on a very human level. You van see from the earliest day in the live concerts too. He has a need – and indeed an ability – to connect.

    I wish we had more interviews of this nature.


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