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.