Tuesday, September 4, 1984

U2 released “Pride (In the Name of Love)”

First posted 2/7/2021.

Pride (In the Name of Love)


Writer(s): U2 (see lyrics here)

Released: September 4, 1984

First Charted: September 15, 1984

Peak: 33 US, 34 CB, 31 RR, 2 AR, 1 CO, 3 UK, 26 CN, 4 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 89.33 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Over three albums, U2 had built a following with songs like “I Will Follow,” “New Year’s Day,” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” However, it was “Pride (In the Name of Love)” which gave the band their first Billboard top 40 hit. It became a staple in the band’s live sets and “a modern rock classic.” AMG

The song originated during a soundcheck before a November 1983 concert. Lyrically, Bono, the band’s lead singer, initially aimed to write a song “condemning Ronald Reagan for an arrogant pride that led to nuclear escalation.” SF After reading books about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, he changed gears and wrote about the civil rights campaigns – both violent and non-violent. The song makes a broader statement “about those throughout history who have died because they preached of the equality of all men” and those who have been “martyrs to this ideal” because they “lived their life an inner pride.” SF There is a reference in the lyrics to King being shot in the morning, but it actually happened at 6pm. Bono typically fixes the error now in live performances. WK

The effort was met with mixed reviews. Rolling Stone’s Kurt Loder said the song “gets over only on the strength of its resounding beat and big, droning bass line, not on the nobility of its lyrics, which are unremarkable.” WK Robert Christgau complained in the Village Voice about the lyrics glorifying MLK’s martyrdom. WK On the flip side, Denise Sullian wrote at All Music Guide that “the freedom-fighting anthem is alternately gentle and powerful from verse to chorus” and that “the soundscape is unrelenting.” AMG

The song became a rallying cry for turning MLK’s birthday into a national holiday when the band was touring for their next album, The Joshua Tree. The band received death threats for supporting the movement and at a show in Tempe, Arizona, Bono was warned by the FBI of someone who actually had a ticket to the show, was armed, and was threating to shoot Bono on stage if he sang “Pride.” Bono sang it anyway, closing his eyes during the lines about MLK being shot. When he opened his eyes, the bassist, Adam Clayton Jr., was standing in front of him, ready to take a bullet for his bandmate. SF

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