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, 27 GR, 31 RR, 2 AR, 1 CO, 3 UK, 26 CN, 4 AU, 2 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): --
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 89.33 video, 127.03 streaming
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 It also represents the pinnacle of what U2 is about: “intense, passionate, 100 percent emotionally committed rock & roll; the pursuit of social justice and peace…and…the relentless spiritual quest of Irish Cathlocis…and how this spirituality interacts with everyday earthly concerns.” SS
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 The focus was on the pride that comes before a fall. TB
However, after reading books about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X SF and seeing the King exhibit at the Chicago Peace Museum, SS Bono decided to write about civil rights campaigns and “those throughout history who have died because they preached of the equality of all men.” SF It was a concept an Irish band could relate to. The band’s guitarist, The Edge, said, “Because of the situation in our country, non-violent struggle was such an inspiring concept.” TC The song compares what King “tried to accomplish with the journey followed by Christ, and analogizes Christ’s betrayal by Judas with the assassination of Dr. King.” SS The song incorrectly asserts that King was shot in the morning, but it actually happened at 6pm. Bono typically fixes the error now in live performances. WK
The song isn’t subtle. “The whole purpose of this record is to make a big noise.” PW It was “an excuse to shout really loud and beat the drum as hard and straight ahead as possible, guitars ringing gloriously all around.” PW “If this song were about anyone but MLK it would probably be terrifying.” PW It’s also important to note that “U2 couldn’t begin to pull this stuff off if they weren’t utterly and unmistakably and almost pathetically sincere about it.” PW
Perhaps it was the song’s lack of subtlety that led to some 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
First posted 2/7/2021; last updated 3/30/2023.