Pride (In The Name of Love)

Nearly 34 years after its release, “Pride (In The Name of Love)” remains my favorite U2 song. As is almost always the case with a popular song, it’s the music–in this case The Edge’s ringing, keening guitar line–that I mainlined and got high on when I first heard it back in 1984.  It took a while for the lyrics to fully register, and I’m not sure when it was that I fully realized they invoked Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. But when I did, the song evinced that much more power and emotion.

MLK Pride

One can find plenty of interpretations of the meaning of the lyrics: references to Christ (‘betrayed by a kiss’), Iron Curtain-era Berlin (‘caught on a barbed wire fence’), power politics (‘one man to overthrow’).  Bono himself (U2’s lead singer) has looked back and rued some of the lyric choices he made (emphasis mine):

“As a lyric, it’s daft! It’s a missed opportunity…It’s no description of him, it’s more of a description of a feeling he unlocked in me.”

The meaning of the verse that begins, “Early morning, April 4…” is clear, though.  [Bono has also noted that he got the time wrong: King was killed in the early evening, not early morning.  In performance, the lyric is often changed to “Early evening, April 4…”]

YouTube offers up many videos that layer images of King over the backdrop of this song.  I especially like this one, assembled by a young man in honor of Black History Month a couple of years ago.  What’s disheartening is that several images are as topical today as they were 50 years ago today, on the day King was murdered.

NYT King


Another take: John Legend’s version was included in a History Channel documentary tied to the 40th anniversary of King’s death in 2008. Its style is completely different, yet it still packs a punch…one of the many wonderful things about music.

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