To whom the iconic ballad "With or Without You" by U2 is really dedicated

"There were two people struggling inside me, each pursuing a different goal - fame and family happiness. I thought that this tension would destroy me, but in fact it turned out that this tension is what makes me an artist..."

U2 song "With or Without You": history, meaning, facts

Song U2 "With or Without You" - one of the most beautiful classic breakup tunes. On a par with Harry Neilson's "Without You" or Bill Weathers' "Ain't No Sunshine," this is one of those magical records that seems to tell you exactly what you need to hear at the perfect moment... Well, or that your thought-weary brain needs to hear, as in the case of Bono?

At first glance, the song sounds like A typical ballad of melancholy love. However, it's much, much more complicated than that... In his book, Bono (the leader of the group) explains:

"The protagonist of this song isn't just talking to another person - he's having a dialogue with himself. He has two different personalities in him, and each is fighting for dominance. And I'm familiar with that. At one point in my life, I turned into two different people. I was simultaneously a person who was so responsible, so committed... And a maverick and a slacker who just wants to run away from responsibility! I thought this tension would destroy me..."

A Group on the Threshold of Greatness

Bono as a young man
Bono as a young man

One day Bono said:

"I believe that art should work in a way that is divisive..."

And those words certainly seem appropriate for himself. And for his band! In spite of the fact that the U2 millions of devoted fans and it continues to sell tons of records and concert tickets, it certainly has many detractors as well. However, in the mid-1980s the band had to go through an incredible transformation, transforming from respected alternative rockers with a significant number of fans to one of the biggest stadium rock bands in the world!

Cover of "The Joshua Tree" by U2
Cover of "The Joshua Tree" by U2

And the album was supposed to help them do that. "The Joshua Tree." - one of their most iconic records: chart topping positions, diamond status in the U.S., multi-million worldwide circulation... Yes, this album completely turned U2's career upside down, turning their into the monsters of rock..

The first single from the album, "With or Without You", played a big part in the record gaining such popularity and weight in the rock industry. The whole band felt that it was a special song. That's why they had high hopes for it! And as we can judge - not for nothing.

True lyrical meaning, inspired by Bono's inner tension


It was at the time of recording "Joshua Tree. The members of U2, who still had a relatively average level of fame compared to how loud their name would eventually become, began to feel the pressure of the title of true icons of rock... But no one felt this pressure more than Bonowho suddenly found himself trying to reconcile two contradictory sides of his life.

In his book, the rocker says that although the words "With or Without You" sound like they revolve around fidelity in a relationship; in fact, they play up a problem in his life that he thought "pure torture.": How to remain "faithful" to both his music and his wife Alison, the childhood sweetheart he married in 1982.

Bono and his wife
Bono and his wife

While on tour, Bono wondered if he would be hindered by home life to become an artist. He recalls:

"There were two people struggling inside me, each pursuing a different goal - fame and family happiness. I thought that this tension would destroy me, but in fact it turned out that this tension is what makes me an artist..."

Bono continues:

"I have someone in my life that I love more than life, but I wonder if the reason I write is because I'm now a tame animal. I just remember thinking, 'Is this the life of an artist? Am I going to have children and settle down and betray my gift in the end, or am I going to betray my marriage?"

Bono was aware that he had two versions of himself - rock star and husband - and feared that one would dominate the other. But he soon realized that although the two sides of his personality could not be conclusively reconciled, the friction between them ultimately defined him as an artist and became the foundation of his creative abilities.

And it all started with "With or Without You"The album, which hit the Billboard Hot 100 in May 1987 and stayed there for three weeks, actually became the record that cemented U2's reputation in the USA as one of the greatest rock bands of that era. It remains a classic in their oeuvre and one of their signature songs, constantly appearing on their set lists to this day.


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