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Archive | U2 Conference 2020

An Unforgettable Fire 75 Years Ago; America’s “Thin-Threaded” Power Still Today

Contributed by Dr. Timothy D. Neufeld, a marriage and family therapist in Fresno, CA, and an adjunct professor at Fresno Pacific University. He is the author of U2: Rock ’n’ Roll to Change the World along with numerous academic and popular essays on the intersection of U2 and pop culture. He hosts an innovative online chat community called The Crystal Ballroom and invites you to follow him on Twitter and Periscope at @timneufeld.

August 6, 1945. Hiroshima. Eighty thousand people killed in a flash.

August 8, 1945. Nagasaki. Forty thousand lives unmade in seconds.

In the days and months following the dropping of two atomic bombs by the United States 75 years ago this week, tens of thousands of Japanese died of radiation exposure, while hundreds of thousands faced severe complications from nausea, bleeding, and cancer. In Hiroshima, two-thirds of the buildings were destroyed, and most medical personnel were killed in the collapse of hospitals. Nagasaki’s heavy industrial complexes, as well as schools, churches and other services were obliterated.

America is the only country to unleash the horror of nuclear warfare. The U.S. created the term “ground zero” as a way of identifying the site of detonation. History’s telling of that event is contentious. Was it necessary to end a world war? Or, was it an act of singular barbarism?

In 1983, U2 stepped into Chicago’s Peace Museum to see an exhibit featuring artwork of blast survivors. The display, taken from a book of the same name, was titled “Unforgettable Fire.”

It’s here the Irish quartet found the heartbeat for its next album. Bono later recalled: “The images from the paintings and some of the writings stained me, I couldn’t get rid of them.”

Reflecting on that moment of America’s unprecedented use of nuclear weapons, psychoanalyst Carl Jung famously stated: “The world hangs on a thin thread, and that is the psyche of man.”

U2’s The Unforgettable Fire teases out that thread, reminding our collective soul of both the power of the American spirit — as particularly championed by Martin Luther King, Jr — and its potential for death and destruction. With prescient clarity, U2 continues to call out the protester and the patriot in each of us. The band’s reflection on Hiroshima and Nagasaki warns us that peace is fragile and a responsibility of all.

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Browse through the Unforgettable Fire: Drawings by Atomic Bomb Survivors to experience what U2 drew inspiration from in 1983.

The Garden Tarts Ask: Is America Torn in Ribbons and Bows?

Contributed by the Garden Tarts

Hello from the Garden Tarts. We are Hillary and Jenny and we’ve been bestest friends for over 25 years. Our favorite thing to do is talk U2, so we thought we’d do it with you!

In 2019, we discussed The Joshua Tree Sides A and B in two episodes. We are excited to share a clip of our chat about “In God’s Country” from our “Joshua Tree, Side B” episode, where we wonder if Bono had a vision warning him of the siren call of America?

Hear the entire episode on your favorite podcast player or right here on our site.

Hang out with us on our U2 podcasts as we talk about albums, tours and our various U2-related adventures with a whole lot of opinion peppered with dashes of facts. Also, we might be drinking whiskey … you’ll have to listen to find out.


Listen to Bono: Movement as Metaphor for a More Peaceable America

Contributed by Steven Croft, a lifelong U2 fan

My first U2 show was on the Unforgettable Fire tour at the Jacksonville Coliseum in Florida in 1985. I had been listening to their albums over and over for years. Back then, Elvis Costello could make me laugh, a lot; me, who didn’t laugh a lot, because I knew how bad the world was. Back then, U2 could make me hope, a lot; me, who didn’t hope a lot, because I knew how bad the world was.

U2 came loud and with aggression, but they knew that to make the world better, one must make friends with — out of — enemies. They came singing the lessons of MLK, bearing the wisdom of Nelson Mandela.

We were eager, too. Before the ’85 show, we were packed at the stage barrier. The fire marshal came out to say, “Take three steps back or I’ll cancel the show.”  

No sir. If anything, we moved closer.

Bono then came out and said, “Everyone, listen to this man, move back.”

Somehow, he made us do it to be nice to the fire marshal. The shouts went out in the crowd to move back and we did.

When I watched U2 play “Get Out of Your Own Way” for the 60th Grammys, I felt Bono was speaking to the crowd that is America. Like “Born in the USA,” if you listen past the energy of the lyrics to what the songs are saying, you can hear both U2 and Springsteen’s “ethos”-themed anthems sing of their longtime love-examine relationship with America.

“Get Out of Your Own Way” was telling us what was wrong with America. U2 told us with aggression, but also with hope, and the wisdom of Mandela. I could just feel that we, the crowd, once again were listening, knowing we should all be nice to each other.

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Would you like to contribute to the U2 Studies Network? We’d love to feature your short commentary or essay of 300 words or less on our 2020 conference theme of U2 and America. Or, make a short audio or video comment of around 2 minutes if you’re not the writing type.

We’re looking for personal narratives, updates on your U2 research, reflections on a U2 song you just listened to, a book you just read or reactions to current events. Just keep it focused on you, U2 and America.

Contact us here for more details on how to make your contribution.  


Please see our Call for Presentations and our Call for Fan Participation for how you can be on the U2 Conference 2020 program. We hope you’ll join us as we examine U2’s place, space and sound in the American experiment.


The Goal For American Soul

Contributed by Sherry Lawrence, Staff Writer and podcast contributor, atu2.com
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During “Pride (In the Name of Love” on U2’s 2005’s Vertigo tour, Bono asked concertgoers to “sing for Dr. King,” which connected with a major theme of the tour’s second half: “The journey of equality moves on.”

Respecting equal rights requires an acknowledgment of an individual’s humanity. If we are indeed created equal under the eyes of God, as Dr. Martin Luther King spoke about, then what differentiates us visually, philosophically, emotionally, linguistically or relationally should not make one person more important or powerful than another. To respect someone’s humanity is to respect their place in the eyes of God.

It goes beyond humanity, however; it goes straight to the soul. Bono’s Irish Falcon Gretsch guitar famously has engraved on it “The Goal Is Soul.” That tagline is heard in “Beautiful Day.”

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In “Yahweh,” Bono sings, “Take this soul, stranded in some skin and bones. Take this soul and make it sing.” The soul is the most intimate, sacred space we have as humans.

In America, the nation’s soul is suffering. As a citizen, I see how our country is being divided across every feasible data point, representing a person whose humanity is being put into question. For a country that Bono has loved so deeply and opined often about, especially in “American Soul,” we are being challenged. 

Can we look past the division? Can we see the humanity? As the chorus of “Invisible” goes: “I’m more than you know. A body and soul. You don’t see me but you will, I am not Invisible. I am here.”

U2 challenges us to find a way to get America’s soul singing again. Then maybe, just maybe, that journey of equality can get back on track as we acknowledge each other’s humanity.


Would you like to contribute to the U2 Studies Network? We’d love to feature your short commentary or essay of 300 words or less on our 2020 conference theme of U2 and America. Or, make a short audio or video comment of around 2 minutes if you’re not the writing type.

We’re looking for personal narratives, updates on your U2 research, reflections on a U2 song you just listened to, a book you just read or reactions to current events. Just keep it focused on you, U2 and America.

Contact us here for more details on how to make your contribution.  


Please see our Call for Presentations and our Call for Fan Participation for how you can be on the U2 Conference 2020 program. We hope you’ll join us as we examine U2’s place, space and sound in the American experiment.


Announcing U2Con 2020 | Heartland: U2’s Looking for American Soul


Heartland: U2’s Looking For American Soul
An International Virtual U2 Conference For Scholars And Fans
October 18 – 24, 2020

U2 loves, lives in and leverages America, all while feeling free to critique, correct and create America. We invite fans, students and scholars to a week of online conversations and critical inquiry into U2’s complicated history of looking for American soul. We’ll be planning multiple formats for attendees to engage in presentations, connect with each other and enjoy the conference community at different times throughout the week.

For more information on how you can be involved, please see our conference:

We’ll have more updates soon about main speakers and registration. We hope you’ll join us as we examine U2’s place, space and sound in the American experiment.

Conference Coordinators:


The U2 Conference logo and site design by Beth Nabi.