U2 came to fame around 1976, although they are still incredibly active today. The Irish rock group originally grew out of the punk rock movement of the 1970s, but today their musical style has grown to include influences from a number of other genres as well. They write songs that range in lyrical themes, from political and social concerns to more spiritual songs. Their members include bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen, although their two most famous members are generally guitarist/keyboardist The Edge and lead singer Bono.
Their move away from punk music can be traced back as early as 1984, when they released the song “A Sort of Homecoming” on the album The Unforgettable Fire. The song was orchestrated, polyrhythmic, and toned down in terms of drums and guitar. They further changed their style with the 1991 release of Achtung Baby, mixing electronic sounds inspired by dance music and industrial rock with much darker lyrical themes. The album also included the song “One,” which marked the beginning of their increasing concentration on issues regarding social justice.
One of the most notable aspects of U2’s career is that their lineup has not changed once over more than thirty years that the band has remained active. While many bands from the 1970s have had to change members due to death or creative differences, U2 still contains the same four band mates that were around when the group first got together. Most of the songs’ writing credits are given to band members, primarily Bono and the Edge, although producer Brian Eno has been instrumental in helping them formulate some of their more experimental sounds.
Their experimentation lasted throughout most of the 1990s, and they did not begin to truly embrace mainstream conventions until their 2000 album All That You Can’t Leave Behind, further embracing convention with the 2004 album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. This album contained songs such as “City of Blinding Lights” and “Vertigo,” and Bono has referred to the album as the first true rock album ever put out by U2. While they began to embrace musical conventions, they still dealt with relatively dark subject matter such as death and war, although they also dealt with lighter themes such as peace, love, and unity.
Since the 1980s, the band’s focus on social justice has led them to become active in charity fundraising and events. The song “One” was used to raise money for AIDS, while the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was used to raise money to fight Ethiopian famine. Bono has paid actual visits to Africa as well, and has worked with charitable organizations such as World Vision, Greenpeace, and Amnesty International. The band worked to shut down the Sellafield nuclear processing plant in England, and their song “Walk On” was dedicated to the institution of democracy in Burma.
U2 does not just have a vision for the world, but they actively strive to achieve it. They are known as one of the few bands in existence that actually uses its fame to try and fight for the principles described in their music. Not only are they legendary as musicians, but they are well-known for the multitude of good deeds they have performed over the long course of their career. It is truly unique for a band to put forth as much effort as they have toward trying to make the world a better place.
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