Story of the Song: Beautiful Day, U2, 2000
Friday 13 August 2010
Sessions for one of the defining millennial anthems began in Dublin in the winter of 1999. The producer Brian Eno devised the rhythm on a sequencer and drum machine.
Around it, Edge built one of his trademark guitar riffs, this one harking back to the band's earliest days. After some while improvising, Bono threw out his arms and filled the room with an ecstatic yell: "It's a beautiful dayeeee". They had the title, and more.
Eno's co-producer, Daniel Lanois, was sitting in the control room. "The track at that point was really pumping," he said. "The mix that we did had the power of shattered metal." Lanois heard Bono singing about immaculate beauty in the midst of flying shrapnel. "It was only a glimmer at the end of the jam version," he said. But it was the hook they needed. Lanois urged Bono to develop a moment of spontaneity into the chorus for his new song. The result was, Bono said, a song about "a man who has lost everything, but finds joy in what he still has". It took on a new dimension with Bono's endorsement of Jubilee 2000 (now the Jubilee Debt Campaign).
Another producer, Steve Lillywhite, was drafted in to complete the final mix. Launched as a single to promote the band's 10th album, 'All That You Can't Leave Behind', "Beautiful Day" made No 1 around the world and won a Grammy. It was later appropriated by Barack Obama for his presidential campaign and found a fan in REM's Michael Stipe. "I love that song," Stipe said. "It makes me angry that I didn't write it."
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