U2101 – 40

As we continue to cover songs that are receiving nightly love on the Innocence + Experience Tour, I thought that this week we’d cover one of the oldest songs that U2 are currently playing, “40”.

The original studio version of “40” closed out U2’s 1983 album War, and was released as a single in Germany in the latter part of that same year, where it was given the sub-title of (How Long).

The lyrics to the verses of “40” are taken from the book of Psalms in the Bible, chapter 40, (from whence the song takes its name) and talk about waiting patiently for the Lord, who heard the singer’s cry and lifted him up. Even as an atheist, I take inspiration from this portion of the song’s lyric. Sometimes, when things are going wrong, it can take a while for your life to turn around. All you can do is wait patiently to be lifted “up out of the pit.” The chorus continues a theme from the album’s opener, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, asking the question “how long must we sing this song?” “This song” refers to the general content of the War album, which is protest songs, and could be phrased “how long do we have to sing songs like this before the world is a better place?”

One of the most stirring things I’ve ever heard is the communal singing of the song’s refrain at the end of a concert that was closed with “40”. If you need an example of what I’m talking about, check out the song’s performance on the Under a Blood Red Sky EP. This is a tradition at U2 concerts going all the way back to the early 1980’s which continues today at select stops on U2’s Innocence + Experience tour. As for the song’s future, I see no reason for U2 to stop playing “40” and I expect that on the day they hang it up for good, “40” will be the last song that they ever play as a band. Let’s hope that that day is still a long way off. In the meantime, “40” serves as a reminder that there’s still work to be done in the here and now to fix the many problems ailing out world.

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Ever since I realized as a kid, while poring over the liner notes of the Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom boxed set, that writing about music was a viable career choice, one of my greatest desires has been to write about U2. The band has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute a little something to the fantastic online community that's been built around the band.

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