I Can’t Believe the News Today in History: 32nd Anniversary of War!

Question: What do these events share in common?

  • Discovery of DNA
  • Standoff in Waco, TX
  • Still-unsolved assassination
  • U2 declares War

Answer: All are featured in an Associated Press video titled, “Today in History: February 28.”

The voice over intones at the 1 minute 4 second mark of the 1 minute 28 second video,

And 1983. Rock group U2 releases its War album. Among the tracks, “New Year’s Day” and “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.”

War was a landmark album for U2, as it turned out to be a conclusion to its initial phase of evolution, an evolution which would take a dramatic turn with recording of the follow-up, The Unforgettable Fire. Not only that, but it was also the first album from Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry that could truly be called rock.

“The storms will pass, it won’t be long now”

Since this is my blog, I’ll add that this album was a landmark in my life. I grew up in a small town, in a small state, and the latest music trends weren’t on my radar until my 20s. As such (not to mention the fact that I’d just barely turned four when War hit the shelves), I wasn’t even aware that a band called U2 existed until much later. But that all changed one fateful day in 1991 when a friend casually mentioned them after school, precisely at a time when I was eager to get into “cool” new music.

If my friend had mentioned Nirvana or any some group, I have no doubt my life would have taken a different path. And not for the better.

Still image of U2 taken from their "New Year's Day" music video

All is not quiet in “New Year’s Day!” L to R: Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen, Jr., Adam Clayton. (c) FanPop.

Luckily, however, he mentioned U2, and I soon found myself at the local book store, glued to the locked case of cassette tapes. (This was the only place in town that sold music!) I scanned the rows until I my eyes reached “U,” and there I was confronted with two albums: the first one I don’t remember, but the other one, the one I bought, was War.

Everything about it at first glance was mesmerizing: the black-and-white cover photo, the stark red lettering, and the simple yet weighty title. I took it home, never thinking for one second that I’d just discovered my favorite band of all time; never dreaming that it was the biggest band in the world. For the moment, it was nothing more than a plastic tape in a plastic case …

“I will sing, sing a new song”

The martial drum beats and Bono’s shatteringly yearning calls that open “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” were sounds that shook me to my core. I’d never heard anything like it, music so painful, emotional, gut-wrenching, and genuine. Even though, on the outside, I probably seemed like a happy kid to the casual observer, I felt very, very alone, and I was falling into dark places with no hand holds or lifelines in sight. But the soaring, driving sounds ofWar, all the way through the bittersweet prayer of “40,” became my friend in a time of great need. My outlet and my inspiration.

Many consider War to be a dark, heavy, angst-ridden, political masterpiece. For me, it’s all those things—but it’s also a light in the darkness.

Happy 32nd birthday, War!

As it’s my wife’s favorite U2 song, I’ll leave you with the video that accompanied the lead single from this incredible album: “New Year’s Day.”

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