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American Soul (Origins)

D 1 April 2018     H 13:30     A Corine/Dead     C 0 messages


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American Soul

by Remy

The song American Soul is a letter to America and starts off where Get Out Of Your Own Way left us, with Kendrick Lamar as the lunatic preacher. Parts of this song were used for the song XXX on Kendrick Lamar’s latest album, albeit with a different arrangement, closer to jazz music. The "It’s not a place, this country is to be a sound of drum and bass" line for instance can be found in both songs.

American Soul is one of those tracks that is really U2 at their best when it comes to their love for America and to show their hope for it to succeed. "We all have a vested interest in America succeeding, and that’s what American Soul is about", is how The Edge described U2’s message behind the song to De Wild, with Bono adding: "If you care about America, you need to remind people of it."

For the origins of U2’s American Soul we have to go all the way back to 1987. While working on The Joshua Tree, Bono was reading William Blake’s work as mentioned earlier (resulting in Beautiful Ghost/Introduction To Songs Of Experience). The working title for The Joshua Tree was "The Two Americas". Atu2’s Scott Calhoun suggests that if Bono used more from Blake that The Joshua Tree might even have been called "The Two Contrary States Of America’s Soul," inspired by Blake’s volume titled Songs of Innocence and of Experience Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.

The bridge section of the song interpolates the lyrics of the nursery rhyme Frère Jacques (Brother John) and acts as a wake-up call for the church to be ringing the invitational bells of freedom instead of sleeping in. Christians might also see the reference to Matthew 25:40 in the "Refu-Jesus" howl near the end of the song.

Musically, the song has used the same chorus and lyrics as used on Volcano from Songs Of Innocence. Other familiar lyrics in the song come from the song Glastonbury, played live a couple of times during the 360 tour in 2010. Glastonbury had a line being "Even in the dreams you can’t seem to sleep in", which now found a place in American Soul as "In your dreams you can’t be sleeping". Musically, the song has some similarities with Glastonbury, suggesting that the latter is one of the songs U2 worked on in the past, and it finally came together as one song in American Soul.


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