Survival Songs: U2, Walk On

When I got to college, the very first “worldly music” album I purchased was U2, All That You Can’t Leave Behind. I’d never heard of U2 before, although I soon realized that I’d heard many of their songs on the radio. I finally learned their name in a professor’s car on the way to an Indian restaurant for a study abroad lunch. Two other students heard me ask him, “What band is this?” If they were embarrassed for me, it didn’t show.

The very next day, I ventured across the bridge to the artsy side of town. A used music store, soon to be the source of endless hours of enjoyment, huddled in a tiny brick row house with rainbow-colored chalk on the windows. At first, I was utterly lost. I’d heard of Billy Joel, Elton John and Shania Twain, but most of the labels might as well have been recorded in quipu. But I mustered up my courage and marched to the counter, asking for U2. I was shown to one of the largest sections – rock – where a shelf dedicated to the U2 discography dominated the lower alphabet. I scoured the albums and finally picked out the one whose name meant the most to me. All That You Can’t Leave Behind. I’d been leaving behind a lot of things lately.

The entire album was like an anthem to my escape. I imagined that Bono were sitting next to me, talking to me alone through the music. I sat in the history department lounge after hours with a CD walkman strapped to my waist, tears flowing as I watched people moving around the courtyard fifty feet below. I already felt like I was part of a story; U2 was the soundtrack.

The song below is the one that moved me most. I hope you enjoy it, too.

You’re packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been
A place that has to be seen to be believed to be seen
You could have flown away, a singing bird in an open cage
Who will only fly, only fly for freedom 

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