4 U2 Singles You Didn’t Know The Edge Wrote

Because of his reputation as one of rock music’s most revered guitar players, it’s natural that the songwriting talents of The Edge (née David Evans) get somewhat overlooked. Yet he’s been integral to most of the more massively successful songs in U2’s incredible catalog.

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In a 2023 interview with American Songwriter, The Edge talked about his strengths as a songwriter: “I love approaching music in a naive sense of experimentation and discovery, more than for a format. I’m lucky in that my ear is very tuned to things that are powerful, both melodically and in terms of chord changes. I think that’s probably the greatest gift that we possess within the band is not necessarily knowing how to get there, but recognizing when we have hit on something.”

If you just looked at the credits, you can technically say that The Edge has written every hit song for U2, since all four members of the band usually get the credit for writing the music, while Bono usually handles the lyrics. But the four wonderful songs we’ve chosen below are instances where The Edge had a more direct and decisive hand in their construction.

1. Numb” (from the album Zooropa, 1993)

This might be the song on this list that is most easily traced to Edge, as he wrote the lyrics and also does the singing. Well, singing might not be the right term, as it might be more accurate to say what he’s doing on the song is trance-like chanting. The music plays it minimalist—just a few stabs of guitar here and there, which is fitting because the music warns against trying to take too much on in a world that wants to throw a lot at you.

Instead, The Edge insists that it’s best to keep things simple: Just play another chord / If you feel you’re getting bored. Meanwhile, Bono chips in with some falsetto vocals to second those emotions. Too much is not enough, he howls. “Numb” is one of the band’s most experimental singles, and it still sounds fascinatingly futuristic today.

2. “One” (from Achtung Baby, 1991)

It is among the most iconic songs that U2 has even created, and it came at a time when the band was getting perilously close to a major rift. The members were arguing about what kind of feel their new record (one that would become Achtung Baby) would have. While they were working on another song, The Edge starting playing a chord sequence to show bassist Adam Clayton how it went. Producer Daniel Lanois’ ears perked up, and the band suddenly realized they had something special.

[RELATED: 5 Songs You Didn’t Know The Edge Wrote for Other Artists]

While much of Achtung Baby found the band trying to veer away from their anthemic past, “One” turned out to be a track that very easily could have fit onto previous triumphs like The Joshua Tree. Much of that could be attributed to the soulful guitar work The Edge provides as the song’s musical foundation.

3. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (from War, 1983)

The story goes that The Edge was frustrated over a squabble with his girlfriend at the time and decided to blow off some steam by playing his guitar. He soon fell upon the riff that would form the heart of “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” Edge also took the first crack at the lyrics, which were based on “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, a situation the band knew intimately.

The original lyrics took more of a stand, but when Edge brought it to Bono to help him polish it off, they went in a more neutral direction. Instead of blaming one side or the other, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is a protest song against war-related violence itself. How long must we sing this song? Bono asks, reminiscent of the probing questions that Bob Dylan asks in “Blowin’ in the Wind.” The fury of the music that The Edge created, embellished by Larry Mullen Jr.’s unforgettable drum snaps, resonates still.

4. “Bad” (from The Unforgettable Fire, 1984)

This song wasn’t released as a single in most countries, but it certainly stands as one of the most beloved in the history of U2. It’s especially impossible to forget the performance of “Bad” the band delivered at Live Aid, with the three instrumentalists locked into that mesmerizing pattern while Bono goes wandering off into the crowd.

None of that would have possible without the song’s creation, which came when The Edge was messing about on his guitar while the band recorded The Unforgettable Fire in an Irish castle. He found a mesmerizing, ringing riff that seemed to evoke both hope and sorrow all at once. The rhythm section eventually followed him in the improvisation, and one of U2’s most stunning musical statements was born, with Bono bellowing his impressionistic lyrics to the rafters as the finishing touch.

Photo by Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

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