Top 6 U2 Collaborations with Legendary Artists

Made up of singer Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton, and drummer Larry Mullen Jr, U2 formed in Dublin in 1976. They initially played concerts as Feedback and The Hype before settling on their current name in 1978. U2 rose to prominence in the ‘80s, thanks to moving songs that often pulled from themes of peace, America, and religion. Albums like War, The Joshua Tree, and The Unforgettable Fire put a futuristic spin on new wave. Cascading riffs, ethereal synthesizers, and epic vocals allowed U2 to rise to the top of the world.

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Whether borne out of respect for musical peers or there’s a cause they share with other artists, U2 has made a habit of collaborating with high-profile artists. From Brian Eno to B.B. King, here are six essential U2 partnerships to revisit.

1. Brian Eno

Brian Eno allowed U2 to soar to new heights when he produced their 1987 album, The Joshua Tree. Over 11 tracks, the British ambient innovator casts the band’s songs about the American West in an echoing, ethereal glow. The Edge’s fretwork has always relied heavily on effects, but Eno’s hand guided his tones in directions that feel especially cathartic, and at times almost alien.

[RELATED: Brian Eno Credits the Earth as a Co-Writer on New Release]

2. B.B. King

Although they hail from Ireland, U2 have always been fascinated by traditional American music. In 1987, they collaborated with blues legend B.B. King on the song “When Love Comes to Town.” King’s gruff vocals and wiry soloing contribute to one of the most chugging songs in U2’s entire discography.

3. Bob Dylan

Bono and Bob Dylan seem like kindred spirits in many ways. Both frequently pull from frustrating political themes for their lyrics. In 1988, the duo worked together on the song “Love Rescue Me.” Bono had the idea for the track while on tour in Los Angeles, but thought he might be imagining a preexisting Dylan track instead. After driving to Dylan’s Malibu mansion, he confirmed his idea was actually an original one, and Dylan helped him flesh out the loose sketch. The end result is an impassioned waltz, which appeared in the 1988 documentary Rattle and Hum.

4. Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen is one of the most powerful vocalists of all time. Therefore, it should go without saying that he allowed U2’s commanding classic “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” to bask in a beautiful light when he performed it alongside them at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. Bono introduces Springsteen with a moving quote about how he embodies American art, and then their respective crystalline and gravelly voices offset each other perfectly.

5. Johnny Cash

Zooropa is one of U2’s most conceptual and verdant records. In line with the album’s eclectic spirit, closing track “The Wanderer” is one of the only songs in the band’s catalog where Bono doesn’t sing lead vocals. Instead, he passes the microphone to Johnny Cash. The country legend’s lyrics pull from apocalyptic, biblical themes—a quiet nod to the album’s futurism, as well as Cash’s timeless storytelling.

6. Green Day

To raise money to help those displaced by Hurricane Katrina, U2 teamed up with American punks Green Day. They worked out a cover of Skids’ “The Saints Are Coming,” and performed it live together at the newly repaired Louisiana Superdome in 2006. A studio version was released as an MP3 download later that year, and went on to peak at No. 51 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Photo by Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images for Thelonious Monk Institute

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