The Origin And Meaning Behind U2's One

Irish rock band U2 released "One" on February 24, 1992, as a benefit single, and royalties from the song were donated to AIDS research. It's included in the band's seventh studio album, "Achtung Baby," released in November 1991. At the time of the album's recording, band members were in conflict with each other about the direction of their music, and at one point it seemed like it was the end of their time together, as reported by Aural Crave. U2 traveled to Hansa Studios in Berlin in October 1990 to work on "Achtung Baby."

Tensions were high in the studio. Vocalist Bono and guitarist Edge agreed about the new album's direction, while bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. wanted to go a different route. In the book "U2: A Diary," Clayton stated that they didn't communicate well during that time, and there was a constant misunderstanding in the group. "For the first time in the band there was no consensus musically," Mullen stated. While working on the song "Sick Puppy" — which made it to the album with the title "Mysterious Ways" — Edge was dabbling with chord progressions when the band realized that something good was happening. It was the first song for the album they working on where all the members felt good about the direction they were heading (via Guitar).

The inspiration behind the lyrics

U2 came together to immediately work on the song that would eventually be called "One." Bono wrote the lyrics as they jammed, and as he told the Los Angeles Times, it's about them and what they were experiencing as a band at that time. He explained that it was about coming together despite their differences. "It's saying, 'We are one, but we're not the same' ... and we have to get along together in this world if it is to survive. It's a reminder that we have no choice." The following day, the band recorded a version of the song. They continued working on it and as Edge said, different scenarios are applicable to the song's lyrics (via BBC).

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Bono said that he also thought about a father-son relationship when he wrote the lyrics. The inspiration came from someone he knew who struggled to come out as gay to his religious father. "If we know anything about God, it's that God is love. That's part of the song," he stated. The song has since been performed by U2 during various benefit concerts. Other artists, such as Mary J. Blige and Johnny Cash, have also covered the song. Bono said that the song is open to interpretation, and it's up to the listener to add meaning to the words. "I like to think that the frame of this sone is strong enough to hang a lot more stories on than the ones I was not finishing. 'One' feels like an unfinished song. The listener finishes it," he explained, per BBC.