Birthday Playlists and Sharing a Birthday

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2020-05-10)

It’s Bono’s 60th birthday. But it is also my own. I’m lucky, I get to call Bono my cosmic twin. His words, not mine. And right on time this morning, Bono had a special gift ready for me, and for all of us, his own playlist of “60 Songs that Saved His Life.”

“These are some of the songs that saved my life…the ones I couldn’t have lived without…the ones that got me from there to here, zero to 60…through all the scrapes, all manner of nuisance, from the serious to the silly…and the joy, mostly joy…” (Bono, U2.Com)

When I speak about U2, I often speak about the joy. The life they have given me. The places I have seen that I might not have journeyed to elsewise. The friendships I have made because of this band. The experiences I have had. Sometimes I look back and I’m truly amazed at what this band from Dublin has lead me to.

So today it’s my birthday and I’m looking back a bit as well. Forgive me if I ramble a bit. The rest of the team don’t know I’m writing this.

I discovered U2 in 1983. Became a fan not so long after. First album I bought was The Unforgettable Fire but I’d made a copy of others before that time. But it was a birthday gift years later from my friend Karin that brought a bit of a change into my life. She made me a mix tape. Remember those? You’d spend hours picking out the perfect songs to fit on one side of a cassette. The mix included many songs I hadn’t heard before from artists I hadn’t known. But Karin, also included a Robbie Robertson song, “Sweet Fire of Love” – a song that he had done with U2. Immediately I had to find out everything they had ever worked on outside of the albums and singles!

One of the biggest gifts from that time on from U2 has been music. Not just their own, but introducing me to other acts, showing me other genres, opening my eyes to other things. Anyone who’s followed us here for a while probably knows its the case. I have written about it in OTR columns (I must admit, I couldn’t find it to share a link), I’ve built the discography around everything U2 has worked on including those solo journeys each band has taken. I spend time before every show tracking what the band plays over the PA. Hell, we even named the site after a song that Johnny Cash sang with the band for 15 years! It’s really taken me on a side journey outside of the U2 one.

Bono’s Bowie playlist for Rolling Stone is one of my favourites we captured here on the site. I was already a bit of a Bowie fan, so I knew them all, but it resulted in a wonderful day spent revisiting his music. Over time as new playlists pop up, we capture them and keep track of them. From playlists at Starbucks, to cover-mounted CDs they’ve done up for magazines. Each has been a gift, and each one has added to my own musical journey. It’s the same with the preshow music for each tour. I love experiencing new artists and new music while I wait to see U2. And the preshow music for the U2360 shows instantly transports me back to my favourite tour every time.

So this morning’s gift of a playlist of 60 songs was a real gift to me. I’ll spend time digesting and listening. I’ll find favourites, I’ll find songs to skip. I’ll read the letters that Bono has crafted to go with each song. I’ll catalog them here. But above all? I’ll find joy. I’ll enjoy this gift we’ve been given. There’s so much thought put into this list. It’s the modern day equivalent of a mixed tape. Pick out sixty songs, one for each year he’s been alive. Not any more, not any less. It’s not easy! (Of course you can make it a little easier by sharing another forty in another list of your favourite Irish artists.)

So what would I put on a U2 playlist? It’s easier than it sounds. But the band allowed me to do just that. And the title of that article? “Unfiltered Joy”. I told you I keep coming back to that when I discuss the band. The band allowed me to post my playlist of U2 songs on their site in April 2017. It was part of a series of playlists that the site published including those from fans, other musicians, and their own collaborators. You’ll have to log in to see what I said about each (sorry to those not subscribed, you won’t be able to see it.) But my list is below:

  • “Out of Control”
  • “A Celebration”
  • “The Unforgettable Fire”
  • “Where the Streets Have No Name”
  • “Running to Stand Still”
  • “The Wanderer”
  • “In the Name of the Father”
  • “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)”
  • “Your Blue Room”
  • “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight (Redanka Remix)”
  • “Mercy”
  • “40” (Live from Under a Blood Red Sky)

If I had to update it today, two additional songs would vie for a spot on the list. Jon Pleased Wimmin’s remix of “Love is All We Have Left” and U2’s own version of “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way,” preferably a live version so I can listen to all of those voices joining in at the end.

The title? Came from my description of “Where the Streets Have No Name,”: “I don’t think I need to explain ‘Streets’ to any U2 fan. But I will always be thankful to the person who tapped me on the shoulder at my first U2 concert and told me to look back at the crowd when the lights came up so that I could see what the band sees. I’ve followed that advice, and I’ve looked at the crowd at every concert since that time when this song plays. Try it. You’ll see expressions of unfiltered joy throughout the stadium.”

What’s it like to share a birthday with Bono? Doesn’t change much honestly. But it does allow me to distract myself with U2 things in years when I’m not in the mood to feel like I’m getting older. Some years there’s been a slight annoyance when wished a Happy Bono day. But overall I’ve always thought it to be kind of cool. My mom always suggested that maybe my love of U2 was written in the stars.

I’ve met Bono just once. I’ve never tried. I don’t need to. But in 2017 the opportunity came up to meet him on my birthday. On his birthday! So I decided it was time. It ended up with some confusion as he grabbed a birthday card I had been given by a friend, and thought I wanted it signed. Then he realized it was a birthday card and thought maybe it was something I was giving to him. Finally the story about the shared birthday came out. His reply? “You’re kidding! That makes you my cosmic twin. I’ve never met anyone born on May 10 that I didn’t like.”

And one final thing on Bono’s 60th…

Thank you to Bono for helping to shape my musical knowledge. Thank you for helping to shape my path in life. Thank you for taking me to places I’d likely never have seen. Thank you for giving me the team that I work with here on U2Songs, and the friends I travel and see the world with. Thank you so much for that last one, because so many of them have become like family to me. Thank you for Macphisto! Thank you for taking moments of your time to share with the fans. And thank you for surrounding yourself with an amazing team of people. Thank you for all the gifts you have showered us with over the years – the songs, the poems, the art, the performances. While things have been a little quieter of late I’ve taken an opportunity to go back and spend some time looking at what’s been given to us in the past. It’s an amazing body of work, not just the work with U2, but your own solo journeys, as well as the songs you’ve shared from other artists. Thank you for everything.

Happy birthday Bono,
#Bono60 #VivaBono60 #BonosGlobalBirthdayBash

PS. My own little birthday gift back to those who read this far? We shared our own playlist last night of some of our favourite Bono solo moments, it’s three hours of music over on Spotify if you are looking for something after you get through Bono’s gift and want to hear a bit more of his work.

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