U2's 50 Greatest Songs

A definitive guide to 35 years of music that changed the world

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27. "The Unforgettable Fire"

"It was a soundtrack piece I'd been messing around with on the piano at home," said the Edge of this powerfully atmospheric, multilayered song, which weaves together multiple verse and chorus melodies – "It's classical, almost." The title was taken from an exhibit of the same name at Chicago's Peace Museum, a collection of art by survivors of the U.S. bombings of Japan during World War II that left a strong impression on the band. The song, a favorite of Bono's father, is "very evocative of a city, in this case Tokyo," said the singer, "coming like a phoenix out of the ash." But it's also a love song, with lyrics – "your eyes, as black as coals" – that may refer to Bono's wife, Ali.

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