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U2 => The Music and Lyrics => Topic started by: shockdocta22 on May 07, 2009, 06:48:32 PM

Title: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: shockdocta22 on May 07, 2009, 06:48:32 PM
What is it, it comes off as a love song, but i know theres something more...
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: U2-obsessed and proud on May 08, 2009, 02:59:48 PM
To me, its about someone loving another person but they know the other person will never return the love.  He cant live with them because their presence reminds them of the love they cant have.  He cant live without them because of his love for the person.  The song is about that struggle to me
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: LOGAN B on May 08, 2009, 03:16:33 PM
It's actually about Bono's struggle to be married to Ali and wanting to be free to go and do as he pleases. It's about domesticity versus rock stardom and all that comes with it. Alot of things get answered in the U2 by U2 book. You should get it.
Title: .
Post by: Anthony02 on May 08, 2009, 05:34:18 PM
Ditto. Its all in U2 by U2. Also read Into The Heart. That book really tells alot.
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: U2-obsessed and proud on May 09, 2009, 06:47:30 PM
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It's actually about Bono's struggle to be married to Ali and wanting to be free to go and do as he pleases. It's about domesticity versus rock stardom and all that comes with it. Alot of things get answered in the U2 by U2 book. You should get it.

I've read it and thats part of it, but also what I previously posted is a part of it too
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: lovetorn on June 14, 2010, 04:31:59 PM
The great thing about great songs is the different ways that they touch people in their meaning.

I talk to quite a few people on the phone all over the country as part of my job.  This one particular girl from Hawai'i called needing my assistance with her computer.  She immediately made me smile just listening to her and the sound of her voice.  We've become really close over the past couple of months even though we've never met face to face.  It's indescribable what we feel for one another and yet we'll probably never be able to be together.  I have a family and I couldn't leave my boys without a father.  I grew up without one and it's made my life pretty difficult.  A part of that difficulty has been not knowing how to be a good husband and not really knowing how to be a man.  Over the years I have learned but too little too late and that's taken a toll and my wife has said she doesn't love me anymore and I don't blame her. 

Now all that being said, the song "With or Without You" has pretty profound meaning to me and this girl.  The phrase "...can't live with or without you" has a very literal meaning to us.  We can't be(LIVE) together but the thought of being(LIVING) without each other is too painful.  I have never felt this deep of a connection with anybody and there is no denying that it is love...a love I've never had for another.  "....she makes me wait on a bed of nails...", she(LOVE) feels like that when I can't tell this girl how I feel because it's too painful the fact that it's there and there's nothing we can do about it.  We try our best to not get too close, but it's becoming harder and harder to do.  "...and you give yourself away...", without effort we've given to each other and not given things but given ourselves and that gift is overwhelming and indescribable and unfathomable. 

I can't get enough of her.
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: dferry09 on June 14, 2010, 06:28:10 PM
Loving a girl who doesnt want to be with you. Thats my take on it.
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: RunningtoStandstill (The League of Extraordinary BonoPeople) on June 15, 2010, 09:12:38 PM
what does this song mean? my life.  like, right now.
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: u2pinstripes on June 15, 2010, 10:06:48 PM
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what does this song mean? my life.  like, right now.

Agreed.  Me too.
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: briscoetheque on June 15, 2010, 10:14:40 PM
It's a musical journey
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: whitecanvasshoes on June 16, 2010, 09:27:31 AM
A person on songfacts.com put together a collection of quotes from the band about the song and gave references for the quotes. Here is a copy of what the person wrote on that site.

TW: Another thing that we certainly need to do in music is discover new ways to write love songs. "With Or Without You" seems like a new kind of love song to me. Bono: Thank you. That's kinda the way I feel about it. I've said it before, but to me there's nothing more radical, there's nothing more revolutionary than two people loving each other. One, 'cause it's so uncommon these days, and two, 'cause it's so difficult to do. (from "Timothy White's Rock Stars", radio interview, June 01, 1987)

Bono: On the "With or Without You" EP there are three songs that all deal with obsession [Walk To The Water, Luminous Times], with that kind of sexuality. I'd like to have done a whole side, a whole record, blue. That EP is something close. (from "Luminous Times" by John Hutchinson, Musician, October 01, 1987) [...]

Bono revealed that "it was interesting to me because I see it in myself and in other people around me. Love is a two-edged sword and I didn't want to write about romance because that doesn't interest me as much as the other side." [...] (from "U2 - A Conspiracy of Hope" by Dave Bowler & Bryan Dray, 1993)

Bono: In "With Or Without You" when it says "and you give yourself away and you give yourself away" -- everybody else in the group knows what that means. It's about how I feel in U2 at times -- exposed. I know the group think I'm exposed and the group feel that I give myself away. And funny enough, Lou Reed said to me, 'what you've got is a real gift: don't give it away because people might not place upon it the right value.' And I think that if l do any damage to the group, it's that I'm too open. For instance, in an interview, I don't hold the cards there and play the right one because I either have to do it or not do it. That's why I'm not going to do many interviews this year. Because there's a cost to my personal life and a cost to the group as well. (from "The World About Us" by Niall Stokes, Hot Press, March 26, 1988)

Should this be moved to the lyrics section?
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: StrongGirl on June 16, 2010, 04:15:52 PM
We were just talking about the lyrics of this trilogy when discussing Walk To The Water, whitecanvasshoes!

Yes, I am moving it to Lyrics with that other thread. SG
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: Yukona [The League of Extraordinary Bonopeople] on June 17, 2010, 10:24:39 AM
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The great thing about great songs is the different ways that they touch people in their meaning.

I talk to quite a few people on the phone all over the country as part of my job.  This one particular girl from Hawai'i called needing my assistance with her computer.  She immediately made me smile just listening to her and the sound of her voice.  We've become really close over the past couple of months even though we've never met face to face.  It's indescribable what we feel for one another and yet we'll probably never be able to be together.  I have a family and I couldn't leave my boys without a father.  I grew up without one and it's made my life pretty difficult.  A part of that difficulty has been not knowing how to be a good husband and not really knowing how to be a man.  Over the years I have learned but too little too late and that's taken a toll and my wife has said she doesn't love me anymore and I don't blame her. 

Now all that being said, the song "With or Without You" has pretty profound meaning to me and this girl.  The phrase "...can't live with or without you" has a very literal meaning to us.  We can't be(LIVE) together but the thought of being(LIVING) without each other is too painful.  I have never felt this deep of a connection with anybody and there is no denying that it is love...a love I've never had for another.  "....she makes me wait on a bed of nails...", she(LOVE) feels like that when I can't tell this girl how I feel because it's too painful the fact that it's there and there's nothing we can do about it.  We try our best to not get too close, but it's becoming harder and harder to do.  "...and you give yourself away...", without effort we've given to each other and not given things but given ourselves and that gift is overwhelming and indescribable and unfathomable. 

I can't get enough of her.

I'm sorry you have to feel this way, lovetorn. It's not always easy to choose between family and love--particularly when you find love outside of your family.

I can't really tell you what to do at all because you're right, you definitely have NO RIGHT at all to leave your children without a father. That would be a horrible thing to do. But at the same time you seem to have found a real connection with someone, and that kind of love is unpredictable and tormenting.

The only thing I can do for you is pray, and I don't know whether you're a spiritual person, but I'll still keep you in my prayers anyway.
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: EnduringChill on June 17, 2010, 02:15:21 PM
I was mulling over the lyrics today, and here's what I thought.
"I can't live with of without you..." When I first heard this lyric I thought it was stupid, but now I think it means that the singer is in love and can't live with tem because they are not allowed to be together or something, and he can't live without her because he loves her.
"And you give yourself away..." I love this line a lot, and I do think it fits with being exposed. Before I read about the song, though, I thought it meant giving yourself fully to your loved one, no matter what the consequences are.
"My hands are tied, my body bruised, she got me with nothing to win and nothing left to lose..." This sounds to me a lot like giving in to the temptation of love, or just giving into temptation.
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: u2yooper on June 18, 2010, 08:40:56 PM
This song has always left me a little unsure.  Bono changes pronouns throughout the song  (On a bed of nails SHE makes me wait.  YOU give yourself away.) and that unsettles me.   It's a tortured song of love that is somehow unfulfilled.  I have been in relationships where this song made sense.  Lovetorn, you obviously know it's meaning in a personal way.  i think it's a howl of pain and love twisted up together.  Sometimes love doesn't work out. 
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: Yukona [The League of Extraordinary Bonopeople] on June 19, 2010, 12:12:41 AM
Some people say it's about a girl, some say it's about God. I think, maybe in true Bono fashion, it's about both. He's said he often confuses sex and God. I think the essence of the song is about contradiction--about being pulled apart from the inside by two forces that are hard to reconcile. Because how can you be an artist and exercise that God-given gift when you're surrounded by domesticity? Yet will you give up your happiness and family to follow the muse? Because like Bono says, the muse is taciturn and can leave you with nothing. You can apply this to every other essential contradiction of U2: sex vs God, punk vs roots, head vs heart. And the answer to the contradiction, I think, is found in the song when he sings, "and you give yourself away." As human beings we try so hard to hold on to things, refusing to let them go. Our relationships, our inspirations, our undisclosed desires and all of our tortured love. The harder these things pull at us, the harder we try to hold on to ourselves. But you know, for a seed to bloom into a tree, it must first be released into the earth to die. You have to give yourself away. Because he who cherishes his life will lose it, but he who gives it away will find it.
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: HarlemsAngel94 on June 19, 2010, 07:35:26 AM
Basically, what I got from U2 by U2 was that at the time, Bono was having a real struggle in his life on which way to go. As an early band, U2 were subtly about spirituality. With superstardom, you start to lose that sense. Around the time, U2 were encroaching on being the biggest band in the world (and achieved it after the Joshua Tree) and Bono had to deal with all these pressures that came with it. So, that spirituality which was previously there was fading away and part of that was his loyalty to Ali. So his choices were to pursue this unknown territory of superstardom or to return to a loving, humble life with Ali. In the end, he was able to do both, thankfully, and created a sort of different rock star who doesn't rely on sex and drugs to keep going. All in all, if you look at the music, you can see all the hardship going on at the time. In the Joshua Tree, you have all these struggles. For example, Streets is wanting to escape this bitter world; ISHFWILF is a song of longing for something more; WOWY is a struggle between passions; and Bullet is just a demonstration of the horrors of life. As the band moved into Achtung Baby, they had taken ahold of such issues and basically were mocking them (Macphisto, etc.). Overall, the story behind U2 is one of my favorite things about the band and is something that is especially unique to them. Sorry for going on but I think that WOWY was just a summation of the problems arisen during the time.
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: Maximus on June 19, 2010, 11:25:32 AM
I also hear it was about a relationship with God

Becuase man wants to sin, and they can't and still be in commune with God
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: deco20 on June 22, 2010, 07:18:23 AM
My personal interpretation of the song would be that it is about the human race.

"And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give, and you give
And you give yourself away."


It's like everytime the human race progresses and move forward, we give something away to gain something else. That's kinda like life. Its always in and out. Give and take.

And the song may reflect man's tendency to resist change and cower in the wombs and caves of doubt. Ultimately, we cant live with ourselves, our humanity but its the thing that makes us, us. And yet, I feel like the song is trying to tell me that if we lose our humanity, we can soar and achieve great success but there's that part of us that's missing.

Ahh sh**, this song is messing my head up.
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: RunningtoStandstill (The League of Extraordinary BonoPeople) on June 22, 2010, 01:00:47 PM
it's about love.
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: briscoetheque on June 23, 2010, 02:06:51 AM
It's a song about a New Zealand born shepherd.
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: StrongGirl on June 24, 2010, 03:41:42 PM
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It's a song about a New Zealand born shepherd.

Oh!!! Now it all makes sense to me. Thanks , Briscoe!  ;D
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: andym on June 24, 2010, 03:59:38 PM
relationships one day you love them the next you cant stand them..one day you agree the next you dont..one day your intimate the next your torn apart..one day your supported the next your humiliated...one day your the best thing since slice bread the next jealousy..human nature so beautifully explained in this song and thats just from the sheeps point of view dont get me started on the sheperd ;D
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: RunningtoStandstill (The League of Extraordinary BonoPeople) on June 24, 2010, 10:49:06 PM
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It's a song about a New Zealand born shepherd.

mmm...bono must have a thing for kiwis... ::)
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: JoshuaTree94 on June 25, 2010, 12:30:12 AM
I think it's about shaving cream.
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: deco20 on June 25, 2010, 01:59:28 AM
On the other hand, WOWY does sound like a Doctor-Surgeon song.

See the stone?
Thorn twist in your side?

I cant live with or without you...

Surgeons cant live without all the diseases and funny things that get stuck in the human body. Without those, they wouldnt have jobs.

Surgeons cant live if they get those diseases themselves.

Problem solved. the mystery of WOWY. Bono must be big fan of Dr House.
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: RunningtoStandstill (The League of Extraordinary BonoPeople) on June 26, 2010, 02:40:29 AM
YES.
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: briscoetheque on July 02, 2010, 11:43:09 PM
Actually no, With or Without you if definitely about God.
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: Rock N Roll Girl on July 06, 2010, 10:23:37 PM
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Some people say it's about a girl, some say it's about God. I think, maybe in true Bono fashion, it's about both. He's said he often confuses sex and God. I think the essence of the song is about contradiction--about being pulled apart from the inside by two forces that are hard to reconcile. Because how can you be an artist and exercise that God-given gift when you're surrounded by domesticity? Yet will you give up your happiness and family to follow the muse? Because like Bono says, the muse is taciturn and can leave you with nothing. You can apply this to every other essential contradiction of U2: sex vs God, punk vs roots, head vs heart. And the answer to the contradiction, I think, is found in the song when he sings, "and you give yourself away." As human beings we try so hard to hold on to things, refusing to let them go. Our relationships, our inspirations, our undisclosed desires and all of our tortured love. The harder these things pull at us, the harder we try to hold on to ourselves. But you know, for a seed to bloom into a tree, it must first be released into the earth to die. You have to give yourself away. Because he who cherishes his life will lose it, but he who gives it away will find it.

Well said, Yukona. A very complicated song, this one!
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: Maximus on July 07, 2010, 06:51:03 AM
It is the genius of U2 that it could be about both. Bono is the master of the double entendre (or triple, quadruple) U2 speaks to the soul, and the soul hears the meaning it needs at the time.
Title: Re: The True Meaning of With Or Without You
Post by: Farisfan (polished stones) on July 07, 2010, 07:41:13 AM
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Some people say it's about a girl, some say it's about God. I think, maybe in true Bono fashion, it's about both. He's said he often confuses sex and God. I think the essence of the song is about contradiction--about being pulled apart from the inside by two forces that are hard to reconcile. Because how can you be an artist and exercise that God-given gift when you're surrounded by domesticity? Yet will you give up your happiness and family to follow the muse? Because like Bono says, the muse is taciturn and can leave you with nothing. You can apply this to every other essential contradiction of U2: sex vs God, punk vs roots, head vs heart. And the answer to the contradiction, I think, is found in the song when he sings, "and you give yourself away." As human beings we try so hard to hold on to things, refusing to let them go. Our relationships, our inspirations, our undisclosed desires and all of our tortured love. The harder these things pull at us, the harder we try to hold on to ourselves. But you know, for a seed to bloom into a tree, it must first be released into the earth to die. You have to give yourself away. Because he who cherishes his life will lose it, but he who gives it away will find it.

Well said, Yukona. A very complicated song, this one!

Yes, well said Yukona.  I think you hit the nail on the head.  And this is a complicated or multi-faceted song, but U2 seems really good with those contradictions and tensions or at least bringing them out to the light of day.

Thanks Maximus-- yes-- double, triple entendre....

Good thread!!