What inspired the U2 album: The Joshua Tree?
“Be strong and of a good courage: for unto these people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I swear unto their fathers to give them.” Joshua 1:6-9 King James Version (KJV)
The gap between the ideal of the so-called Promised Land and the real America is one of the driving forces behind the most critically acclaimed of U2 albums, The Joshua Tree. The album’s essence is shaped around the band’s musical exploration of American and Irish folk roots. Throughout the album, we are confronted with the desolation of a deserted, immense, timeless landscape. And with a nation of progress and oppressors, in a place where dreams and violence co-exist. The desert’s physical desolation is also related to the desert of the soul, and the desert of ‘our love,’ which finds its restoration in the spiritual triumph of a small solitary tree, itself lost in the vastness of hostile territory. This tree can survive very harsh conditions. It can live without water. Its branches are a cry for hope, reaching out like a form of prayer. No other U2 album is as politically and spiritually dense as The Joshua Tree.
The desert is the leitmotif of the whole album. Following a 1985 trip to Ethiopia, Bono explained that witnessing people living in such poverty, but with such strong spirit, made him realize how “they may have a physical desert, but we’ve got other kinds of deserts.” He was attracted to the desert idea as a symbol, evoking the openness of the American landscape and its brutality and the pervading contemporary spiritual drought. ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ may be interpreted as a spiritual quest.