U2’s “Iris (Hold Me Close)” Lyrics Meaning

Bono is arguably the most humanitarian permanent A list musician in the game – so much so that he has even been recognized in such a regard by the Queen of England herself. He was also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 and took home the related Man of Peace honor in 2008. 

And what makes stories such as his so outstanding really is that being the frontman of a major rock band, he is not obligated to behave in such a manner. In other words, Bono can simply use his wealth and fame to embellish his own life, as music celebrities generally tend to do.

And the point we’re trying to get at here is that individuals such as this, who genuinely care about their fellow man, don’t tend to develop just by chance. Rather there would be defining moments in their lives which make them more sensitive to human suffering.

And in Bono’s case, one such incident would have likely been the passing of his mother, Iris Hewson, in 1960. It is not only the fact that she passed away while he was still at the tender age of 14. But also the manner of her departure, unexpectedly being stricken by a brain aneurysm while concurrently attending her own dad’s funeral, was also devastating on a young Bono. But as the singer expressed in his own words, he took ‘the rage and grief that followed’ and used it to fuel his music career.

“Iris (Hold Me Close)”

That said, as indicated by the title, this song is about his late mom, encapsulating the “very few memories” Bono still possesses of her by this point, i.e. being in his mid-50s when this track was dropped. 

But the lyrics aren’t based on literal memories as much as sentimental ones. Indeed the first verse lyrically illustrates the idea put forth above, i.e. “the ache” in Bono’s “heart” as a result of Iris’s passing being ‘so much a part of who he is’.

The lyrics also possess this, shall we say astronomical quality that is found quite often in songs about specific deceased loved ones. Or phrased differently, Bono introduces the idea of meeting Iris again (and before actually) in a spiritual context using space-related terminology. 

But he also references “stars” in a different manner in the bridge, to point to the idea that whereas nature itself is beautiful it is also cruel, if you will.

Bono still speaks with Iris

Bono then goes on to express a notion like his mother still communicating with him in his dreams. And in that respect she appears to be serving the same function in his life currently as she did while still on the mortal plane, i.e. encouraging the vocalist to fearlessly pursue his dreams.

More about the lyrics of “Iris (Hold Me Close)”

Meanwhile, perhaps the most-literally autobiographical part of this song is during the last verse. Here, Bono implies that his mother used to label him as being extremely troublesome. However, he was not “the death of her”, as she predicted. 

And yes, that analogy, which is borderline comical, is sort of out of place given the general sentiment of the piece. But symbolically speaking, it can also allude to how surprising Iris’s death caught everyone, even herself if you will, off-guard.

The song then concludes with Bono once again presenting his mother as an encouraging factor in his life. Indeed by this point, it is made abundantly clear that she has, and we can even say still influences his artistry in this sense of aspiring him to be “free”. 

But that said, Bono apparently shuts the song down by regretting the fact that Iris is not actually here to witness the great things he has been able to accomplish under her inspiration.

Lyrics to "Iris (Hold Me Close)"

Writing of “Iris (Hold Me Close)”

Bono wrote this song alongside one of his U2 bandmates, a songwriter/guitarist known simply as the Edge. And according to the history of the track, Bono rewrote the lyrics after reading what was apparently James Foley’s (19733-2014) last letter to his family, while he was in captivity. 

But who is James Foley? We hear you ask. James was a freelance journalist who, while working in Syria, was unfortunately and infamously beheaded by ISIS. His gruesome murder appeared in a heavily-circulated video back in 2014.

Iris (Hold Me Close)

Production of “Iris (Hold Me Close)”

This song was produced by a handful of big names in the music business. First on the list would likely be established hip-hop musician Danger Mouse. Danger has been recognized as the primary producer behind U2’s Songs of Innocence””, i.e. the album which this track was derived from. 

Then there is Paul Epworth, perhaps a name you never heard but still one who has worked with not only U2 but equally-famous artists such as Adele and Rihanna

And lastly Ryan Tedder, formerly of OneRepublic fame but also an established songwriter/producer in his own right, is acknowledged in that regard.

When did U2 release “Iris (Hold Me Close)”?

This track was issued by Island Records and Interscope Records in 2014. It actually came out as part of the aforementioned album (Songs of Innocence””) on 9 September 2014. 

That project went on to be nominated for a Grammy in 2015. And to note, “Iris (Hold Me Close)” was not one of the singles issued from it. Rather they were, successively:

  • “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)”
  • “Every Breaking Wave 
  • “Song for Someone”

Iris Hewson

It has been noted that the late Iris Hewson, who passed away in 1974, has also been referenced in a few other U2 songs, such as 1979’s “Out of Control”, 1980’s “I Will Follow” and 1981’s “Tomorrow”.

U2's Bono discusses "Iris (Hold Me Close)"

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