U2’s “One Tree Hill” Lyrics Meaning
Instead of trying to decipher the elaborate metaphors featured in U2’s “One Tree Hill” directly, we will go with the hard facts behind its composition. It was written primarily based on the funeral of one person and to a lesser extent in homage of another.
What actually spurred Bono to write this song was the death of one of his homeys by the name of Greg Caroll. Greg Caroll (c.1960-1986) was actually a New Zealander who once took Bono to a location called One Tree Hill which overlooks Auckland. Said sight also has a spiritual significance, which may be one of the reasons why Bono recalled it specifically when remembering Carroll. But to make a long story short, Carroll was someone whom U2 kind of ran into randomly who ended up being one of their most-trusted roadies and a personal friend of Bono’s. And “One Tree Hill” is actually intended to be his memorial by the band.
Or another way of saying it is that this dude U2 met in New Zealand ended up traveling the world with them. And in an indirect way that is how he met his fate. For while running a personal errand for Bono, he was killed in a motorcycle crash in Dublin.
His passing deeply affected them. In fact Larry Mullen Jr. went on to say “it was the first time anyone in (their) working circle had been killed”. So within the song itself, the band basically use some water-based metaphors to the point to the general concepts of the circle of life and the fact that they are morning a loss.
Meanwhile another individual named Victor “Jara” is referenced in the song. Victor Jara (1932-1973) was a Chilean musician who was murdered by government forces due to his political views. It is highly unlikely that anyone in U2 knew him personally. Indeed Bono’s shoutout to Mr. Jara is one of many tributes popular artists have paid to him throughout the years. So basically, U2 used the occasion of Greg Caroll’s death to also pay tribute to someone else whom they respected.
And in summation, “One Tree Hill” is a song of bereavement. It is so much so in fact that history has shown that Bono has had issues performing the song live on a regular basis. And he reportedly laid the vocals down in just one take to prevent himself from having to recite them again.
Facts about “One Tree Hill”
This song is featured on U2’s album “The Joshua Tree”. And Island Records released it as the fifth single from that project, in Oceania only, on 9 March 1987.
It inspired the name of an American television series which was also entitled “One Tree Hill” (2003).
Throughout the years U2 has continued to memorialize Greg Carroll during their live performance of “One Tree Hill”, particularly during shows in New Zealand.
“One Tree Hill” has also been used to memorialize the 29 miners who, in New Zealand during 2010, died in an incident known as the Pike River Mine disaster.
“One Tree Hill” was written by Bono and produced by the pair of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois.
U2 first performed this song live, in New York, on the date of 10 September 1987.
“One Tree Hill” topped the New Zealand Singles Chart.
Prominent artists who have covered “One Tree Hill” include the C&C Music Factory (1991), John Legend (2008) and Michael Bolton (2011).