Parenthood is one big, long experiment. And when it comes to getting our kids to sleep, we’ll try anything. Ayla has fallen asleep to the sounds of a vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, dishwasher, humidifier and, in a pinch, a photocopier. Although I tried Tracy Chapman and world lullabies, Ayla sleeps best when household or office machinery play a role.
So you could imagine my envy when my friend Sonja Rapp told me what puts her daughter to sleep—the song, “One,” by none other than the amazing Irish band, U2. She plays it loud, once or twice in a row, and miraculously, Helena nods off with a smile on her face.
The song’s meaning has sparked controversy. Music fans have claimed that it is about the re-unification of Germany. If it is, Sonja, who hails from Germany, may have chosen the right song for her daughter’s naptime. But others have called it an anti-war song, a love ballad, and a song about globalization.
In 1993, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Bono explained, "It is a song about coming together, but it's not the old hippie idea of “Let's all live together.” It's saying, We are one, but we're not the same. It's not saying we even want to get along, but that we have to get along together in this world if it is to survive. It's a reminder that we have no choice."
While the song’s meaning resonates deeply with Bono and his humanitarian work, and all the problems we’re facing as a global community today, Bono has been more secretive about the origins of the song. Here’s what I heard from a mommy and devoted U2 fan:
The song One was inspired by the birth of Bono’s first son, Jordan Hewson, in 1989. Bono, like any parent, was literally blown away by his son’s birth. The concept of one-ness became clearer, and more urgent, as he watched his wife Alison nurse and soothe their child.
I haven’t had the chance to personally ask Bono to validate the Mommy Theory of One, but doesn’t it make sense that one of the greatest songs ever written—it was named the 36th greatest song of all time Rolling Stone magazine—was inspired by childbirth and motherhood?
Listen carefully. The song’s lyrics are simple but profound. The music moves in slow cycles, with lots of repetition. Bono’s voice grabs a hold of and tugs on your heart strings. Sometimes it makes me want to hug someone. Sometimes it makes me want to cry. But in the final bars of the song, I’m left feeling only One thing: Love. Sound familiar? You must be a mother too.