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U2 - Angel Of Harlem (1987)

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  • 80's Score80's Score 80's score: 1.86
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"Angel of Harlem" is a song by Irish rock band U2. It is the tenth track on their 1988 studio album Rattle and Hum, and was ...

"Angel of Harlem" is a song by Irish rock band U2. It is the tenth track on their 1988 studio album Rattle and Hum, and was released as its second single in December 1988. It topped the charts in Canada and New Zealand, and peaked at number nine on the UK Singles Chart, number eight on the Dutch Top 40, number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number one on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Written as a homage to Billie Holiday, it was released with two different B-sides; one was an original U2 song called "A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel," while the other was a live version of Rattle and Hum's "Love Rescue Me".


The lyrical content of the song refers to various New York City-area landmarks, including JFK airport, WBLS radio and Harlem. It also refers to jazz-related history including John Coltrane and A Love Supreme, Birdland club, Miles Davis and Billie Holiday ("Lady Day").


"Angel of Harlem" was written during 1987's Joshua Tree Tour and the in-studio performance on the Rattle and Hum movie dates from a recording session at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, during the later stages of the tour's third leg. The song was a regular on 1989's Lovetown Tour and was played with B.B. King's band. A stripped-down acoustic rendition was performed on the Zoo TV Tour in 1992 and 1993 on a b-stage positioned in the midst of the crowd. It was then not played again until 2001's Elevation Tour, when it was sometimes performed acoustically and sometimes in its original electric style, albeit without the brass section.

The song only made one appearance during the first four legs of the Vertigo Tour. A fan was pulled on stage in Dallas in late October 2005 to play guitar. The fan asked to play "Angel of Harlem" and although Bono's recall of the lyrics was poor, the band agreed to the request and the fan played the song along with them. The song would later go on to be performed at every show on the Pacific leg of the tour in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Honolulu, Hawaii respectively.

The song has also been performed on 2009's U2 360° Tour with dedications to Michael Jackson, and included snippets of "Man in the Mirror" and "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough." In the Berlin concert of the 360° Tour three young fans from Prague, Czech Republic, held signs asking to play "Angel of Harlem" together with U2, Bono invited them to the stage, the band lent them the instruments and they played the song together. The song was performed sporadically during 2015's Innocence + Experience Tour and The Joshua Tree Tour 2019.

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