Walk On (U2 song)

"Walk On" is a song by Irish rock band U2. It is the fourth track on their tenth studio album, All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000), and was released as a single on 19 November 2001, the record's second in Canada and the fourth in the rest of the world. The song was written about a Burmese academic Aung San Suu Kyi, who was the chairperson of the National League for Democracy and was placed under house arrest from 1989 until 2010 for her pro-democracy activities, which led to the song being banned in Burma. In 2002, the song won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony, marking the first time an artist had won the award for songs from the same album in consecutive years.

"Walk On"
Single by U2
from the album All That You Can't Leave Behind
Released19 November 2001
StudioHQ (Dublin, Ireland)
Length4:55 (Album version)
4:09 (Single version)
4:25 (Edited version)
4:29 (Video version)
LabelIsland / Interscope
U2 singles chronology
"Walk On"
"Electrical Storm"
Music video
"Walk On" on YouTube
Audio sample
"Walk On"
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In the United States, the song peaked at number 21 on the Adult Top 40, number 19 on the Mainstream Rock chart, and number 10 on the Alternative Songs chart. It also topped the charts in Canada, and reached the top 10 in Australia, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Writing and composition

"Love, in the highest sense of the word, is the only thing that you can always take with you, in your heart. At some point you are going to have to lose everything else anyway."

—Bono talking about the inspiration for the song [1]

In March 2000, U2 were awarded the Freedom of the City of Dublin at a ceremony where the Burmese academic Aung San Suu Kyi was honoured but absent. The band had never heard of Suu Kyi prior to that and soon developed an interest in learning about her.[1] The group found out that her activism and fighting for freedom in Burma led to her being under house arrest since 1989 (a sentence that was later ended in 2010). "Walk On" was subsequently written about and dedicated to Suu Kyi. It was written in the form of a supporting, uplifting anthem, praising her for activism. Bono explained that the song is about "nobility and personal sacrifice, about doing what's right, even if your heart is telling you otherwise."[1] He compares the subject of the song to a Biblical passage in Corinthians.[1]

The album version of the song runs for 4:55. The album's title was derived from the song's lyrics, "The only baggage you can bring is all that you can't leave behind." "Walk On" originally consisted of two different songs which, according to bassist Adam Clayton, that had great riffs but sounded terrible separately. The group combined them and ended up with the arrangement that forms "Walk On." Towards the end of the album's recording sessions, the band hired long-time producer Steve Lillywhite to make some final touches to the songs, including "Walk On". The album's co-producer Daniel Lanois preferred a different version of the song with a more low-key beginning, saying: "When it gets to that stage of making a record, people are looking for songs that the record company can proudly go to radio with. And the ultimate version comes along with a bang, you know. [Guitarist] The Edge sounds amazing and it holds so much promise in its first 30 seconds that it's hard to say no to. But the version that I preferred did not have such a slam-bam beginning. So that one got welded and bolted together."[2]


The All That You Can't Leave Behind album caused controversy in Burma because "Walk On" was dedicated to Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest for her pro-democracy activities, which led to the album being banned. Democratic Voice of Burma correspondent Myint Maung Maung told British music magazine NME, "The album was banned because it included the song, 'Walk On', which was a dedication to Aung San Suu Kyi and the democracy movement in Burma." Anyone who attempted to import the album, All That You Can't Leave Behind, to Burma could face a prison sentence lasting between three and twenty years.[3] When the album was released, U2.com had a page addressing attention to the political situation in Burma, where they say 8 million people have been consigned to forced labour and half a million people are the target of ethnic cleansing campaigns.[4]

Music videos

The first video for "Walk On" - titled "International Version" - was directed by Jonas Åkerlund. Filming took place in November 2000 and was filmed in Rio de Janeiro during U2's two-day promotion there.[5] Some shots, including the band playing with a soccer ball on a beach and the band meeting fans, were improvised and the video was made to be documentary styled. Åkerlund stated it will always be one of his favourite music videos.[6] Later in February 2001, a second video - titled "U.S. version" - was directed by Liz Friedlander and filmed in London.[6] Both were featured on the compilation DVD U218 Videos.[6]

Live performances

The song took on further meaning as a supporting, uplifting anthem following the September 11th attacks in 2001 when it was performed live in-studio during the America: A Tribute to Heroes[7] television benefit concert on September 21, 2001, and that performance earned the band a Grammy nomination. The first performance for a live audience following September 11 was at the University of Notre Dame on October 10, 2001, where the band brought on stage members of the New York City Police and Fire Departments.

The song's uplifting nature led to it being used frequently to close concerts during the Elevation Tour. Live versions of the song were released on the concert films Elevation 2001: Live from Boston, U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle, and U2 360° at the Rose Bowl. During the Vertigo Tour, it appeared rarely, usually in an acoustic format. It was snippeted after "Running to Stand Still" on the Vertigo Tour at the dates closest to June 19, the birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi. The song was a regular part of the set list for the U2 360° Tour. Prior to the tour, the band asked fans to bring masks of Suu Kyi to concerts and wear them during performances of "Walk On" in support of her.[8]

Also, during the same tour, in some cities such as Hannover, Barcelona, Coimbra and İstanbul, Amnesty International and ONE volunteers went on stage and walked on the outer circle of The Claw during the performance of the song, carrying either Suu Kyi masks or Amnesty International lanterns.[9] In June 2012, Bono performed the song live for Suu Kyi during the Electric Burma concert in Dublin in her honour.[10] As of Dec 2017 the song has taken new meaning after Aung San Su Kyi's silence on the genocide of Rohingya Muslims. Bono has stated that he has been 'nauseated' by Su Kyi's stance on the issue, and has now dedicated the song to Rohingya Muslims.


"Walk On" was released on 20 February 2001 in Canada and on 19 November 2001 in the UK and Europe and on 26 November 2001 in Australia. The same photograph is used for each release though the colouring varies. "Walk On" has been re-released in its edit edition for the charity album, Songs for Japan.

Formats and track listings


  • Bono - lead vocals, guitar
  • The Edge - guitar, backing vocals, piano
  • Adam Clayton - bass guitar
  • Larry Mullen Jr. - drums



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