If I Could, I Would, Let It Go

Bono singing "Bad" at Live Aid
U2’s Bono sings “Bad” during the 1985 Live Aid concert. (image from U2start.com)

I have a few half-finished posts that I’m working on, but nothing that was exactly flowing off my keyboard this morning. Then my iPod provided some inspiration. I was listening to Pandora when it served up my all-time favorite song, Bad, by U2.

I’m not huge on interpreting the meanings of all the music I listen to, but this particular track has been a favorite for almost 30 years. I’ve done some research on it, as well as spent some time thinking about what it means to me.

The song, from U2’s 1984 album The Unforgettable Fire, wasn’t well-known at first. The mega-hit off that album was Pride (In the Name of Love), about Martin Luther King. But then U2 played a 12-minute version of the song at Live Aid, interspersing Rolling Stones lyrics while lead singer Bono pulled fans out of the crowd to dance with him. It was a darkly powerful performance, one that is credited with launching the band to super-stardom. Here, see for yourself:

The song is about heroin addiction — not exactly a topic that speaks personally to me. But despite that, there is something about the drama of the music and the pain of the lyrics that makes the hair on my arms stand up any time I hear it. Bono’s voice is never more emotional or passionate than in this song, especially the live versions.

The song has taken on a very different, and much more personal, to me in the decade since autism became a part of our lives. More specifically, it’s about watching someone you care about struggle with addiction, wanting to do anything in your power to help, but not being able to.

I think of it any time Ryan’s struggles are at their worst. When his anxiety and fear are too much and he becomes a hive of manic activity, and I feel like I cannot reach him to help, even though I would give anything to be able to.

Thankfully, that is not a place we visit often. But we have seen it recently with the shots on goal episodes. In the midst of those, I just want to wrap Ryan in a tight embrace and squeeze the fear right out of him. Unfortunately, when he gets into that state he resists physical contact and pulls away at every turn. It’s an incredibly helpless feeling.

It’s in those moments that these lyrics speak to me:

If you twist and turn away
If you tear yourself in two again
If I could, yes I would
If I could, I would
Let it go
Surrender
Dislocate

That’s just the opening verse, but it speaks exactly to that feeling of wanting so desperately to help but feeling like there’s nothing you can do.

The third verse also speaks to me in these moments:

If I could through myself
Set your spirit free
I’d lead your heart away
See you break, break away
Into the light
And to the day

If I could only take him by the hand when the fear grips him and lead him to a safe place, out of the darkness, and into the light. Yeah, that just about sums it up.

The song’s most haunting segment comes in the refrain, when Bono agonizingly sings of wanting to lead a friend away from his troubles:

If I could, you know I would
If I could, I would
Let it go…

This desperation
Dislocation
Separation
Condemnation
Revelation
In temptation
Isolation
Desolation
Let it go

I find it ironic that in the far more powerful live version of the song published on the EP Wide Awake in America, Bono repeats the word “isolation” after “desolation.” For in those difficult moments, when I am unable to reach my son, to break through his fears and help lead him back to calm, it is isolation I fear most. Will these issues trouble him his entire life? Will autism prevent him from forming the personal bonds that prevent a life of isolation?

Ryan loves U2. On our recent road trip to Washington, he insisted I keep a U2 playlist on repeat the entire drive. I did not complain. Bad, both the studio and live versions, played perhaps a dozen times over the weekend.

I told him it was my all-time favorite song. Then I took it a step further and told him why.

I told him it was about love, about wanting to do absolutely anything in your power to help someone you love, but feeling like you can’t.

I told him it was about the singer watching a friend struggle with drugs, but that I took a different meaning from it.

I told him the song was about how I felt when he got so upset over the shots on goal in the Ottawa-Montreal game and I wanted to help but didn’t know how.

And then I asked him if he understood. He muttered yes, but I’m not sure if he just didn’t want to talk about it or if he didn’t really understand me. It doesn’t matter. I made the point I wanted to — that when he gets so upset and scared, his parents and sister are always there for him, and we will do anything in our power to help. Even if it can feel like every step we take is the wrong one.

U2 Lyrics – Bad

If you twist and turn away
If you tear yourself in two again
If I could, yes I would
If I could, I would
Let it go
Surrender
Dislocate

If I could throw this
Lifeless lifeline to the wind
Leave this heart of clay
See you walk, walk away
Into the night
And through the rain
Into the half-light
And through the flame

If I could through myself
Set your spirit free
I’d lead your heart away
See you break, break away
Into the light
And to the day

To let it go
And so to fade away
To let it go
And so fade away

I’m wide awake
I’m wide awake
Wide awake
I’m not sleeping
Oh, no, no, no

If you should ask then maybe they’d
Tell you what I would say
True colors fly in blue and black
Bruised silken sky and burning flag
Colors crash, collide in blood shot eyes

If I could, you know I would
If I could, I would
Let it go…

This desperation
Dislocation
Separation
Condemnation
Revelation
In temptation
Isolation
Desolation
Let it go

And so fade away
To let it go
And so fade away
To let it go
And so to fade away

I’m wide awake
I’m wide awake
Wide awake
I’m not sleeping
Oh, no, no, no

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “If I Could, I Would, Let It Go

Comments welcome!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s