U2 – Native Son
A friend of mine pointed this song out to me the other day, and it is quite interesting as it is indicative of a greater trend in U2’s music over the last several albums of having less and less serious political content, something which of course contrasts greatly with their first several albums. For those who do listen to U2, you will notice that this song is a very early version of the song that would become Vertigo off of their 2004 album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Why is this version called Native Son? Because it is about Leonard Peltier, one of the most well known political prisoners in the world, who has been in prison for most of his life for a “crime” he didn’t commit and that the U.S. government now admits did not commit.
Why did U2 change this song into Vertigo? Apparently during the recording sessions for How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb Bono was asked if he would be able to perform the Native Son in front of an audience and afterwords said that he found the experience to be to uncomfortable, so the process was begun to turn the song into Vertigo. Why would he feel uncomfortable? Probably because with the exception of a few artists like Rage Against the Machine, in your face politics don’t so well (and even the extent to which RATM’s audience is/was based on their politics and not the music itself is up for debate). As U2 has become one of the most successful musical acts in history they have become seriously apolitical and the transforming in studio of Native Son into Vertigo is probably yet another example of this.