Angel of Harlem is a song by Irish rock group U2. It was released in December 1988 as the second single from their album, Rattle and Hum. 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 Holiday herself (“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.
The song has also been performed on 2009’s 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.
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